Earlier this year, I participated in The Love Project: 2016, a photography project created by my friend, Elena Avery Gage. As soon as I heard the message she was portraying, I knew I had to participate.
In today’s world, there is a huge emphasis on appearance. Cosmetic ads are everywhere you look. Celebrities look perfect – clear skin, tight bodies, voluminous hair, muscles for days, etc. etc. etc.
Anyway, when Elena told me she was doing a photoshoot to express the importance of loving yourself and others, I knew I had to join in.
This shoot was a major turning point for me in my acceptance of the changes my body has gone through in 2016. I was struggling to accept my body after months of Prednisone and bed rest. Plus, a few days before the shoot, I found out that my scars from HSP-Vasculitis were caused by iron deposits underneath the skin. I will most likely have the scars for the rest of my life. It was time for me to accept them.
The Love Project 2016 helped me do just that. It was scary to have a camera lens pointed at my scars, knowing that soon they would be posted online. Initially, I felt exposed but Elena is a true professional and she quickly helped me relax. I am very happy with how all of the pictures turned out – for all of the participants. Elena is very talented and a joy to work with.
Elena’s vision for this project is amazing. The message is so powerful and pertinent. I’ll let you read all about her story for yourself. 🙂
Who is Elena Avery Gage?
I guess starting from square one; I’m a first-year Masters of Music Theater student from Baltimore, MD. I currently work at an off-campus job, and while I’m not doing that, I’m busy playing with my roommate’s cat, Bunny, or hanging out with some of my insanely talented friends. I currently have one website and a photography page on Facebook.
How did you get into photography?
I originally got into photography in high school. My parents had a digital camera lying around the house, and I thought I was cool, and just took a bunch of random “emotional” type pictures. After I got into college, I kind of dropped the hobby, but I would take pictures at certain angles or any given lighting with my phone, and edit them accordingly. When I got into graduate school, my grandmother bought me a digital camera because I wanted to get a small photography thing going so I could maybe make some extra money if people needed headshots or anything.
What is your favorite aspect of photography?
My favorite part of taking pictures if seeing peoples’ interpretation of any given subject. Once I see how they decide to pose, angle their faces, etc. Photography is an art form, and I enjoy being able to bring out the best in people depending on the subject of my shoot.
What is The Love Project: 2016?
The Love Project is something I randomly decided to come up with while I was sitting in choir about a month or so ago. The meaning behind the project was to really just get people to be more accepting no matter who they are, what they do, what they look like, etc. It’s truly about acceptance of yourself and others.
What was your inspiration?
My inspiration as I stated earlier came to me at a church service. I was literally sitting there tapping my foot trying to figure out how I was going to shoot my first subject, Teddy [Edgar]. I picked my venue to shoot (The Womb Art Exhibit in OKC), but I wanted it to mean something so much more than it was. With the colors, and with the upcoming election on everybody’s mind, my biggest inspiration was the NO H8 campaign, which is where I thought of the tape idea. I believe in acceptance of people, and I wanted to highlight what people want others to love about themselves.
One person I knew in my undergraduate career named, Brandon, also inspired me. He was my performance coach, mentor, and friend who really helped me a lot my final year of college and taught me so much about loving myself and really being a freer individual as far as the way I thought of myself as a person, performer, etc. It was so hard for me my entire undergraduate career to accept who I was and the fact that I shouldn’t rely so heavily on what other people think that when I finally graduated, I knew exactly who I was supposed to be. That turning point it made the subject and messages for my pictures so much easier.
What do you want people to learn from The Love Project: 2016?
I want people to learn that it’s okay to be whoever you want to be no matter the flaws you think you have. No one is perfect, obviously, but we have beautiful aspects of ourselves, and it shouldn’t matter what you look like, what you say, or what you do in order to be the best person you can be. I still struggle with loving myself, but I’m more confident in who I am supposed to be. I want people to learn that as well.
Now, I am proud to present –
The Love Project: 2016
Aren’t Teddy Edgar, Brennan Martinez, and Becca White stunning? They are truly beautiful people inside and out.