This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. I think it’s super important that we shed light on these topics and stay educated about the ways it can effect those closest to us but also honour those who have overcome their personal challenges with absolute bravery.
Last summer, I had the privilege of photographing a sparkling, vibrant and truly inspirational soul named Lauren.
We traveled on a dirt road out to an open field and I watched as she allowed her true self to be seen through my lens. It was important to me and especially important to her that these photos represented nothing but the beautiful person she continues to be beneath the obstacles life has dealt her.
Lauren has spent many years fighting an eating disorder that has challenged her but ultimately, in my eyes, strengthened her will, personality and sense of grace. We spoke over tea a few weeks before this shoot and something she said struck a chord in me,
“I want to see the person I am behind my illness”
As a photographer, I seek opportunities to show people pieces of themselves they may have lost touch with or forgotten and I’ve always seen such a light in this young woman. I wanted more than anything to remind her how brightly it glowed.
We spent time talking about her journey but most of all, during our shoot, I wanted her to channel the things that made her feel happy and supported and alive. There was a sense of peace in the air with the sound of my shutter clicking away and the energy that filled the space we were in couldn’t be ignored.
One of the most beautiful parts of our session was the moment she took out a stone and held it in her palm. I asked her its meaning and the words she used described its importance perfectly:
“This stone is a Carnelian stone. Anyone who commits to treatment in the program at Homewood receives a stone and becomes a part of the recovery community. “We do not heal in isolation, we heal in community”. It represents warmth, strength, healing, and I wear it to keep me grounded and to help me through tough moments.”
Lauren’s story is one that will sit with me for years to come. I am inspired by her passion and commitment to overcome each step in this process. There is so much to be learned from her journey. Her outlook pushes me to persevere through those tough moments in hopes of learning new lessons, discovering pieces of myself and sharing that story to help others.
Plenty could be said but I will let the photos speak for themselves. Without a doubt, she radiated everything that stone represents. Warmth, healing and above all, incredible strength.
*If you’d like to hear more about Lauren’s journey, I encourage you to watch this beautiful video made by Jeremy E Richardson.