31 May 2010

Justin Hackworth

I blogged very briefly about the session with Justin Hackworth here, and he posted photos from the session here.

Justin Hackworth. Where do I begin? Perhaps the beginning; I hear that's a very good place to start.

A long, long time ago I went to Utah, eight weeks if we're being technical. I didn't want to fly with Jonas by myself, nor did I want to fly at all (on standby, especially) being 32 weeks large in the middle region.

But I wanted to take photos with my mother. Our exclusive mother-daughter experiences are few and far between; our photos even more scarce. So when all of the elements connected and somehow I was chosen to participate in the 30 Strangers in 30 Days project, I knew there was a reason. I needed that driving force to get me boarding a plane with my toddler so I could have a meaningful afternoon with my mom.

I have been photographed a few times, all very different experiences so I wasn't sure what to expect.

Some photographers portray me just as I saw myself in middle school--awkward, a little flabby, and unimportant.

Some made me want to run a marathon in order to get away from their bossiness.

Some made me do things that I wasn't that comfortable doing (not bad things; just awkward things, like move my chin in an oh-so-dramatic fashion)

Some told silly jokes that made me groan internally and feel sorry for his wife.

And some were okay.

I must be hanging out with the wrong photographers. (But in all fairness, I'm probably not the easiest person to photograph since I am naturally so un-touchy and standoffish.)

But then there's Justin Hackworth.

He's an artsy man. And artsy people, I usually don't get. Because unfortunately for me, I'm not artsy. I can analyze the heck out of data, but when it comes to picking out window treatments, you may as well be asking me to explain Einstein's Theory of Relativity (oh wait, that's something I could do; I guess it would be more like asking me if your blouse matched your shoes--that, I couldn't answer, not even a little bit).

Justin has a way of making you feel comfortable and respected and beautiful and alive all at once. Even though I just walked off an airplane and still smelled like exhaust, fatigue, and complimentary pretzels, he had me convinced that I was the most vibrant, radiant woman in the world.

To start the session, he asked us about ourselves. As I spoke, I could see him gathering more about me from my body language and eyes than from my words. I know he does it because I do it; I felt he was peering into my soul.

This is where my naturally guarded self would put up red flags and change the topic. I choose what you know about me; you haven't earned the privilege to ask personal questions and expect honest answers. I only share that with people who are unassuming and genuinely interested. But I kept talking because that's what he is--safe, unassuming, genuine--qualities that are even better than his photography. And while I knew he was going to plaster photos on his blog, on Facebook, and in an art exhibit, I also knew somehow my private feelings would be portrayed yet protected.

As he was taking photographs, he asked me to tell a joke; I only had one in my arsenal.

Jennifer: Knock, knock.
Justin: Who's there?
Jennifer: Interrupting cow.
Justin: Oh I know this one (and then he laughed).

So he interrupted my interrupting cow joke. Which was pretty great. And he even laughed at the joke as if it were the best joke he ever almost heard me tell. I got it off of a candy wrapper at the airport which is not typically renowned for their sophisticated humor. And yet he laughed so heartily that I want to tell it again and again (and perhaps buy Laffy Taffy in bulk).

He then said the biggest challenge of doing the project was to take photos of the same topic (mothers and daughters), but make each one unique. I said it was a good thing I was there on day 5, to which he responded that I underestimate him.

That was my other joke. It was uninvited and he still took it in stride.

At the end of the session, he asked me to sing a song for him. Those of you who know me from my open mic days might laugh at how presumptuous this was. Me? Sing? For a stranger? Ha, fat chance. And somehow, he made me want to sing. To make a woman great with child feel beautiful is a skill in and of itself. To make her want to take photographs and do it all day is nothing short of a miracle. To make a person desire to share talents that make her uncomfortable is a gift from God.

I imagine Justin is doing the 30 Strangers project again next year as well. Pity that I'm no longer a stranger, so I would be ineligible. Maybe I can convince him to do a 30 People I Already Met Who Just Happen to Adore Me photo shoot. What do you say, Justin? I would come on the first day, even if I weren't picked.

(Is that flattering or creepy?)

And some of his work.

To view all of 2010's 30 Strangers, click HERE.


Mojo said...


These look so great and I love your mom!

Stefan Boyer said...

Love them!! They are great.