Shalom (a.k.a Shagingin as I like to call her) is one of the most beautiful people I know, inside and out, and no I'm not saying this because we're sisters! She truly does have the sweetest heart, and I'm honored and privileged to have her in my life (cue in the "awwws" haha, but I mean it!). This post is sooo overdue, seeing her birthday was last November. A few weeks before her birthday, Shalom told me about this idea she had for a photoshoot to capture several stages of her life and predominant emotions she felt in each one, as a way of celebrating her journey and discovery of self so far (I know, so brilliant!). It was no surprise that unlike most 20 year olds I know, she would want this as a birthday present to herself, because she has always had this incredible level of self awareness, and an awareness of other people's emotions and life in general, which she so beautifully expresses through her poetry. I'm in love with her work, and the way she breaks down and speaks about emotions we've all felt but perhaps have never acknowledged. I think you might just get hooked on it as well, so check out some of her short stories on her blog, here - Mensu Writings.
The creative process for this shoot took us both back to childhood memories, growing up, facing challenges, and dealing with experiences that were life changing, all focused on the main emotions Shalom felt at each stage. We were able to narrow these to Joy (Childhood), Fear and Freedom.
I thought I'd share pictures from the finished shoot with you all, and excerpts from short musings on her Instagram. Enjoy!
"Childhood was bliss;
Childhood was curious eyes;
Playing in tree houses;
Harmattan announcing the arrival of Christmas;
Conversations with imaginary friends;
Bliss." - Mensu Writings
For this part of the shoot, I decided to go with a playful/carefree vibe, that also embodied a youthful exuberance, and curiosity. We went with a red and white color palette, and this Lindy Bop picnic dress was so fitting! We kept it simple with matching red and white balloons & confetti, red ribbons in her hair, and red shoes.
"Sometime after childhood came consciousness. And with consciousness, came fear with all its ugly faces. I was afraid of the terrorist group in my home country. I was afraid of starting life again. I was afraid of flying. I was afraid of buildings collapsing on me. I was afraid of walking out of my home. I was afraid of everything.
And after I mastered up the courage to start life anew. One of my best friends passed. You can imagine what this did to my mind.
I became terrified of sadness and how it could eat her whole. And I was terrified of loss and was so hungry to be a savior. For everyone but myself. So I tried and tried to put together people that had no interest in being put together."
Fear in my opinion is a hard emotion to catch, because it is frequently masked in other forms, and understanding Shalom's challenges, how she felt dealing with each one and narrowing it down to Fear was such an introspective process that I'd like to believe came with some level of healing/awareness. For this part of the shoot, the goal was to show vulnerability, that sense of feeling alone, doubting all you know to be true, and dealing with loss.
"There's a song that goes: "When it looked like the sun wouldn't shine anymore God put a rainbow in the cloud.” This is precisely what has happened this year.
So after all is said and done. People will see you being yourself and say you’re ‘doing too much’ or ‘being the most’
As if they know the journey you have traveled to arrive at yourself.
Panting and exhausted, but alive
And carrying your own name
Wearing your own hair
Speaking with your own voice
Accent thick and thriving in your throat
Please pay no mind to these people who try to shrink you into what you used to look like.
Into what they look like.
Be yourself baby,
I see you glowing in the halo of your own light and it is one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen." - Mensu Writings.
Shalom's excerpt above says it all! I went with yellow because it's such luminous color and for me it signifies optimism, enlightenment, happiness, creativity, all these emotions that come with feeling free. The movement of the dress was also intentional to bring out the freeing emotion. We paired it with a flower crown to signify a sense of blooming into your true self, as flowers do. :)
Childhood Dress - Lindy Bop | Outdoors Fear Dress (I) - ASOS | Indoors Fear Dress (II) - Express| Freedom Dress -Jj's House |Flower Crown - Amazon Fashion| Glam Dress - Jj's House| Glam Earrings - Claire's
Love Shalom's idea to add a glam section to this photoshoot, to highlight a sense of celebration! Because at the end of the day, life should be celebrated. We cry, we get low, but we also laugh, love, pray, PARTY and show up to life with resilience, grace and elegance.
I'm so proud of you sis, for following through with the shoot from concept to the finished product. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to work on this project with you. Words don't express how grateful I am for you, thank you for literally always being there for me. May your life always be filled with light, love and peace, and happy belated birthday (again). Nalale Kukale <3
Stay Smart; Stay Beautiful,