Storm settles into quiet | Darkest dusk leads to a dawn | Bleak winter melts into springtime
And the tide turns –
As I begin to share some personal work I look forward to your comments and inspiration. These images are fine art images created from composites of many images. They are metaphors for my experience and self discovery. They represent my experience and my journey. Take from them what you will. I want my experiences to help others find hope and inspiration.
In Light and Love,
My poor blog. My poor neglected blog that has been ignored over the past six months. “Bless it” as a southern gal like me would say. I’ve given more energy to my personal blog and sometimes you just have to step away for awhile.
What’s going on over here? A lot actually and I’m just too busy to blog about it – plus in my efforts to disconnect from this crazy world I just don’t like the internet right now. My creativity right now is pouring out of every pore in my body. I can’t go an hour without being inspired and finding a journal or piece of paper to write down the idea. My daughters inspire me. My pain inspires me. The hawks above inspire me. God inspires me. My father inspires me. My husband inspires me. The sway of the trees and early morning chatter of birds inspire me. The words of Dave Matthews inspire me. Mopping the floors I’m even inspired.
So with that here’s a peak at recent images for my series which has yet to be named. I’m looking forward to sharing this journey here and on my personal blog. I’m no longer put deadlines to create on myself so hopefully I can create a full series this year.
When I made the decision to take a break from work for a while I thought I may never return to photography. I was burnt out creatively, jaded and exhausted. However as time moved across the landscape of my life I began to realize it wasn’t photography that I was disliking but all of the nonsense that comes with owning a business. I was doing photography that wasn’t authentic to me just to appease clients. That is not a good thing for a creative soul like mine. Then one day I asked myself what work was I happiest with in the past year and my heart and mind yelled ” your work from the beach this summer”. Then I looked up and saw in a row on a my wall – images from those sessions. I had chosen to put those images in my she shed – my retreat. Subconsciously my mind had been drawn to the last time I remember being in love with photography. With that said I will spend most of my energy in 2016 changing the direction and purpose of Amanda McNeal Photography.
THE LIGHT SERIES
So as with everything, change is inevitable. You can throw your hands in the air like Buddha and let the change engulf you or dig your feet in the ground like a statue and refuse to budge. Up to you but I will choose hands in the air anytime. You will begin to watch my blog change and transform into something new and different from the past. Thanks for all of you that have followed me on this journey and I hope you stick around to see the magic of childhood and the love of life unfold on my blog.
For seven years I have photographed over 400 families. I have held and photographed over 200 newborns. I have placed newborns in baskets and buckets in rivers, forests, dirt roads and streams. I have watched those newborns grow up into kindergarteners and captured them along the way. I have been trusted by new parents and veterans to capture the most pure beings we will ever know. I have gained some amazing friendships from those parents. I have been paid to travel for my work. I have given families memories to treasure for years to come. I have surrounded myself by the purest of beauty and a world of bliss. The decision to take time off was hard but the decision that resulted from months of self-discovery was actually easy. I found that I no longer felt the joy I once felt doing this. I never started this venture to be a rich photographer by society standards and that I never became. However when you realize something has died or no longer is then it’s best to finish that chapter and start a new one.
The hard part is making it concrete – putting it out there in the world so it’s no longer just my thoughts but part of the universe. I have prayed and meditated and am reminded of the divine series of events that have led me to this fork in my path. I am beyond grateful for the path I traveled for many years but now is time to take another path.
I have succeeded in what I came to do. Now God ( an idea I had forsaken at one point) is telling me it is time for me to fully open this new door. Although there is still fear and uncertainty in me, the signs continue to be crystal clear.
- First and foremost I will become the mom I always wanted to be. It is my main job to create two strong independent problem solving little ladies that will bring change to the world. I realize now I can not do this by swamping myself with work.
- After being diagnosed with my own mental illness of Bipolar2 I have a passion inside to bring awareness to mental disorders such as Bipolar and Depression and help break the stigma. Women (and men) shouldn’t have to live with the shame or feeling of isolation that mental illness can bring. Many are not curable but with the support and help mentally ill patients can often lead normal and productive lives.
- I have been called to share my reconnection with God and faith and will continue to share this with others as it has been one of the driving forces to pull me from the depths of personal hell I have walked through. Months ago when this all began I started a blog, Dancing in a Hurricane, that will be my platform for mental illness awareness and the power of the love to heal.
- Lastly I will be putting efforts toward legalizing medical marijuana in Tennessee as well. It’s a proven medication for PTSD, pain, anxiety and depression – issues that have debilitated me at times. It is an injustice for so many people to not have access to a medication that can change their lives for the better. For this will loose fans, followers and friends. I will be judged. I will be questioned. I’m prepared. However my biggest hope is that I can help heal others.
So it comes down to I will no longer book traditional portrait sessions – they will move towards concept and mini sessions. I have plenty of amazing and talented photographers to refer clients to. I will be using my gifts for philanthropic causes – a need to help and give to others has always been within me – but I just got lost in the madness of the American Dream. Images you see on my pages will be based on this and of my NEED to create. I have been given all I ever wanted. I have a supportive husband and two brilliant little girls. I have a warm home, fully belly and a brilliant mind. NOW GOD IS GIVING ME ALL I EVER NEEDED.
“Oh but you’re so good at what you do. Why would you stop doing it?” (I have found other creative outlets that encourage my passion and creativity in a way I just don’t feel with portrait photography anymore.)
“You get to hold newborns everyday. You have the best job.” (Yes and at a point you stop seeing the bliss and beauty in a newborn and see it as a job.)
“You’re so talented. You can’t throw that away.” (I’m not. My work will turn towards concept and philanthropic work.)
Yes I agree with all of the above so here is the raw and real reason I’m leaving this career. I didn’t go on sabbatical to enjoy the summer. I’m not going to sugar coat it with some sweet spin that I’ve been enlightened and all that matters is family. That’s not how this decision has come to be. This is not for the faint of heart. It may even make you question your path.
After the birth of Claire and a year later the death of my father who had become my best friend something changed in me. A switch was flipped. It was a year that I now realize rocked my world to the core but I was too busy competing to be “the premier newborn photographer”. Looking back I was just running and hiding. To be honest the business was running me. I never really mourned or reflected on the events of my life at the time. I hid behind a camera, a beautiful home and what to the outside world seemed the perfect life. It’s amazing what make up and money can do but it can’t bring you what you really need. For four years I have battled up and down on this journey of life. The “I’m going crazy” comment that I hear the world toss around was my actual my reality, my hell and not okay for me or my family. So about a year ago my brain and body had had enough and I had what would be called a “nervous breakdown”. There would be hours I felt I was spinning a million miles a minute but the world around me moving at a snails pace. Then there would be times that I would sleep for days at a time. A day later I would work out for hours just for some relief from the thoughts racing in my head end the energy flowing through my veings. I lost all faith and love for anything. I remember telling my doctor ” I don’t feel like I love my kids anymore.” I stopped finding joy in anything. Sunglasses hid my bloodshot eyes from days of crying just so I could venture out in public. I cancelled sessions and hid behind the walls of my home. A camera was no longer big enough. I was done. I went to a psychiatrist, filled out an 18 page psychiatric evaluation and talked about my entire life story. I left that appointment with knowledge that I was Bipolar 2 (undiagnosed for years) and had developed a severe social anxiety disorder. Like any diseases or illnesses it had progressed to the point it could no longer be denied. It was rampant in my body, my mind and my life. I had lost control. It was part of me and wanted to be heard. My body began to have physical ailments like arthritis in my hands (of all places) and more severe migraines. There were days my vision would be blurry or my anxiety so bad I had to medicate and sleep the day away. I started to notice certain foods affected my moods and I had weight gain for no explained reason. My business, my family and my life was in true despair. I was done.
I started intensive psychotherapy, a cocktail of meds, went Paleo (I cheat sometimes), found new hobbies, joined the Y, hired a house manager, reconnected with God, began attending an amazing church to heal my spiritual wounds and began reading and educating myself about my diagnosis – this has been real work. Now you understand sabbatical. I wasn’t vacationing because I needed some time off. I was picking up myself off the floor of my own hell.
That has led me to here. To this blog post in this moment. Thanks for each of you for allowing me to share in this part of your journey. I have been humbled and honored. I thank each of you that have been so patient over the past months during this messy and confusing time while I figured out my next step. It’s still all very messy so I know I can no longer run the business as I need to. In the big picture it’s not important. If any of this resignates with you I hope it encourages you to take the first step to find peace in a world not always so giving of it. I’m here to encourage and empathize. If you ever need referrals I have them. If you need photography advice I’m here. I have a long way to heal and recover but feel now I’m at a place I can at least peek my head out the door.
END OF A CHAPTER. TURN THE PAGE.
Always snapping away,