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Healing Through Photography

Lesson 8 from: Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

8. Healing Through Photography

Lesson Info

Healing Through Photography

Greg and I have no problem getting pregnant at all. The doctor told me what they tell a lot of people when you're almost 40. They're like, "Now, this could take some time "and we don't want you to panic "about how much time it can take." Most people average a year, sometimes longer so whenever you're thinking about starting a family, you can just like start trying. Greg and I got legally married in December 21st and then we had our wedding in Puerto Rico, January 2nd. So the evening of December 21st, we just pulled the goalie, so to speak, and didn't think anything of it coz whatever. Then we go to Puerto Rico and have a very good time, a really good time where I might have had a few cocktails at our New Year's Eve rehearsal dinner. I was having a really good time until I wasn't having a good time anymore. We get home from our wedding and I'm late and I said, "There's no way I'm pregnant." and I've taken tests before but Greg never had so I pee on it and then he's just staring at it an...

d me. I said, "It takes like three minutes! "Just let it come up." and he just kept staring at it and looking at it and looking at me and it and then he would be like, "Ooh." and I was like, "It's been 45 seconds. "Doesn't have the results yet." Three minutes later, he just puts it down on the table. He's like, "I think you need to go look at that." and it was positive and I was in shock. I was like, "No one tells you the first time! "They only tell you it will happen the first time "when you're 16 and they don't want you to be having sex. "This does not happen when you're almost "the first time you try." That pregnancy didn't end up sticking but looking back, I'm not really shocked that that pregnancy didn't go according to plan. I partied pretty hard but we knew that we could get pregnant so we tried again and every time we tried, we got pregnant. Like every time. This is my fifth pregnancy in a year and a half but we couldn't get it to stick and so we were working with the doctors to figure it out and we thought we got it to stick in April and I got to about nine weeks and we got our ultrasound coz I had started bleeding and it looked like it was an empty sac, a missed miscarriage if anybody's had one or knows what that is. So it means like you got pregnant, it implanted but then something happened and the embryo didn't go. So it didn't keep growing. This was two days before we were leaving for Europe for eight weeks and they said, "You have two choices. "You can go get a DNC "which is gonna cost you $9, "coz we were out of state and we have to put you under "and it's gonna take a day to recover "or we can just give you this pill for $10." and I said, "We'll go with the pill." So I took the pill and we left for France and the miscarriage started but anyone that's had one with a missed miscarriage, you need what's called the sac to come out and that's the worry if you take a pill to have the miscarriage because if the sac doesn't come out, then you have to go to the hospital and infection and whatever. So I was really worried about the sac not coming out and I kept messaging my friend too, "Am I gonna know when the sac is out?" She's like, "I promise, you'll know." We're at the Eiffel Tower and I feel something that doesn't feel normal and I just say I have to go to the bathroom. Well, the only bathroom available is in the underground public bathroom underneath the Eiffel Tower. I'm wearing a long skirt and there's just like the United Nations of urine on the floor like an inch and lots of women and I get into the one stall that doesn't lock and if most of you women. Our poor man guy, he deals with urinals but have you ever done the like holding the door like this and trying to pee? Okay so I get in there. I have a big bag and something is happened down here and the door won't stay shut so I am propping my hip here, I've got this big bag, and I'm like, "What am I gonna do with my skirt? "Oh, I'll put it in my mouth!" and then I'm like, "That is a lot of people's pee in my mouth right now." and I'm like trying to take care of it and it's definitely the sac that's come out and my only thought is, "I really wanna take a picture of this." and then I was like, "Should my husband be in here with me? "I don't know what I should be doing." It was a big mess. So afterwards, I get down and the sac is out. We need to go. So we left and I've never gone through depression. I've had some rough down times but I've never experienced actual depression and I went through post-partum because my number is really high and so no one warned me that if your numbers drop just like if you have a baby, sometimes you can get post-partum so I was extremely depressed for a good three weeks until most of the hormones got out of my body. The whole point of telling you this is I decided to use photography to help heal me through this process emotionally coz I wasn't near my doctor so I couldn't get medication or anything, I just kinda had to deal with this and work everyday in Europe so whenever I had free time, I would start shooting on the street. I'm not a good street photographer at all but there were goals that I set for myself and I also noticed that what I do in family work was kinda coming through with my street work as well but I wanted to work on color theory and seen multiple colors come up in the same scene because you really can't control it at all and I was working with really interesting compositions while I'm traveling and just working on light and showing where I was but I also have a sense of humor on the street. I'm not as smart as Matt Stuart who is incredible or even Elliot Erwitt has done incredible things in the field but I was finding like my own way through this work and I was like still trying to find humor but I was working on also clean, straight line work. Some sets that I never had done before in my other work. Just like equally simple composition as well as complex composition and repetition. Here's some more color theory but I was noticing I was still drawn to the chaos, multiple things happening at the same time, using text to work with things that were happening and when you're doing street photography, you can use that a lot but it has to work. It really has to work. Getting close, I'm scared to get close with street photography but there's a class that was just on Ash Gilbertson. Is that his last name, Gilbertson? Gilbertson. Yeah, and I watched some of that and I really loved how he just actually asked permission. Not all street photographers do but he encourages asking permission. I was kind of getting close and "Is it alright if I take this picture?" and that was helping me get through my fears and also work out my emotional stuff. Homeless guy versus like a hotdog and getting really close to this girl shooting. Again like that simple composition. Since then, coming back, now I've noticed that that has influenced the new photos that I'm making. They're cleaner, they're even more deliberate, they're either more simple or more complex and it really helped me. This is one of my favorites. This is when things come together and I absolutely have no control over it but the complex versus the simple, color theory, getting close including the whole environment, these like clean, complex shooting at F16 type of photos that are really, really hard to make. Here's that idea of the using the text compared with what's happening, using the public, waiting for people to walk through, complex scenes with repetitive colors, then there's always just weird. Okay. The baby. So obviously I did finally figure out how to make it stick. Baby aspirin, anybody out there having a hard time, try baby aspirin. Greg and I disagree a lot but we don't really fight that often and I'm pretty chill but one day, I just was really mad at him. I have no idea why. To this day, if you ask me what we were fighting about, I have no idea but I was screaming at him and all of a sudden, I was like, "I'm going to a hotel for the night!" Okay, so I leave and I take the dog which really upset Greg and I get to the hotel and I go to take my seatbelt off and I'm like, "My nipple feels weird." and I was like, "There is no way that I'm pregnant again." coz I thought I had missed my cycle and I had already taken like 20 pregnancy tests three weeks before it, I was like, "There's no way I'm pregnant but I'll just go to CVS. "I'll pick up two different ones. "We'll see how it goes." I had like a dribble of pee that I could get on the stick and the minute it hit, it was positive. I was like, "That's why I'm in a hotel right now." and so I sent the picture to my husband and this was his response. (laughs) (audience laughing) Still have a sense of humor. I said, you want me to come home? He's like, "No! You stay in that hotel! "You just chill out, take a bath, drink some wine. "You come home tomorrow when you're feeling better "and then we'll call the doctor." and the beautiful thing is now, we have a baby on the way and it's healthy and active and I think by not stressing so much about my situation and just taking it as it is and allowing photography to heal me in a way to get me through it, it got me to a place where there was no stress and we kept problem solving until we figured it out and I was able to have a baby. I'm very grateful that I had that in my life to help me through because I didn't have any doctors to help me, I didn't have anything other than just me. I'm gonna work with my two ladies in a second but I wanna finish this up. Jackson gets asked this all the time. "Jackson, what do you wanna be when you grow up?" And usually, Jackson will be like, "A fireman!" or "An astronaut!" but Julie wrote me and said, "This is the funniest thing I've ever heard Jackson say." They were at a restaurant. Waitress is like, "Jackson what do you wanna be when you grow up?" and she goes, "I've never heard him say this before." but he said, "I'm not sure but whatever it is, "I hope I'm still awesome." and I want all of us to feel that way and to feel good about saying, "I'm awesome the way that I am." I want you to feel good about your work. My work is awesome as it is. Is it where I want it to be? No. But what's awesome is that I'm in the process of making it better and just like you guys are here to learn to make your photos better, I'm challenging myself to make my photos better because you always can get better. You can always learn and sometimes, the best place to start is within yourself to push yourself to make it better.

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Ratings and Reviews


Kirsten is an incredible teacher. When deciding whether to purchase this class, you should first take a look at her first CL class--Modern Storytelling. It's the best way to dive into this material and is a good starting point. If you're interested in this genre, buy BOTH classes. Both are so packed with helpful information about the family photojournalism genre. The first class was a solid, well rounded introduction to family photojournalism, and this class is more in-depth, specific, direct, intense, full of composition technique, and really just takes it to a new level. She doesn't waste time in this class repeating all of what she taught the first time. Kirsten is very candid and personable which I find really helps us viewers learn from her authentically and enjoy the class. I feel like I know her from watching so much of her class and I know that helped me to connect with the class and understand the material better. I feel like I finally have the tools to really tackle this genre and a better idea of what I'll face. I HIGHLY recommend this class--BUT only if you have an interest in this type of photography. THIS ISN'T A CLASS ABOUT MAKING PRETTY PICTURES, IT'S A CLASS ABOUT CAPTURING REAL MOMENTS IN A BEAUTIFUL WAY AND STORYTELLING THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY.

Image by Marcy

I'm adding my review in hopes of giving some perspective to the few negative comments. I've been a fan since Kirsten's first course, and have been hankering for more ever since. I wish the viewers who decided to jump ship before watching the whole course had reconsidered, and hung in there. Here's why. Kirsten describes this class as more of an "advanced" class. To my way of thinking, it's an excellent adjunct to the first. I took notice of a good bit of the questions in the chat room on CL while the class was live. It was clear to me that there seemed to be plenty of viewers who had not watched the first based on their questions. To get the most benefit, you really need both courses. There is overlapping content, of course. But there is specific and pointed information that was really only generalized in the first course. Invaluable is the segments that were taped live at a family's home, where Kirsten shot a DiTL. That filming was shown and dissected in this new course. VERY informative. To put it succinctly, yes, there is some repetitive info, but necessary to bring it all together, and yes, new content. YES, the front end is a bit heavy on the personal. If I remember correctly, that viewer choose NOT to stick with the program, which is fine. BUT, had they stuck with it, that person might have had a change of heart. You see, I think you have to take all the information in it's entirety. Because, the openness, the vulnerability, the honestly to me is *endearing*, for one thing. But also, she definitely USES that personal information in the context of her teaching. Listening to her personal experiences (KLB's) gives US an opportunity to look deep within OURSELVES and CONFRONT our own past. OUR PAST is what shapes our future, good, bad or indifferent. We can allow our past to propel us to success, or sink us in despair. Either way, our past helps form our POV which is very important for our photography (as well as how we approach or avoid life in general, and affects us in business too...) I appreciate her honesty. I appreciate how she shares her struggles, both past and present. Both personally and professionally. For me, the whole package is more important that the individual "pieces". Who knows about that viewer.... maybe this genre is just not their thing. Maybe that person wants or needs to shield themselves from their own personal issues. IDK. Also, it's just a fact of life that *not everyone will LIKE .... ___ (you, me, her, etc). Whooo knows. That's their right, their choice. And it's true that this genre is not for everyone. But if you love it, then get the course. If you missed the first one, then get them both. You'll be happy you did, and you'll have saved yourself time and frustration trying to figure this out on your own.

Meredith Zinner Photography

She is outstanding. I love her candor, honestly, openness and extraordinary eye for talent. I love how true she is to herself and how fiercely yet seamlessly she works to show the truth and people's real stories. I love how she is a real person and shares true stories about herself that keeps her human. I'm so tired of this culture being so damn 'precious' about a baby's bottom fer crimmeny's sake... she's extraordinary, refreshing and unlike anything else youve shown. She's got an incredible eye, sense of humour, talent and so much to share with her very thankful audience. Thank you so very much! Thank you Kirsten!

Student Work