Meet Our Muse: Emily
You’re a photographer by trade but are often the subject of your photos on Instagram. What’s it like changing roles from behind to in front of the camera?
It was hard to get used to it, because I’m self-critical of photographs and I’ve learned that goes hand in hand with being hard on myself. I think I used to use it as a coping mechanism, to view myself as others would view me, but as time went on it became a way to showcase my style. As well, growing into my body like I have, it became a way to document my own self-love.
You didn’t jump into being the subject of an image over night and I can imagine it’s taken time to feel more comfortable in front of the camera. What do you do to feel confident in yourself and to be photographed? Any advice for people who aren’t there yet?
It was definitely not an overnight thing haha. I’d like to say time is the biggest factor in feeling comfortable. I used to poke and prod at myself as I imagine many other men and women do in this world, but I think its about realizing that being hard on ourselves is a natural instinct. We’ve been taught that self-love is something that comes with possession and struggle, but I believe it’s about knowing you aren’t going to feel good all the time and that’s okay. Once you can admit to yourself that there are days you don’t feel great, and days you do, you can move more fluidly with those emotions. It’s about not being afraid of emotions. I’m working on this incredibly draining self-portrait series for my thesis in school, and it’s been a lot more difficult than I would otherwise like to admit. I think that’s because I believe it’s never good enough, and yet when I photograph other people I walk away feeling satisfied with the body of work I’ve created. It’s weird like that; we are and will always be harder on ourselves because it’s personal. The way we look in photographs, every bump, nook and cranny is personal to us. You have to accept (with time) that that is a normal human emotion and it’s okay. Then, things become less about perfection and more about the way you feel in the moment that the shutter releases and you have your image.
You use social media to create conversations around mental health and body positivity, what has been your favourite conversation with someone on social about that? What has stuck with you the most?
I went to Portland for a while in the beginning of August because I was finding it difficult to remember why I wanted to be present in the world (if that makes sense). I remember feeling as if I didn’t have any important momentum and nothing quite right to say. The trip was everything I needed it to be, and I recall sitting at the airport with this refreshed view on my voice and reason, and then I checked my Instagram messages to find someone I knew personally had written a hurtful message about me online. It went along the lines of she felt like I was glorifying mental illness and fixating on, and I quote, “pink instagram aesthetics and expensive lattes” to pretend I was okay. I remember my mood completely changed. That emotional contagion really gets to me sometimes, and after almost deleting my entire account over the message, I called my mom. Then I took to instagram to write perhaps one of my favourite posts to date. It just summed up exactly what I’m about. The thing is, I’ve accepted that I will never be able to please everyone, and that knowledge has let me handle the hate better. My body is not for others to comment on nor is my brain. The fact was that someone was trying to shame the way I spoke on something that was very passionate to me, and I knew if I didn’t speak up it would bother me. After I wrote my post, she ended up contacting me and sharing that she had been going through a hard time herself and it all made sense. When someone is struggling with mental illness, its often intimidating to see someone getting through a tough situation. We talked, and to this day she remains an important person in my life.
If you could tell women one thing in regards to self-love and body positivity, what would it be?
That’s a hard one, but I result again to saying time is your best friend. I often find we fixate on things we feel like we can control when everything around us is moving too quickly. For me personally, I often rely on men to validate my existence, or my beauty. It took a while to realize that I only felt wanted when I was receiving attention from the opposite gender and that really affected me. I took some time, and more importantly took some time away from the chaos of being twenty, and I remembered that being with myself wasn’t as scary as I once thought it was. Self-love is like happiness. Just because you choose to feel happy doesn’t mean you will always be on top of the world. The moments you spend feeling down, sad or like everything isn’t working out are important too. I went through five years of treatment for anorexia before I decided I didn’t deserve to feel this way anymore, and yet I still have my bad days. Yet, even when the world is spinning or you’ve had too much to drink and suddenly you feel like you’ve compromised your worth, you are still here. Present, beautiful despite the flaws, and worthy. Find time to realize you are worthy of feeling, because it is something people should never shy away from. I’d also say that it is so, so important to fall in love with yourself before you go searching for it in the world, because often we believe we are halves of a half of a whole and the only way to become full is to find the other halves. Those are within ourselves, and I think it’s important to take time out of each day to glorify your own existence. Privately, and for yourself. That way, you feel beautiful and worthy for yourself. It’s a learning process, and I’m still not there yet, but I also believe I will never be fully there and that’s okay.
What inspires your writing? Your photography?
It’s interesting because I’ve been finding myself quite emotionally drained in school this year. I think third year does that to most students, where you realize there is no backing out and you are in this to become successful. Most of my photography has been about creating art as a coping mechanism; something tangible that I can look at and think “It hurt, but its beautiful now”. A lot of my subject matter surrounds my mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 15, and how my own eating disorder became a way to cope with almost losing her. I think I’m in this place right now, going back to feeling emotionally drained, where I’m creating work but not resolved work. This self-portrait series is something I would like to see finished, a piece I can use to describe the struggles I’ve encountered over the years and how I have found peace with them. But I also don’t think that is necessarily possible being twenty with still so much to learn from.
My writing, is something I hold close to my heart. Some people don’t even know I have an undying love for poetry, and I kind of like that its more of my own thing to hold close to me in times that I need my own safety blanket. On instagram I write about my struggles and triumphs with self-love, but a lot of my work really centres around my desire to feel loved. I can admit I have a lot of sappy poetry stashed away in my notebook about unrequited affairs and men I’ve passionately fallen for over the years. I want to write a book when I graduate, that’s actually my end goal. To have an anthology spilling with my experiences and odes to the times I fell too hard with no desire to pick myself back up.
Which of your physical attributes do you love the most?
This question hits close to home because when I was in treatment at the hospital, they made all the patients write down a list of ten things they loved about themselves and I remember not being able to do it. Of course, I’ve grown a lot since then and I’d like to say I’d be able to finish the list with less struggles. My eyes are something I can appreciate, because they aren’t one specific colour and they usually smile when I smile haha. My curves are something I’ve also grown to appreciate, although I used to resent how wearing certain things would create unwanted attention, for example sometimes I go braless and being a large chested woman, many men feel it’s their place to comment on the size of my breasts. I’ve learned to shrug it off though, as my body is a triumph to how far I have come. I love every battle wound, lump and bump because I’m not perfect and that’s the beauty of being human.