Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A shift in Valley

A few days ago I had the joy of re-photographing a model, Valley Haggard.  I worked with her first in February of this year when we began the collaboration which will peak with our exhibit at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, VA in Feb 2011.  We had a great session then.  She was open, vulnerable, and perhaps a bit shy.  She brought a book with her and wore her glasses and used the book as a prop for much of the session.  We got some terrific shots, and I've already painted her twice.  We've had some great conversations about the process of being photographed and painted and how that's all been for her.  She is writing about the process as am I, and that writing will be part of the exhibit along with the paintings, drawings and photographs.  We're hoping to put together a book about our collaboration as well.
Recently I ran into her at a social event and we started talking.   I told her I'd loved doing the two paintings so far but would love some new input.  I asked her if she'd like me to photograph her again.  She delightedly agreed.  She came over Thursday evening.  She said that her life has changed since our previous session.  Some of it has to do with her personal life which has shifted tremendously since then, but she said much of it has to do with how she's feeling about her body - much of which is a direct result of the work we've done together.  I could see the difference right away when I began taking pictures.  The first two pictures here are from our first session.  The last two are from the more recent session.  I think the difference is quite evident.

This time she had no props and didn't even think about wearing her glasses.  She came out and started posing with joy and verve.  She pranced around full of herself in the most wonderful way!  She was joy-filled.  It was evident that she is really happy with herself and her body.  She said she's lost some weight this year, but I don't think that has anything to do with it.  She was simply holding herself completely differently.  Her level of comfort in her body was palpable.  It was thrilling to see.  She made me feel really happy.  Ever since our session, I, too, have felt more comfortable in my own body.  I think back to how she was and feel inspired to walk around strutting my stuff, feeling like a million bucks.  It's so beautiful, so completely fantastic, to be in the presence of someone who is so delighted to be inside her own skin.

It makes me know that the work I'm doing is important, really important.  Just imagine if every one of us felt so supremely happy with ourselves.  That is an image I'll cherish!


  1. What an amazing project! You've captured how beautiful Valley is - inside and out. The exhibit next Feb is just too far away. Thank you for writing about the journey there. - Gigi

  2. gorgeous! inside and out. i am so grateful to know valley, she has a spirit that shines and shines.

  3. Amazing work, Susan! it's been about 15 years since we've been in touch, but I enjoyed seeing your male painting exhibit about 6 years ago. This one is even more fabulous! You really captured Valley's beauty and essence!

  4. Oh yes, that girl in the red dress is the "Happy Valley" - as my husband dubbed her - that we know and love.

  5. Yes, Susan, you caught the essence, the inner spirit every artist seeks. Her sweet shy smile is enduring: it enchants the heart!
    -Robert Hartley