Show and Tell

It’s kind of my “thing:” telling people to value themselves and make time for themselves and LOVE themselves. I’ve built a photography business around it, people pay me to travel and speak about it, and goodness knows I write about it every chance I get. Every client who walks into our studio gets the pep talk before, during, and after their photo shoot. “You’re good enough exactly as you are! Showing up for yourself is the ultimate form of self-love, since love is proven by action.”

And all along the way I tell myself I love myself too. Of course I practice what I preach, and I never waiver! How could a woman who’s built a business from reminding other women of their inherent beauty and value FORGET that she also must show herself love?

The answer is, I don’t know but forgetting to love myself is all too easy. The worst part is, I don’t notice it until I start to hurt.

Have you ever taken a relationship for granted? Maybe it’s your best friend, your parent, your spouse, your sibling - One day you wake up and you realize you’ve done nothing to show them you love them in AGES. Maybe you’re like me - you struggle with depression so you don’t realize that you haven’t talked to this or that friend in months, and when you realize it the guilt is crippling. Or maybe you’re really really busy. Work, life, and responsibilities take over. You tell the people close to you that you love them, but maybe they don’t believe you because you don’t show it.

Likewise, have you ever taken your relationship with your SELF for granted? Goodness. Welcome to my TED talk: “How to neglect yourself, ignore yourself, and run yourself ragged in order to prove something to “everyone” (?) and then lose sight of your purpose in the process.” I joke about this - because it’s such a struggle for me. It’s easy to TELL myself, and everyone else, that I love myself. But it’s another thing entirely to SHOW it.

Life as a creative is not linear. There isn’t a ladder you climb - instead there are mountains and valleys. I usually don’t realize I’m out of a valley until it’s a month or so behind me. And when I left for vacation two weeks ago, I was nearly burnt out. I had nothing left. I ran away for a week, and that helped. But it wasn’t until I returned and started to actively SHOW myself I care about ME that I started to feel alive again. I’m not just talking about face masks and pints of ice cream. Honestly, for me, ice cream is not self-care. Ice cream makes me bloated and tired and cranky.

For me, self-care is making time for myself. It’s getting the massage I need so my shoulder doesn’t go numb from the hours I spend each week at the computer. It’s planning parties for those who are dear to me. It’s asking for help from people who are happy to help me. It’s driving an hour to see a beautiful film that will inspire and refresh me. It’s making time for people who fill up my heart, and spending intentional time with them. It’s choosing what’s best over what’s easiest.

It’s SHOWING myself I love myself. After all, showing is much harder than telling.

One of my favorite things to tell my clients when they arrive for their photo shoot is, “You did it. You showed yourself love today. Just by carving out three hours to be pampered and have fun, you showed yourself love. And you’re going to feel better for having done it.”

So when you feel tired, depleted, and empty, ask yourself what you need - just like you do when your spouse, child, or friends are upset. Then LISTEN. Finally, act. Show yourself you’re worthy of whatever you’re trying to believe - and friend, eventually you’ll believe it.

-Mitzi


Book your photo shoot or request information here. I’d truly love to photograph you.

Talking About What You Love

I started to cry.

We were almost finished recording the new Luxe Portraits promotional video, and we'd planned every detail of the script. But in that moment, as we sat inside the changing room at the studio to minimize echoes and record my voiceover, she told me to try speaking my lines from memory while I looked her in the eyes. (The "her" was my sister Natalie. If you've followed my work for any amount of time, you've seen her portraits. She's been my muse since before I knew that word existed.) And when I looked at her and spoke my first line - this was when I started to cry. So she hit record on my phone and said gently, "How's it feel? Talking about what you love?" I took a sip of water and said, "It's scary!" then immediately laughed and said, "No, I love it."

I've watched that video a dozen times. My reaction is so transparent, and I cringe each time I see my emotional mask go back on. Because I felt safe with her, I said my honest answer first: "It's scary!" But then I was so quick to nervously laugh and detract that, saying what I felt I should say: "No, I love it." Both things were true, but it wasn't until that moment that I verbally acknowledged the fear.

For me, talking about what I love (in this case, it's photographing women and helping them see their beauty and value) has always been scary. I mean, look at our culture: The dominant message is that we, women especially, are not good enough. 99% of the time, if you tell a woman she is beautiful and valuable just the way she is, she will disagree.

As a teenager, I hesitated talking about why I loved writing screenplays and listening to new age music. As a college student, I didn't want to talk about how much I preferred spending time alone reading and writing while my friends went to bars and sports games. As the wife of a midwest Christian pastor, I was afraid to talk about how much I love things like the Oscars, egalitarian marriage, and wine. 

It's one of the best and worst parts of being a human: The fact that we want so badly to fit in because we desire community, that we allow our insecurity to twist that into acting a certain way just to belong... even if that belonging is false because it's a false version of us. 

I used to blame those institutions for their incorrect expectations, but now I see the large part my own insecurities played. Sure, society and family and friends and peers could place unfair and even cruel expectations on me. But at the end of the day, I only went to bed feeling afraid and wrong and weird and alone because I couldn't accept who I was.

So what's worse: False belonging, or not belonging at all? I used to think it was better to lay low and not ruffle any feathers, but over the years I've seen the damage that comes from trying to wedge a star-shaped block into a circular hole. At first it just sits on top, but over time the edges wear down and by the time it fits, it isn't a star anymore. (And you know, it isn't a sphere either.)

And now, at the age of 28 with a career and a husband and a house and a beautiful studio in which I can create art everyday, do I feel like I belong? Not even close. But I'm realizing more with each person I am blessed to meet that we are all insecure and feel/have felt that we don't belong. So maybe instead of judging each other out of our own insecurities we could let this common thread, this fear of talking proudly about what we believe in because it may be rejected, unite us. It's scary to be different, but in the end it's the only way anything ever changes. There's room for each of us.

After all, stars aren't meant to fit into holes. They're meant to glimmer in the sky.

-Mitzi

 

Special thanks to Bekka Ross for her vintage hair and styling expertise, and Mckaela Armstrong for doing makeup for this beautiful shoot.

The First Time

"The pencil is sharp enough to say what needs to be said." -Tanya Geisler

The first time I did makeup for a client, I had never used false eyelashes before. I didn't mention that - I just put them on her.

The first time I photographed a woman much older than me, I felt intimidated. I worried she'd think I was too young and not take me seriously, but I never told her that. I just used my knowledge and directed her and made her feel special.

The first time I filed for a business license I googled "how to get a business license." After half an hour of reading and feeling like I understood how, I realized I was reading information for Ohio. I felt ridiculous. So I googled "how to get a business license in Missouri." I followed the directions, and I got the license.

The first time I went to a networking event I sat in the car for half an hour and talked myself out of driving back home. I rehearsed conversation topics and double and triple checked my business card stock in my purse. I finally walked in, terrified. But I smiled and met a few people and had a good time. I booked future clients and met future friends.

The first time I won an award for a portrait, I had created a portrait that I had felt in my heart. I saw a stranger one day at church, and her beauty inspired me. I eventually just asked if I could photograph her, and I photographed her with the vision I'd seen in my mind's eye. I didn't have a studio - just a duplex - and I had to move the kitchen table and photograph her in the living room. I poured my heart into it, didn't question my abilities, and in the end it was a success.

I say all this because I know some of you out there are dreaming big dreams and then telling yourself why you can't achieve them. I did it for a long time. I still do it. Maybe you've told yourself no for so long, you don't even remember what you once dreamed of.

I have my dream job and so much of that achievement is simply showing up and then getting back up when I fall. Do I feel ready? Rarely. Do I feel prepared? Never. But I show up and I do my best.

You're right - you're not perfect. And what you have to say/write/create probably has, in some way, "been done before." But not the way you can do it. Because YOU are the only you there ever has been (or ever will be).

Love,
Mitzi

If you are interested in experiencing a portrait session with me, please fill out the contact form here and I'll reply with all the information! Currently we have two sessions available for September, and three left for October.

I would love to photograph you.

 

WHY NOT

She walked up to the wall of portraits in my studio. She pointed to one, a confident red-haired mother of two, with a black lace bodysuit stretched across pink lingerie. "I couldn't wear that," she said, definitively. So I looked her in the eyes, knowing she wouldn't point to an outfit that way if she didn't want to wear something like it, and asked, "Why not?"

You see, I never used to ask this question. I didn't ask it to my clients or my friends - I certainly didn't ask it to myself. But over time, things have changed. "WHY NOT?" has become the refrain of my own brain's responses that limit me:

"I can't wear that." WHY NOT? "I can't try that." WHY NOT? "I can't achieve that." WHY NOT? "I can't be that." WHY. THE. HELL. NOT?

And my client who stared at the wall of portraits - I asked her WHY NOT and she rose up to the question. She was honest with me about the way she hated her appearance, and we talked and laughed and nodded with understanding. We're both women who have lived for decades in a society that consistently tells us we're not enough. And I told her about all the amazing things she could wear, I told her about the beauty I saw in her the first time we met. I told her I couldn't wait to capture her beautiful soul on film. And by the end of our meeting, she'd planned her dream photoshoot. Before my very eyes she embraced the WHY NOT, and it was beautiful. 

A few years ago I got tired of living by other people's limitations. Now I ask WHY NOT and usually the reason is laughable. So instead of cowering, I do the thing - I take the challenge - I dive right in. And it's always worth it. 

-Mitzi

SESSION AVAILABILITY UPDATE:
Booked through August
2 spots left for September
4 spots left for October

Send me a message at www.mitzistarkweather.com/luxe-portraits for information and booking.

Transformations

When Channing scheduled her Girls Day Out Luxe Portrait shoot at our new Downtown Joplin studio, we sat down to plan the details. She chose to bring her mom and sister and since her wedding is coming up, at first I was surprised she didn't choose to bring her friends or bridesmaids - but she told me that since she's from a big family, they don't have many professional portraits of just the women. How beautiful, I thought. One of the best parts about shoots where one woman brings others along is that usually these other women wouldn't have thought to book the shoot themselves.

Maybe they don't think they'll photograph well, don't know what to wear, feel nervous in front of the camera... I hear all the reasons, but continually I'm blown away at how amazing those same women feel when they step out of their comfort zone. Channing, her mom Patty and her younger sister Miranda had a magical day in our studio with Frosted Cakerie treats, pampering by hair and makeup artists Chloe Bartlett and Natalie DeMint, and a beautiful photoshoot with me. When they came to their portrait reveal yesterday, they were in awe of what they saw.

I think sometimes we just know ourselves too well. We think about every bad photo we've been in, how much better our figure could look or has looked, the time someone said we weren't ___________ enough. We've seen our own worst so we forget what our best looks like. I love when a woman walks into my studio - Do you know what I see first? The things that I think are most beautiful about her. Her smile, her eyes, her hair, the way her nose wrinkles when she laughs. I start to plan a "transformation" for her with outfit plans and hair and makeup artists... And then it happens. She transforms like a blooming flower. The best part is that her beauty was there all along - the rest of us just led her to a place where she could finally see it.

And Channing: As you enter this transformative season of life with your upcoming wedding, I hope you'll cherish this day with these women you love and remember how lovely you felt in that pink tulle gown. And please - remain in awe of the woman you see in your portraits.

Humbled and forever in awe of you all,

Mitzi

If you'd like to learn more about the Luxe Portrait experience, reach out at www.mitzistarkweather.com/luxe-portraits and I'll send you all the information!

 

 

Honoring Now

I packed up armfuls of dresses and skirts from the white wardrobe. Tulle and sequins spilled out of boxes and bags as I hauled them to the car and then up the stairs to the new studio. 

And then I went back for another load, the tenth task of the day during three weeks of 15 hour work days. As I walked back down the hallway, a noise caught me off guard: the echo of my own footsteps in the old studio, the one we'd created out of two bedrooms in our 1600 square foot home. It was suddenly so empty, and that beautiful light from the extra tall window still glowed all around.

I didn't think "good riddance." I didn't scoff at these humble beginnings and feel relieved to finally have a Downtown studio space. Surprisingly, I started to cry. So I sat down. I thought about the women who'd had their hair and makeup done in that room. I remembered how thrilled I'd been about "all the space" when we bought our new house. I thought about the nervous souls that entered and how they seemed to float away when they left. 

The emotions were wonderful and overwhelming. What a beautiful space for a beautiful time. I learned more about my clients, my craft, my passion, and myself during those two years than I can even express. I will always honor the time I ran a portrait studio from my home, because now I see how necessary this step was for myself and my business. 

It's easy to get stuck in the past or the future. "Remember when..." or "Someday..." Both ideas are okay in moderation, but I think we do ourselves a huge disservice when we live in one or the other. I want to live in what is now, and honor what is now. I want to honor the few minutes it takes to brew a coffee the way I honor the few minutes it takes to exchange wedding vows, and honor the act of chopping red peppers for dinner the way I honor writing a birthday card to a close friend. It's mindfulness and it's gratefulness. It's so easy and so difficult.

I can be so afraid of making mistakes. And at my most insecure, I take this obsession a step further: being afraid not just of messing up, but of not outdoing my past self at every turn. Anyone else feel that way? Like they're not enough? That their mistakes are stubbed toes rather than valuable lessons? I'm trying to honor my mistakes. I sit in them. I explore the feelings around them, I listen to counsel, and I get up and try again. Exchanging shame for honor - now that is beautifully upsetting (in the best way). 

And when it comes to mental health, rather than be annoyed when I cannot control my anxiety or depression or "off" days, I honor them. I no longer demonize my body and mind for being imperfect - I recognize and care for them. My sick days are just as important as my most productive days. My failures are just as beautiful as my successes.

Each day I try to ground myself on this truth: "If you did nothing today, and no one you loved talked to you, you made no money, you did no good deeds, and you simply stayed in bed, you would still be valuable and irreplaceable and worthy. You are one of God's children and you are already enough." 

And now, I will honor this new adventure at 526 S Main in Downtown Joplin. I'll play and create and trip and make mistakes, but I'll honor every moment of it and every beautiful lesson I learn along the way. 

I hope you'll honor your minutes and days and failures, too. You are not a nuisance. Every moment of your life means something, is worth something, and is building something. The highest of highs, lowest of lows, and, more often, the mundane everyday that somehow turns into years - it's all necessary. 

Honoring each breath of your precious life in turn honors yourself. And you are absolutely worth that.

Love,
Mitzi


How do you dream of being photographed?
Reach out here and we'll reply with our Portrait Guide.

New Studio in Downtown Joplin

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BIG NEWS. We now have a gorgeous studio in downtown Joplin! (Those windows, right?! And there are four more! It’s heavenly.) We are working hard to get it ready for you to come see during the Third Thursday art walk on May 17, and want to thank each one of you: our clients, friends, supporters, and cheerleaders. I also want to thank Jordan, since we've seen nothing but growth in our business since he joined me full time, and because he is wonderful and creative and I couldn't do this without him.

Oh - and the same month we get this studio happens to be the same month Mitzi Starkweather Photography celebrates 5 years! Wow. For once, I don’t know what to say. I think I’ll just take a deep breath and be grateful for now. 

My long-time assistant and muse Jerica and I broke in the studio last week, and I'm so thrilled to share those portraits with you now. But above all, I am grateful.

Talk soon,
Mitzi

While we are fully booked for the month of May, we have two spots left for our Oregon Coast shoots in June, and three studio (!!) shoots left for June. We are accepting bookings throughout 2018 and popular dates go fast, so reach out at www.mitzistarkweather.com/luxe-portraits if you'd like to get more information!

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The Posing Paradox

"I look at these portraits, and I see myself. It's the real me."

It starts with an email or a phone call. And usually, before I've even met you, I know your desires and fears. 

So we talk about your dream photoshoot, we plan your outfits, and we book date and the makeup artist. When you return for your shoot, you bring armfuls of clothes. As they tend to do, a hundred things come up the morning of your shoot - a flat tire, a sick child, a crisis at work - but you make it here. And you take a big sigh of relief.

And then the transformation begins. The hair and makeup artist styles you beautifully, and you look in the mirror - you start to believe you're beautiful! And then we choose a dress for you to wear. We walk into the studio, and I can feel your nervousness. I tell you, "You've got this.". Then, for each portrait, I pose you down to the fingertips and coach you on your facial expression. I make sure the assistant holds the fan to perfectly caress the right locks of hair, I smooth out the wrinkles in the fabric of your dress, I tell you to take a deep breath. 

And suddenly, we create a portrait.

When you see the portrait, you say things like, "I look beautiful. That's ME." You say, "For the first time, I feel like I am SEEING myself." You say, "You know how your mother always tells you you're beautiful and you believe it but don't see it yourself? Well today, I saw it."

And that is the posing paradox. We planned and styled and made you up, we told you how to stand and where to push your shoulder and how to relax your jaw. We set you up in the perfect environment for your YOU to come alive. And even though nothing about "you" in this moment is "every-day" or "natural," you are somehow the most beautiful and true version of yourself. And that's why it worked. We convinced you that you could do this - be in front of the camera and then love the portraits. It's the same reason why telling someone to "act natural" in front of the camera results in painfully awkward reactions. We need boundaries. They allow us to thrive and create!

And when you tell me you see "you," I see you light up. And I'm so grateful that you honored yourself and believed it could happen.

-Mitzi

Ready to start planning your Luxe Portrait experience? We have five sessions available until July in our Joplin studio, and three sessions available on the beautiful Oregon Coast June 17-19!

Contact Mitzi here to receive the Luxe Portrait Guide and start planning.