This is my Grandmother, Lillian Helbig. Isn’t she beautiful? I love looking at photos of women from the 50’s and 60’s. They had such class back then, even though the above photo is slightly pin-up style, and many women today would never think of posing for a photograph in their bathing suit so boldly, for fear of looking ‘fat’ or being judged. The ironic thing is, this is one of the only images I have of my grandmother.
Losing her was tragic for me. My grandmother played such an integral part in who I am as a person, she helped raise me as my mother was very young, and my father was out of the picture for most of my life. She taught me how to entertain people, bake cookies, be crafty, DIY everything, handle myself with class in situations that called for it, yet maintain a sense of humor at all times and of course how to throw one hell of a fun party.
She put my first camera in my hand when I was a child. I took horrible photos of the house plants and the cats, and I just may have shot the very first bathroom selfie ever ;)
she told me they were beautiful. <3
She believed in me and everything I did, even when I dropped out of highschool to go to college for Design & Photography, she backed me up even if I knew deep down she disagreed.
She was a wonderful woman full of class, love, beauty and wonder. She gave of herself to everyone, never second guessing their motives or putting herself first.
She died back in January 2008 of lung cancer. She knew she was sick, and refused chemotherapy. She wanted to spend one last holiday season with her family. She knew from losing her husband to a brain tumor how hard the fight could be. Although I am confident she could have won the fight, to be honest I don’t think she wanted the battle.
As my family and I were sorting through her estate we came across letters placed in boxes which contained gifts we gave her through the years. “Thank you Ashley, I really enjoyed this. It meant so much to me. Love, Mamah”
This was a woman who was terminal for months and knew what was happening. She spent a little over two weeks in the hospital before she passed away with her daughters and grandchildren surrounding her in the last moments.
That day changed all of us.
I look through photo albums now, and what is usually a joyful and emotional experience for me turns quickly into regret and sadness. My beautiful grandmother, belle of the ball, queen of the castle- does NOT exist in pictures.
The ones I do have, though very few, she always looks reluctant to be in the photo at all. Despite being as beautiful as she most certainly was, she is almost never smiling or making a connection with the photographer. She seems far away, like she is lost in a moment somewhere else. Perhaps she thought herself invisible. If that was her goal, she did it well. The sad truth of it all is, I do not have a single portrait of my grandmother. Not a single portrait of me or any of her children or grandchildren together as adults.
I had to take a break from writing this for a few hours. You tend to forget how badly things can hurt or how much they mean to you until you decide to sit down and really revisit and feel them.
I called my Aunt, I visited my mother. They have no photos. What a waste. What a tragedy there is nothing to help me revisit the Mamah that I knew, the Lillian her friends and family loved so dearly.
So why was such a beautiful woman so camera shy? Why was she so afraid of having her picture taken to the point that none of us have a decent photo of her capturing the story of her golden years?
She was afraid.
She did not want to show her ‘aging’ face, her fuller figure, her laugh lines or her silver hair. She wanted people to remember her as a vibrant and beautiful woman with her life ahead of her and a fantastic growing family. It is so funny how we don’t see what others do. I took this photo of her on my 10th birthday. I’m sure she was mad at me, as I always got yelled at for pointing anything with a lens at her-
What I see here is a beautiful, vibrant and wonderful woman. She has the rest of her life ahead of her, a beautiful family and a story to tell. I wish she had seen it.
I will never get over the loss I feel from not having a portrait to cherish. One that truly captures that wonderful character of hers. The way she tilted her head down when she would laugh so hard at a joke, the loving eyes that shined when she was proud, those glorious laugh lines that told a story of every party she threw as a Navy wife and each and every silver hair my mother and aunt gave her as she raised them.
I would give ANYTHING in this world to have that image. The fact it will never be possible breaks my heart. I cannot stress enough to people how important it is to exist in images. Do it for your children, for your grandchildren, for yourself.
I hear form people all the time ‘can you make my double chin go away?’ ‘I would love a session, but I need to lose some weight first,’ ‘OMG I HATE having my picture taken! I always look so old.’
Stop the madness, ladies.
Yes, I can pose you so you don’t have that evil double chin we are all so afraid of. Yes, I can show you in a light that makes those few extra pounds you think you have look flattering. Yes I can make you say, ‘OMG I LOVE having my picture taken! I look so fabulous!’ Just because you are over 40 does not mean you should disappear from images.
This is a beautiful time. Celebrate it. Love it.
This is your golden age and because I feel so strongly and passionately about the subject, I am launching a brand and product line just for you.
My ‘Shine’ series is going to give you back that confidence, show you in the light that you deserve to be shown in and ensure that you exist in images that your children and your grandchildren can enjoy for years to come. My goal is to never hear of another person having that void in their heart created by the loss of a loved one and having no tangible way to remember their beautiful character.
This will be more than just a photoshoot. ‘Shine’ is all about bringing back your glamour (and no, I don’t mean bring back the 90’s Glamour shots!) Treat yourself to a day all about you.
Be pampered with professional hair and makeup, beautiful outfits that compliment your figure, a fun day with the girls, bubbly refreshments and topping it off with a natural light studio session which will encapsulate the beauty and grace of who you are. How you want to be remembered. How you want to be celebrated.