She has felt like a lone wolf, striving to fit in, for much of her life. Yet her relationship with the wolf within is stronger than even she may understand. The wolf has a sharp intelligence and a deep connection with instincts and her instincts have brought her great peace in times of struggle. The mask I first choose, the one I wore myself, was a wolf, and in many ways this shoot was about not only unleashing the strength she has within, but about letting her know, without a doubt, that she is no longer alone.
since I first met her 15 years ago I have known her deep love and kindness, her incredible support and her striking beauty... the last being something she herself could not see. when I asked why she chose the peacock she said for its physical beauty, something she wished for. her struggles with self acceptance have been cumbersome and when asked why she simple stated - I don't think I'm worthy. over the course of the few years we lived together and the many years of friendship there after I have struggled with how to show her how much she is worth, how incredible she is, how fucking beautiful. this shoot, more than anything else, was about giving her power and strength... and worth.
she chose the flamingo because it is an awkward bird, and for so long she has felt awkward herself. she said that she strives to be different, unique, but in the end feels that she is on the same road and path as everyone else, something so many can relate to. but that desire is there, that awareness, and I know her hope is to find that uniqueness, but I truly believe she is already there.
she came from down under and stepped in front of my lens. she spoke of a time, not long ago, when her wings had been clipped, when she felt restrained and suffocated. she chose a bird to symbolize the person she has begun to unleash, the heights she is now soaring, and the hopes and dreams of how far she knows she can go.
she has experienced waves of ups and downs over the last few years and her choice of the bear speaks towards her reliance of it all. the bear will have long periods of sleep, which can be equated to an introspective or resting state, but will emerge driven to sustain its life. patient and calm unless jolted into the need to protect oneself or those she cares about, the bear stands for what is important. channeling her inner bear she is able to find her strength and as she removed the mask I saw her there - strong, driven to thrive and ever so nurturing.
the direction her life has taken comes directly from her love of orangutans - leaving soon to study in england and receive a masters in primatology, her hope to aid in the conservation of orangutans is infectious. she exudes the passion she feels for these gentle arboreal primates and wearing this mask and walking the forrest with no shoes she explained how she is most comfortable and most herself in these moments. she may have taken her mask off but she will always keep it close...
she chose an eagle found in her home country of italy for its strength, and its ability to soar and see the world clearly from a safe distance away. years ago she spent time in new mexico where a native american told her she was an eagle in a past life and it characteristics still lived deep within her... she has lived with this realization in her mind and through her struggles has protected herself by looking at the world with strength from afar. now ready to step into a life and family of her own she flies down to the ground, begins to remove her mask, and live with the intimacy and closeness she is finally ready to share.
from time to place to the mask itself everything about this experience worked as perfectly as an intricate puzzle. her father has called her ma biche, my doe in french, since she was a little girl and she traveled to the north of france, where she spent her childhood, to get married. so on the eve of her wedding day, her last night as a mademoiselle, she put on her mask. we talked about everything she had been through to get to this point and rejoiced for her life ahead, it was an incredibly memorable experience.
she chose a swan because they are idealistic, open-minded and passionate, they are good natured but beneath that serenity lies a fighting spirit. she connected with their fierce and unconditional love fueled by the certainty that it should last forever... today i saw the swan in her come alive.
half black and half white, she chose a zebra as a representation of her personal struggles with identity. as she put on the mask she told me her story of confusion and pain, of not knowing where she belonged. faced with rewriting this story through the blessing of having a daughter, she chooses bravery, clarity and strength.
we drove to the everglades and saw signs warning of panthers and hawks, we spoke of fears, of self doubt. the tiger symbolizes personal strength and courage and this mask is one she has worn for so long, but as her personal vision has begun to clarify she no longer needs to hide behind a brave face, for the strength is coming from within.
she said bunnies are "playful, cautious and calculated," she addressed people with "hey bunny" for so long that they started turning the term on her, it was a natural fit when asked to choose her animal. this bunny wore her mask, laughed through her declarations, then the smile faded and the mask came off while sharing her dreams of traveling vans and of finding her own reason to live life instead of hiding behind someone else's.
chosen because of the name she acquired through marriage, the panda represents the life and family she has built for herself. beginning from an intense desire to mother and landing right here and right now, this woman continuously pushes forward with intent and grace. she has proven to herself that she can, and today I witnessed that strength.
i bring the mask, you bring a dress that makes you feel beautiful…. she brought her wedding dress, sealed in a box for almost nine years, and on the side of the road next to a field of sunflowers we opened it. she was giddy, the excitement radiating from within and as she put it on i knew she felt beautiful. the white wolf followed and as she stepped in front of my lens she spoke from her heart, relaxed and honest. in the end, as the mask was lifted, the dress was the embodiment of the beauty living within.
there are times when you listen to others and question your own reality, but the truth is that every path is different. this woman channelled the wise owl living within and realized that the only way to be at peace is to believe in your knowledge, your truth and yourself.
she requested a raccoon, a nocturnal creature, who runs mostly solo. she was beautifully awkward at first, quietly giggling. as we talked she began to relax until eventually the mask came off and she quite literally shook away her fears.
donning the dress that was hand made by Godmother Mimi for her quinceanera she walked the gardens amongst the trees until she was ready to move on… walk in the open… and take off her mask.
loud, hysterically funny and brilliantly accomplished this woman wears her heart on her sleeve, but not until the mask came off did i understand the true desires she wants to share with the universe.
a lifelong friend from many lives ago landed on my doorstep in a time of mutual need. i couldn’t dream of what would transpire in the days ahead but after falling into the valley we climbed our way higher than i ever thought possible.