thoughts on being seen

Polaroid by Meghan Davidson of Life Refocused

You know when you’ve had a good rich meal, it takes some time to digest it. I like to sit with the feeling of being full. It’s decadent to be so happily content. Sometimes I sit with that feeling a long while. It leaves people wondering, “why’s she so quiet?!” This was the case upon my returning from Camp Shutter Sisters. A month has passed. Photos have been shared, as have stories. and yet here I sit, still digesting. Not knowing what it was I wanted to share with others, what it was that I needed to keep sacred, and what was most important for me to focus on for my own growth.

This is my learning.
This is photography, no?

I spent the majority of my time at Camp speaking about self portraits. Here is where words cannot always express the conversations shared. I took no self portraits while I was at Camp. {I find humor in this} I’ve written before about being seen in real life and the value I place on the gathering of like minds, the importance of community, and the power that is stirred up in the Universe when we share intentions. All these thoughts were magnified during my Camp Shutter Sisters experience.

So, what is it that I brought home with me? It was more than loot and images and laughter and shells. It was the reminder that I am worthy.

We had just come back from a walk. A handful of Shutter Sisters, all of us with cameras. Meghan was holding that old familiar camera, the Polaroid SX-70, same as my fathers. I think we both saw the light at the same time, how could we not? It was streaming in through the windows begging to be seen. An exhale left her lips with a simple string of words, something along the lines of “I’d love to photograph someone in this light.”

{let me note that it was jokingly said one morning at breakfast “I just wasn’t expecting this… ya know, so many cameras!” And those of us who are camera shy all laughed at the absurdity of this statement. It was a photography retreat afterall. Were we expecting not to be photographed?}

This, being seen by someone else, allowing myself to be seen by someone is a place of growth for me. I can talk with my hands for hours about the importance of putting yourself infront of your lens through self portraiture, and yet when someone else holds the glass to my face I want to shy away. I took note of the light, of her generosity in asking so kindly, and I paid attention to the growing I need to do as a photographer.

These are the lessons that come from being on the other side of the lens.
These are thoughts on being seen.
I sat at the window and took a deep breath.

Why is this so hard for us? This allowing is mostly the unspoken plea, “I am no actress and so I’m freeing my insecurities to just be myself and let you document it.” You see, there is trust there. Trust that the photographer sees you as you see yourself. As you feel in your skin. Even without enough notice to actually comb your hair free of coastal fog. This feeling of who we are sometimes does or sometimes does not come across in photos. Photography is mostly optical illusion. But this being seen, dare I say, is real life.

When was the last time you were seen? Today share an image of yourself that someone else has taken. 


Thank you Meghan, for seeing me and sharing this most beautiful moment on film.


  1. says

    I still feel very awkward taking a photo of myself. It goes against everything I was raised to believe. My grandmother was very vain (in my mother's opinion) so my mother went in the extreme opposite direction in raising her daughters. I know that her objective was to raise daughters that were so much more than their appearance. I remember getting "the eye" and more anytime I wore make-up or tried to dress attractively. My mother lightened up (in regards to us but not to herself) over the years but I still have that feeling that I'm doing something very wrong when setting the camera intentionally upon myself.

    This weekend I ran a 5k and I asked my husband to take a photo of me running, my real life.

  2. says

    There is so much truth in what you wrote. That being said, I am one of those strange creatures who does not mind being photographed. Heck, I actually enjoy it. My husband is a photographer as well so having the camera in front of my face is quite normal in my life. I like to see how he sees me, if that makes any sense. I also lovelovelove doing self portraits and it's interesting to me to compare them and see the differences. Here is a photo he took of me and a self portrait: By my husband Selfie

  3. says

    The wonderful Kim Mosey took this beautiful shot of me on the beach at camp ( I love it because I'm not in a full grin. I love my smile but sometimes have a tough time with the non-smiling photos…this one gives a hint, but it's still reserved.

    Thanks to your cozy talk about self-portraits, I've been experimenting more with looking at me. (

  4. says

    thank you meredith for putting into words all that I have not. the way the camp has felt for me since leaving, all the emotions, all the intentions, all the being seen and not seen. thank you for taking that moment to be seen my meghan how we all see you ~ beautiful and brave.

    this photo taken by angie at camp is so innocent, she captured me with all my guards down and for that i am grateful.

  5. says

    Thank you for writing about this. I have come to the conclusion, lately, that even though I write a blog and am a photographer, I have insecurities about fully being seen. Like I won't be enough or something. I actually do like having my photo taken (what can I say…I'm a Leo) but sharing my WORK is another matter. It's the actual essence of who I am…so what if it's not enough, you know?

    This is a photo I had taken in Edinburgh back in April. I like it because I can see how far I've come in my personal journey just by the look in my eyes. I am at peace and I chose to be captured in that moment to remind me.

  6. says

    I am always super critical of pictures of myself… does my face look fat? Is my hair out of place, etc I hate that! I realize that I am rarely in pictures due to my own vanity which is stupid. I am trying to work on that both inside & outside myself because I hate that my appearance is always the first thought (read: fear) about pictures of myself. Here is a pic I actually like though that my super talented SIL Lisa took maybe there is hope after all.

  7. says

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  8. says

    merideth… this is a beautiful portrayal of you. meghan's shot of you is very reminiscent of your own portraits of you. i thought it WAS one of your s.p. shots when i first viewed the post… before i read your words.

    after having my son, not only do i not like doing s.p. photos {which i didn't feel confident in even before having a baby}, but i also don't like to have my picture taken… at all!

    but when you are able to have it taken by someone you respect so much as a photographer and friend, it makes all the difference in the world. it's why these photos mean the world to me…

    it captured the most treasured part of my life right now… but it portrayed me as i feel… a mom with intense, quiet love that is beyond what i ever thought i could have… more than i can contain. and like your photo, the photographer who took the photos of me saw an incredible opportunity to take advantage of the most wonderful light through the window. these are some of my favorite photos ever… by anyone. i was so honored to be it them… to be the subject of them.

    on another note, i so wish i could have been at camp s.s. to gain from all that you have written about here… and to meet you… my s.p. "idol" and one of my favorite photographers! maybe next year!

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