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What the photo says

We are used to talking about photography as an “art” with its aesthetics, with its rules, that only experienced artists can understand, apply, etc. I would like to talk to you about something completely different: what photography is for me and the way I found to practice it at my level.

Photography, history and empathy

Photos allow us to go back in time. They are windows that allow us to look into the past. This could be our past, that of strangers, or that of our loved ones.

I really enjoyed looking through my parents’ photo album and my father’s military album. This allowed me to imagine their lives a little better, to see them differently than in their role as parents, to discover their adventures at an age when I didn’t yet know them…

They’ve come a long way. How many experiences, how many discoveries, how many happinesses and misfortunes there are in a life! These photos allow me to travel with them, share their journey in dreams, and thus get ever closer to them.

Put a face to a name

I have always loved epistolary correspondence. When I was little, I dreamed of having a penpal in every country in the world! I remember the pleasure these exchanges gave me. This was all the greater when I received, attached to the letter, a photo of the author. He (or she) offered me the opportunity to observe him a little, to read his face.

It’s a beautiful opening of oneself, a beautiful proof of trust to send your photo to someone. We convey both our qualities and our faults, we reveal ourselves a little more, we lay ourselves bare in a certain way.

It’s really a pleasant feeling to receive this, to be able to put a face, and much more than a face, to a name, to a person who already exists in us through his words.

This is the magic of photography: we project ourselves into the stories of others, a unique life, a life from elsewhere.

Enrich yourself with the present by photographing it

Photos entered my daily life when I started living in France in 2004. I gave myself my first digital camera to be able to share my new life with my family back in Tahiti. It has become a habit for me to take photos. This allowed me to better manage the distance that separates me from my family. I sometimes tell others that “I’m being Chinese” as an excuse to take photos of them or that they wait for me while I take photos.

It was when I became a mother for the first time that taking photos became vital for me. Photos and short video sequences are a way for me to tell my own story. I realize it fully when I see all this life that surrounds my children, the adventures of a baby, his growth, the evolution of his character, his thoughts, his laughter. It awakens in me this ball of unconditional love over which time has no influence.

I think it is important to keep our photos alive, not to store them in the oblivion of a USB key or a dusty album. I sometimes look at them when I want to relive an emotion, a specific memory or I want to remember a face, a facial expression that I liked, the candid expression of my daughters, etc. So I invite you to sort them carefully, arrange them and name them, because it makes you want to look at them when you know in advance that you can easily find them.

What do you do with your photos? I imagine you have photo albums and photo books? I’ll let you discover my hobbies related to photography.

Use your photos

Digital Scrapbooking

Digital scrapbooking is one of my passions! With it, I found a creative way to reduce the amount of photos to send to my family and loved ones. In addition, the annotations that accompany the photos make them more meaningful and enrich them with anecdotes.

You have a glimpse of my simplified digiscraps during my summer vacation in 2018.

I also use digiscrap for my genealogical site. I bring together photos of a person at different periods of their life in a single image, so we see them simultaneously as a baby, a child, a teenager, an adult and an elderly person. The result is very pleasant, it reveals both what changes, and what does not change, it allows us to take another look at the person, more intimately. Nothing to do with a family tree made up of simple names. And I like it a lot!

Webcam photos

I went through a period of slight depression in 2008 during the arrival of baby Mei-Lin. Alone (because their military father is often absent), tired and stressed: the suffering of a full-time mother without support or chance to breathe. I looked for the best ways I could to feel better.

I was obsessed with the idea of wasting my time, of wasting my life. The days gave me the impression of slipping by, of slipping away completely because my babies were growing so quickly. And I felt like I was doing nothing, not enjoying it.

I found a little ritual that did me the most good: taking photos of myself and my daughters with the webcam. This allowed me to take control of time, to see it pass.

It’s clear, my children are the center of my life. These photos reassure me about the mother that I am. I did my best, I was present, witnessed their little and big injuries, I helped them grow better.

Also, when family or friends come to visit me, I ask them to play along with my little ritual, and pose with me in front of the webcam 🙂

I’m sharing my work with you: my pretty painting of Mom (which makes my Nounours happy)!

I realized that photography was a tool for personal development for me. Perhaps it can also reassure you about the passing of time, and reveal joy to you every day!

Album Project Life

It was in 2018 that I discovered Project Life by Becky Higgins, here is a tool that I really like. I used it in my own way to put only my favorite photos and images, sweet words but also quotes, which I slip into compartments. This is my mini album of treasures!

I realized that when I look at a photo album alone, without anyone to tell me, I miss the stories behind these photos, I lose a large part of the emotions and feelings that surround the taking of the photo!

This is why during our first vacation as a stepfamily, I had the idea of making a travel diary photo album, in my own way: a Project Life type but in my own way. I wanted my daughters to learn to observe, to appreciate, to be curious and attentive to their environment.

I had in mind my first group trip (5 people) to Taiwan in 2001. It was really a great experience and I wanted the girls to be able to feel that! I really like the principle of Project Life because it’s a lot of freedom and creativity that I find in digital scrapbooking. It’s even better since this album can be looked through by loved ones. So, during your next vacation, write a book with your loved ones: create your Project Life!

What photography has given me

  • I feel grateful. When I look at my photos, I always look at them filled with gratitude for life. This allowed me great experiences, great encounters despite some hazards. It helps me keep a positive mind!

  • I am reassured to know that I am not insignificant on this Earth, and that I leave a trace of myself: a series of photos that I could leave to my daughters and that I imagine them revealing with pleasure to their children as old treasures. (On this subject, back up your data on at least two different media… On your computer, and on external media.)

  • I gain self-esteem! Before, I found myself ugly in everyday photos. At 20, I still saw myself as the ugly duckling (I was really convinced of that!), always worse than the others. So when for the first time I was in front of a professional lensman while I was doing a shoot in Taiwan for the production of a wedding album (in 1997), I was stunned by my transformation! I had my makeup done, my hair done and dressed, I was told I had the look and beauty of an actress! I never imagined that there was hidden beauty, a treasure inside me… I gained self-confidence, and a few months later I broke off my engagement. This shooting session really allowed me to change the way I look at myself. Since that day, I haven’t found myself looking so bad in my everyday photos. This is why these wedding photos mean a lot to me because they made me love my body, my image. It’s no coincidence that I gave my daughter Mi-Li a Chinese name whose meaning is secret beauty. Within you lies a secret beauty which, if you notice it, will move you and those around you.

Has photography ever helped you love yourself more?

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