At first glance, the Meet to Marry™ method sounds like it’s just designed to help you meet your perfect match, but it’s more than that.
It’s about seeing yourself for who you truly are and recognizing what makes you special and unique. At first, you might not even be able to recognize these qualities, and so often it’s this lack of clarity that’s getting in your way and preventing you from finding the love you deserve.
So this week we’re focusing on seeing yourself–both literally and spiritually–through the lens of photography.
I invited noted photographer Catherine Just to share some of her important insights and tips with you.
Catherine focuses on “using photography as a catalyst for personal and spiritual growth” to help you “shift your perception and let go of limiting beliefs.” Her photographs have appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine and on Oprah.com.
Bari: How did you get involved in photography and how has it helped you see yourself more clearly?
Catherine: It’s actually a bit shocking when people hear this story. I had a drug and alcohol problem between the ages of 13-18. I checked myself into treatment the summer after I graduated from high school. After I got sober I remembered how much I loved the art classes I took and that my art teacher told me I had talent. I figured it was the one thing I loved doing so I went to art school in Minneapolis. I decided to choose photography as my major on a whim. I’m so glad I did. I started to use photography as a way to express visually what was going on internally for me. Being newly sober, there were a lot of uncomfortable feelings to explore. I was determined to create a visual language through self portraiture. It helped me to see the unseen more clearly. I was specifically looking at relationships for my photographic content. The relationship I had to men, to food, to religion, etc. Everything outside myself that I used in some way to feel better about myself. This was a very healing project for me and helped me to become more aware of my habits, beliefs, obsessions and bring light to my inner darkness. It has evolved over time as I’ve gotten more comfortable in my own skin. Photography for me is a way to slow down, become aware of my life as it is, notice how the light is wrapping itself around frustrating situations, and capture the sacred happening in the everyday.
Bari: What do you do to prepare yourself for a self-portrait?
Catherine: It really depends on the content I’m wanting to express. If it’s a nap time photo of my son Max and myself, then I don’t prepare. I allow the moment to happen and use my iPhone to capture it as it is. If it’s my own personal project, I may want to create an environment, almost like a TV or movie set, that I move into and it becomes like a performance piece. I allow myself to take many photos until I get the one that really expresses what I want to say. I take a lot less photos when I photograph other people because I have more control over composition and placement. But when I’m the photographer AND the subject, I need more room to explore where to stand, what to wear, how to look, etc. If it’s just to document myself in my life, I make sure to use some basic tips I’ve learned along the way on how to make people look their best on camera (e.g., hold the camera up a bit higher than my eye line, turn my body a bit so it’s not just straight on, extend my neck out a bit to create a leaner look). A girl wants to feel great when she looks at herself right? If it’s for a personal project this may or may not come into play as it’s more about the content than creating the perfect looking portrait. But when it’s going online in some way…I do tend to want to look and feel my best. Showering helps! hahaaaa.
Bari: Are there other things you recommend people do before they take a picture of themselves? I mean, what’s the best way to take pictures of yourself that really reflect who you are?
Catherine: Yes. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, feel your feet and toes on the ground and open your eyes when you feel ready. Another tip is to wear the clothing you feel most empowered in. When I look into the camera, I pretend I’m looking at someone I deeply love and want to smile at them. I basically flirt with the camera. I take off the mask of what I want people to think I am, and bring it down a notch. Get real. Let go. Sink in. That fake smile and sitting up straight thing…that’s not really going to cut it if you want an authentic feel.
Bari: I know you recently got back from shooting photographs of Danielle LaPorte, author of The Fire Starter Sessions and Desire Map and soon-to-be publisher of an online magazine. Can you tell us about how you help your clients prepare for their portraits?
Catherine: It really depends on the portrait session and what the outcome is. The photo session with Danielle was more of a fine art session where she was a part of my conceptual idea. So there was more conversation about what that meant, what her concept was and how to meld the two.
For a headshot session, we talk about energy, fully embodying your greatness. Wearing clothing that you feel great and comfortable in. Showing up fully, well rested, hydrated and having eaten well. Ease into it without stress if possible. A lot of people who have headshots or need portraits for their websites are uncomfortable in front of the camera so the work is really on my end to help them feel more like themselves and less like they have to DO something. I tend to smile a LOT when I’m photographing people because I can see my version of “God” shining through in their eyes and it moves me. A great photo usually happens in between the poses. The moments when they are caught in a “real” moment, laughing or expressing true emotion. I have to play around a bit to get that to happen. But I believe that it’s my job to hunt for those moments and to create an environment that elicits more of them.
Bari: Many of the singles in my private coaching sessions and in my course Finding The One get pictures taken of themselves that they can use on dating sites. Do you have any recommendations for how they can prepare themselves for these sessions?
Catherine: Find a photographer that you would like to hang out with. Someone who naturally makes you feel comfortable. Someone you wouldn’t mind spending time with. They also have to have a really strong portfolio that shows you that they can bring out the best in people and that they understand composition and lighting and such to bring out even more of the best. I believe these are the two keys for finding a great photographer for you. I also highly recommend having a session with a stylist if at all possible. And even better if you can have someone do your hair and makeup so you look like the best version of you without looking over the top made up. I find this so pampering and helps you move into the space of knowing you deserve it. The pampering, the great photographer, the best looking clothing for your body type etc. And that is all the outside stuff. On the inside I would say that on top of drinking a lot of water and keeping your food choices on the healthier side which will add to your glow, taking time to meditate and visualize how it is you want to be in the world and what you see as the result of your images can really help you move into that space. Visualize it and then move into it. Know it’s happening. And say YES.
Bari: A lot of people feel insecure about their looks, especially when they’re meeting new people and going out on dates, and many of us shy away from the camera. Can you share with us some tips for how single men and women can use photography as a way to accept and celebrate who they are so that they can feel confident when they’re dating?
Catherine: Taking photos of yourself is a great way to really honor and embrace who you are. A self portrait doesn’t have to involve taking photos just of your face. You can take photos of your feet as you go on a photo walk. You can take photos of your hands holding things that you love. You can think outside the box of self portraiture and see it as a story of who you are right now. It opens up doorways and can help you become more curious about who you are rather than just focusing on the superficial. I also think that we as a culture/society need to embrace our greatness in all our forms, shapes, sizes etc. I think each of us has an “image of perfection” that we want to reach and then we think that others are judging us based on that same list we have in our heads and it’s just not true. All of those stories need to be investigated and asked if they are really true. Once you let go of that perfectionism ideal…you will find that you’ll start to feel more comfortable about your looks and that translates in how you sit for photos, how you feel on dates, and overall how you feel in your life. Let yourself off the hook. Not only will your photos look better, but you’ll feel better in general. It’s a win, win. You can also practice flirting for the camera, and it will crack you up. If nothing else you’ll be amused.
Bari: In your Deepening Course and elsewhere, you focus on helping people connect with the moments that matter so that they can experience the sacred in their day-to-day lives. You stress the importance of giving yourself the chance to focus on photographing one thing over the course of the month. Why is this so important? How does it connect to experiencing the sacred in our daily lives?
Catherine: I find that in my own life, I spend a lot of time in my head thinking about what needs to get done on my to-do list or working something out about a project I’m working on. Photography is a tool that brings you back to this present moment. We miss many moments in life because we are thinking rather than experiencing. Photography shifts your attention from your thoughts, back down to your eyes and heart and that leads to the soul. Looking through the lens helps you see what is there. Noticing the light, paying attention to the composition, paying attention to textures and feelings, shadows and movement. I started this process myself when I took a photo every day of my son’s nap time. I got to witness our relationship, the connection, the light, and over time I noticed that he was growing up, growing out of his clothing, needing a hair cut, getting a hair cut, his face was changing as he grew up. etc. All of these tiny moments and clues about a life that is being lived were being documented through this daily photo practice. Nothing else gives you this evidence. Nothing else informs you like photographs do. It becomes the link between your life and what you might be missing. It becomes the link between your life and yourself. It Deepens your connection to yourself and the world around you.
Bari: Are there any specific benefits this approach has for singles who are on a journey to discover and become their best selves so that they can find “the one” and build a rich, rewarding life together?
Catherine: This practice helps you to deepen. I highly recommend photography as a tool for discovery. For single people it helps you remember that you are enough as you are and that you don’t have to prove or strive to try to “get” someone to pick you. Believe me, I did a LOT of that. Photography really helped me to sink down deeper into owning my own greatness with or without a partner and that of course is always attractive to others right? Something about being fully alive in your own life and knowing you’re strengths and owning them is so attractive isn’t it? I think taking action is a key in finding true love. Thinking about what you’re not, or what you don’t have, or why it’s hard for you, or what is wrong with you or your looks or your life never promotes anything but stuckness (new word, just made it up ). When you take action and move forward, my experience is that the universe shows up and helps you along on your path. Photography can be an amazing way to take action forward and investigate and embrace who you are on a deeper level.
Bari: Do you need a special camera or fancy equipment to take these pictures? What do you recommend?
Catherine: Oh, no. I use my iPhone a lot for self portraits. No fancy camera required. A friend of mine suggested the app called GorillaCam Pro. I haven’t used it yet, but you can prop your iPhone up against something and use that app to start a self timer and then back up and more of you can be in the image. I might just have to try it after I finish this interview! I’ve seen a lot of people use it in self portraits, especially ones where they are jumping up in the air and laughing. I’m thinking laughing is a great way to get comfy in front of the camera, don’t you?
Bari: Definitely! Are there any apps or other easy-to-use tools that you recommend?
Catherine: Just the one mentioned above. GorillaCam pro. I use instagram, Camera+ and Camera Awesome for filters but you really don’t need to use those. I don’t rely on them all that much.
Bari: Thank you so much for answering all these questions and sharing your insights! How can people learn more about your courses?
Catherine: You can find out more about my online courses here at In Plain Sight and The Deepening. My Deepening course starts up again in August. You can sign up for my newsletter on my website for more info when registration opens for either of these courses. My website is http://www.catherinejust.com