SHANNON REED PORTRAIT

Women... Glorious Women

Shannon Reed

Earlier this year, I decided to embark on a project which celebrates women.  Not the obvious outward beauty of women, but the inside stuff that we tend to carefully tuck away.  

So often we eschew our troubles.  We are wired, I believe, to get on with the business at hand. It's remarkable, really, how many things we're able to juggle and even more remarkable how little we acknowledge the weight we carry in our hearts and minds. The list of roles with which we identify is long, and yet we move seamlessly from one role to another as each situation demands.

Women are fluid. 

Women are essential. 

Women are extraordinary. 

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This past March, I reached out to a number of women and invited them to participate in this project with me.  I'd really not intended to say or do anything about it until it was complete, but the experience is too important and too meaningful (to me) not to do some processing along the way because it's really about the journey - not whatever becomes of it at the end. Whatever "the end" becomes or ultimately looks like.

The first piece of the project was a request from each of these wonderful women to share in writing what it means to them to be a woman - what it feels and looks like - and to share a little bit about where they are on their path right now.

The definitions, of course, are so fleeting.  As we continue to move through life, so we continue to evolve.  What was written all those months ago has likely changed to a degree for some and several degrees for others.  It took me nearly five months to get to a place in my own life where I could sit with a quiet mind and read what they'd written because I wanted to honor each of them without distraction.

When I'd finished, I felt something shift inside of me - a powerful experience and one I am still processing.  Their words will come into the picture later so, for now, I will leave it at that.

A couple of weeks ago, I began making their portraits - the second component of the project.  I have a whole other swirl of emotions around that experience - as I'm sure do they - suffice it to say, it was a joy and privilege to have that experience with those I've photographed so far.  I've written before my feelings about photographing women, but this had the added dimension of knowing - a shared understanding - of a deeper life and the insight of those things which we feel define us.

As I begin to share the images here, it's likely that the viewer will simply take what they see at face value, but I can assure you that there is so much more; a story - a revelation - or even that single moment of stillness which tends to elude most of us in our busyness.

What is seen is not just a representation of how each woman perceives herself - it's also very much about how I see each of them.  We are SO good at SO many things, yet we fail to recognize our own beauty/strength/wisdom/ability/awesomeness; I'm merely the conduit here - a channel which unwittingly strips away any negative filters so that they can see themselves through someone else's eyes, perhaps, a bit more clearly.  

Unfettered. 

In time, the stories will be shared - but for now, I'm feeling like it's time to start bringing these images out.  I haven't photographed everyone yet - I'm only about a third of the way through - and I'm realizing how fortunate I am to be on this path right now and having this particular experience with these particular women.  

I still haven't come up with a suitable name for the project so, until it comes to me, it's simply called The Woman Project. 

 My gratitude to each of these women is boundless...