“Trust me” has become a phrase with negative implications, often two words used to coerce or convince someone into doing something they may not be inclined to do. Yet those are unspoken words in many human interactions. There are unspoken trusts with people we barely know, like the person who cuts your hair. You are trusting a stranger (in many cases) not to screw up your appearance, something that’s very deeply tied to our sense of self and self worth.
In good photography there is a similar trust. I have photographed people who hadn’t met me before our session, or who knew me but hadn’t seen my work, or who had seen my work but thought that there was no way they would look as good.
“I like your work; I don’t like how I look,” to paraphrase a friend of mine.
People ask me if I’m going to go pro. My answer is always a firm “No.” I have a job. This is a talent I have, a creative outlet, a way to satisfy the insatiable need to MAKE something. It has been far more gratifying than writing novels, but to do the kind of work I mainly do I need partners. I need co-creators.
I need people to trust me.
I need them to trust that I won’t laugh at them for looking goofy for a moment if they try a pose that doesn’t work. I need them to trust me not to make them feel less than they are. I need them to trust that I won’t put out images that they don’t find flattering or empowering. And I need them to trust me with their vulnerabilities, be it their physical nudity or their (clothed) emotional nakedness.
The photo below was made during a maternity setting where my creative partner agreed to bare all. Before we finished I asked if we could make this photo for a contest with the theme “Trust.” The contest had called for at least 5 pieces and I had only the one, so I’m sharing it here.
I am grateful to everyone who has trusted me with their time and themselves. I have been blessed to have made many beautiful pictures in the last 5 years, but having had (and I hope earned) the trust of the people I’ve worked with is far more beautiful than any photo they’ve helped me make.