I have been debating for a long time on whether or not I should write a post like this.  I feel as though the people who are interested enough to actually read this blog deserve to know me, even if they don’t know me.
This post will probably be pretty personal–just throwing that out there.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had low self-esteem.  I’ve never been comfortable with my body.  If we ever hang out, you’ll most likely see me sitting with my arms folded across my stomach, because I’m self conscious about that.  I’m conscious about my skin and how it’s too dry in some places and too oily in others.  My hair freaks me out sometimes and I generally cannot get it to do what I want.  There are days where I’ll look in the mirror and think “I look okay today!” and there are other days where I think “Well…I guess this is it…”  I have never NOT been completely aware with how I look at any given point in time.  I know that fighting my low self esteem will always be my biggest battle.  There are days where I actually want to work out and eat healthfully to change how I look, but those days are far and wide in between.

I would love to meet someone (especially a woman) who has never complained or thought negative thoughts about their body, just to see if they exist.

Before I move on, I want you, readers, to know that this post is not a cry for compliments or sympathy.  It’s just something that I want to share with you.  My dad says to me quite often that my vulnerability is one of my greatest gifts.  I want to give of myself to you in as many ways I can.  One of those ways is to open up.

Back to low self-esteem.  My lack of confidence doesn’t stop where my physical appearance ends.  It gushes over into other parts of my life.  Number one being my photography and the (potential and hopeful) career I plan on making out of it.

And that’s where I really want to touch on.

I’ve been tossing the phrase “constantly caught in between self-love and self-loathing” for about 4 years now.  It’s been floating around in my head like cloud that never burns away.  I am caught in the middle of self love and self loathing.

(This is where things may become rant-y….I apologize.)

For several years now, I have been comparing myself to others–to other women, to other students, to other photographers.  I cannot stop, no matter how desperately I want to.
I’ll look at photographers who are insanely talented and rack my brain with questions: How did they get to where they are now?  What equipment do they have?  What does their normal session or work day look like?  How can I become more like them?  How do they pose clients?  Do they even pose clients?  Where do they live?  What’s their personal life like?  Are they as busy as me?  Are they busier?  How old are they?  How long have they been photographing?  It goes on and on and on and on.

I’ll compare and study their images, thinking to myself “If only I had this ______.”
or “If only I didn’t have to do this ___________.”
or “I wonder if ___________.”

constantly compare myself to other photographers and sometimes it makes me feel like I loathe them because they’re so successful, and sometimes it makes me want to study what they do and how they do it because they inspire me.
I’d rather be inspired by photographers, but if I’m constantly comparing myself to them, that inspiration I want hardly happens because I get caught up in petty ideas and thoughts.

Here is where I am in this moment in time:
I get married in a few months to my best friend.  That’s awesome, but until then…I’m probably going to be crazy.
I’m still planning said wedding.  I’ve had a lot of people ask to help, but I don’t know how they can help at the moment and it’s making me go crazy.
I graduate from college on May 11.  That’s awesome, but until then…I’m probably going to go crazy.
I just started a job (which I really wish I didn’t have to do–I wish I could photograph and make ends meet) that has me working twice as many hours a week than my old job…I enjoy the people and the atmosphere, but until I can (hopefully) do photography full time, I’ll be going crazy.
I’m right smack dab in the middle of moving to a new (perfect and adorable) apartment.
Organizing + packing + managing finances + setting up new electricity and internet accounts + emailing the landlords + dealing with my current landlord is making me go crazy.
I’m trying to meet with clients, schedule sessions, schedule their weddings, which I totally love, but right now, with everything else, every single email I have to answer adds to my building craziness.

one hundred percent know that there are millions of people in the world who are 1) busier than me and 2) worse off than me.
But in this moment in time, I feel about a trillion pounds on my back and it’s often frustrating to deal with.

This all sounds like I’m making excuses.  And perhaps I am making excuses.  I probably am.

I’m still ranting, I think.  Nothing is very cohesive yet.  Sorry.

I think what I’m trying to say is this (and this may be more of myself trying to preach to myself):

There will always, always be people and photographers who are more successful than I am.  There will always be photographers who have better equipment and a client list that stretches from here to the moon.  There will always be people who don’t like my style and who want something more traditional.  There will always be people my age (which always seems to hurt the most) who are more successful photographers than me.


Who am I to define success?
We each have our own definition.

Here is how I view success in regards to my photography:
– I hope to make art.  Not just pictures.  Not just images, but photographs that people love and cherish.  I want to move people.
– I hope to be able to support my family and myself financially (and preferably not just on a paycheck to paycheck basis–I want to save up for my future kids’ college and put away money into a travel fund…maybe even start on retirement)
– I hope to have and continue to have happy clients who love my style and want me to photograph them, their homes, their every day lives, and the things and people they love.
– I hope to build my business into something that people automatically know about the moment anyone says “Rachel Photographs” or “Rachel Waters” or (soon) “Rachel Hickerson.”  And I want them to be inspired by my work or by me.
– I want to take personal photos and shoot what I love to shoot.
– I want to help people out.  Everyone should be able to have professional photos taken of them (and I’m not talking Walmart or Target’s family portrait sessions).
– I want to be a photographer who posts her dates of travel and have people emailing me from that city or state or country asking if they can book a session while I’m there.
– I want to travel with my camera (and be able to afford to do that).
– I want my brand to be me and my photographs and the stories and praises my clients speak.
– I want to continue to grow into, be inspired by, and love photography and some of the people who make it.
-I want to nail down poses, my style, and a business plan that is convenient both for me and for my clients.
– I want to quit my day job.

None of that is out of reach, though it may take me a little while to get there.  My business is slowly, but surely, taking off.
It’s a frustrating process that has brought me to tears, headaches, curse words, and arguments.

But I love it with my whole heart.

I am not where I want to be yet.  But I am working on getting there each day.
There is not a day goes by where I think about how I can improve or what I can do to stay inspired (I envy people who possess some sort of inspiration cells that just course through their bodies all day…staying inspired is a job in and of itself).

I cannot tell you all how desperately I want this.
I want it SO bad.

I want to meet new people.
I want to be with people.
I want to grow.
I want to tell stories.
I want to document moments.
I want to photograph.

will get there.  I will.  But I’m just not sure how long it will take me.

++++ A few weeks ago, I was having a really really terrible day.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed for many reasons.  There was a moment where I was lying in bed and I couldn’t catch my breath because of how hard I was crying.  I could not breathe. ++++

I decided to photograph my emotions.
Taking even the simplest self portraits wakes me up.
I become alive.  I know how cliche and lame that sounds, but there is no other way I know how to describe the feeling I get when I photograph.

Here are some of the portraits.
By the way, I took these wanting to be in the most natural state I could be in…so no makeup and I hadn’t washed my hair for a day or two.




If you’ve read this far, congratulations.  I really appreciate it.
Sometimes I just need to spill my guts.  This helped.

If you have anything to say, you may post a comment (I hope–my comments have been weird lately) or email me (hello[at]rachelphotographs[dot]com).  I’d love to hear from you.


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Janne Brumbelow
In life and in death you belong to the God who is giving you the gifts to be the best child of God you can possibly be. Your meaningful introspection is a gift, too. I am so proud to have known you and watched from afar your growth into adulthood. My prayer is that you will have a challenging and fruitful life. Remember inspiration is 99% perspiration. Blessings, Janne
Thank you for posting this, and for the photos. Both were wonderfully honest, and lovely
Maybe I'm a bit biased (But I don't think I am, because I have always thought you were a lovely person, way before we became friends), but I think your goals are completely do-able. It is definitely tough not to compare yourself to others... I think we all do to an extent. However, you are extremely gifted at what you do, & I believe you will be able to do photography full time & be what you define as successful. Until then, just know that there are people out there (myself included) who wish we could one day be as talented as you are, & spend our time studying your photos, comparing everything to you. That cycle works both ways. You are more gifted than you know. Keep pursuing your dreams (:
Rachel, go you! (for posting this). That takes guts in itself.
I love you. Just the way you are. With all that you do wrong, with all that you do right. I just want you to know that. Your photographs just need to be seen, they are amazing just like they are. The illicit emotions. Just like they're supposed to. They just need to get out there. Set up a table at the next wedding fair or something. And the craziness is SO natural. Embrace it. It will all be worth it in June. Just know.... I love you. If you need something. Call. If you need me to help more with wedding... I'd be delighted. Don't freak out trying to find more for me, that defeats the purpose of me helping. = ) But if you find something, That you just don't have time for, that someone else can do, pass it on. Don't worry about it. And just keep remembering that people love you exactly how you are, emotional, make up less, hair in a mess.

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