When I started this project my intention was to create a body of work that would empower women to know their self worth by seeing something within themselves through the women I featured. When submissions came in I remember my eyes swelling and my throat choking up to hold back the many tears as I read through each form. Many of these women’s journeys were so moving and powerful that even through adversary, fear, and sometimes trauma arose such strength, courage, wisdom and joy. Every photo shoot, I had a chance to build with these women and dig deep into their stories. We’d share laughs, sometimes tears, lots of hugs, and definitely lots of selfies. Back home, through editing each image, you become intimate with your subject as you outline the details in their unique beauty and grace that each possessed.
Although I was indeed documenting a part of each of these women’s journey, I too, was actually on a sort of a journey myself. When I started this project, little did anyone know how deep into depression I was. I too, was in a transition of sorts. 2.5 years ago after Zayd was diagnosed with Autism, and my youngest was born, I began to spiral into a dark hole of isolation and depression. It was like I was in mourning of what I thought my son was “supposed to be”, trying to come to terms with being a caretaker instead of simply a mom, and now, having an additional child. I became isolated, as my son’s behavior was not appropriate for the outside world, I no longer attended weekly spiritual services, went to gatherings, or just be apart of my greater community anymore. My friends stopped inviting me to things because it was almost impossible for me to go to anything. I could no longer work because of my now overwhelming therapy schedules, evaluations, and tests. I’d look at my timeline and see the smiles and the friends getting together, and slowly start to see myself as someone who’s been forgotten. “Out of site, out of mind, I would tell my husband”. Photography began to be my only outlet. With my hours alone in my home, thoughts began to evolved. I spent any free time I had studying and learning from my mentor Sue Bryce. I restructured my brain to understand my own self worth, and relaunched my business. Through many sleepless nights, I created this project.
Through this body of work you will see healing, you will see me healing, you will see their journey, but you will also see my journey. Once I began this project, I realized how much this was indeed a therapy for me. Every connection I had with my subjects was reflection towards what is going on in my own life, a moment of self forgiveness. You will see through this work that they are indeed worthy. And through it, you will see me coming into my own realization of self worth, self acceptance, and giving myself permission to feel beautiful, again.
Portrait of Me, Crystal Byrd Uqdah
Photographed by: Joi Faison for Love Byrd Photo
Makeup: Blasina Salaam Ware