HOW LOSING WEIGHT IMPROVED MY PHOTOGRAPHY!(c)
By Lauralyn Bellamy, MA, MDiv, cert. Dreamcoach(R)
For most of my first 56 years (at least, from age 6) I spent much of my waking life living "up in my head." I was an imaginative child, intellectually curious, mystical, artistic and, growing up on Manhattan’s "Upper Westside," an avid, easily enchanted audience member at the theater, ballet, symphony & opera, as well as the annual circus, rodeo and Ice Capades.
When I was introduced to the world of photography as a graphic arts major at R.I.S.D. it was as if I had finally found a way to be at home on the planet. The excitement and yearning to see with greater clarity, appreciation, and meaning the world through my lens was intense. The years I didn’t allow my camera to lead me out into the world were years of varying degrees of mild-to-moderate depression.
One of the aspects of photography that was so comforting to me was that it didn’t seem to matter whether I was waddling around under the weight of almost 300 lbs., or (for me) a svelte 175 lbs. The relationship between the camera, my eyes, hands and aesthetic sense were operating harmoniously. I’ve reviewed photos taken at the Grand Canyon’s South Rim in 1996 (in a size 3X) and the photographs continue to please me. But it was only because we were on vacation that I had my camera with me. Once home, it was a smattering of snapshots of family or church events.
In Feb., 2003 I began the process of not only losing weight (I’d done that before), but learning how to live the rest of my life consciously in a healthy, strong, slim (NOT "skinny") body. The following month I began weight-lifting and working out with a personal trainer 3x weekly; 61/2 years out I still enjoy 2 one-hour private sessions with my PT weekly. I also take yoga classes and do daily brisk walks with my greyhound. I like feeling strong and resillient!
Another important component of integrating my body image with self-identity was having my picture taken every week (in the first 6 months) and every month after that, for 18 months. Once, when I realized too many weeks had gone by without a snapshot, Jim was out of town and it was the 5th anniversary of my gastric bypass surgery, I picked up my camera, stood in front of a full-lentgth mirror and took my own picture!
Self-portrait, 2-11-08. (c) Lauralyn Bellamy
You see, one way to test whether or not you’re consciously living IN your body is to notice your reaction to a photo of yourself. If you can’t believe that’s really what you look like (whether the image looks too fat or too thin), that’s confirmation that you’re living "from the neck up!"
I remember a photo taken of me celebrating my birthday at a restaurant with Jim and our son, Luke, almost 18months out. When the waiter presented the Polaroid in a little cover I was amazed. "Do I really look like this?" I asked Jim showing him the picture.
He looked alarmed."Don’t tell me you think you look fat in this photo," he almost pleaded. "No! I mean, am I really this thin?" I was wearing a hot pink summer top with little cap sleeves and I marveled at how normal and attractive "she" looked; she being memories of me in my "glamor days," working for Group W Broadcasting, for example. It felt like I was looking at a snapshot from my past. By Christmas I’d settled into my then-size10 body and no longer dissociated from the self I saw in photos.
The integration process took two years as I got psychologically comfortable with being a size 10. Still not experiencing any of the old sabotage triggers, I left congregational ministry to become a full-time, certified life coach.
But how did losing weight improve my photography?
It’s taken me 4 years to notice and figure it out, but it has! In early 2006, when I was being trained as a certified Dream Coach(r) Group Leader, I realized how important it was, if I was going to live the life of MY dreams, to resume being a photographer. My "Doubter" immediately informed me that I didn’t have the time to do photography on a daily basis. I countered by challenging myself to spend :30 of our next lunch hour "finding" photographs right around our hotel in Novato, California. I went across the street to a CVS, bought a disposable camera and began shooting. In 30 minutes I’d shot the roll. After classes late that afternoon, I drove into town and had the film developed and printed. Here’s a few examples of what I saw at the entrance to the hotel:
Photo: Lauralyn Bellamy (c)2006
Photo: Lauralyn Bellamy (c)2006
In that half hour, it was like flipping a switch: as soon as I had the camera up to my eyes, I saw the extraordinary in the ordinary world around me. I allowed the lens to lead me without a second thought; I was squatting and twisting, climbing and lifting the camera over my head to get the shot.
But I didn’t get the realization about the relationship between the kind of photography I was shooting and my lighter, healthier, stronger body until after I conducted my first "PRAYING IN PICTURES: Digital Photo-Journaling" workshop recently. As I led the participants down our garden path toward the lake (a route I take daily with our greyhound), the brilliant sunlight was hitting some wild holly bushes and the picture/thought popped into my mind, "I wonder what those leaves look like to an ant underneath?" Without a second thought, I squatted down, then knelt and twisted my way underneath, looked up through the lens and clicked:
Photo: Lauralyn Bellamy (c)2009
After the workshop, as I reviewed what I’d photographed, I realized how impossible it would’ve been, prior to losing the weight, for me to create the photographs that were the answers to my curiosity; that, as an obese- morbidly obese photographer, I was restricted to shooting at standing eye level with minimal tilting up or down. Now, the health and strength of my body makes it possible for me to shoot where my camera and imagination take me!
If you are a photographer, professional or amateur, who is obese or morbidly obese, or overweight-and-out-of-shape – think about the way your body is restricting your ability to "get the shot." Imagine how your photography could be liberated to develop your vision!
Being a physically engaged photographer has supported the expansion of my vision of the world around me and my participation in it!
Call or contact me now to learn how my unique coaching can revitalize your life as a visionary artist/photographer! What have you got to lose?
firstname.lastname@example.org 404-394-3900 Lauralyn
Lauralyn in Loveland, CO 8-04-09; photo by Heather Emig