What love is to me…

Being a wedding Photographer I witness love on a very regular basis, in fact, through just being a Photographer I witness love; wedding photography, newborn photography, family portrait photography, pet photography, engagements… the list goes on, and within all of them is the common denominator- an overwhelming sense of love. In varying forms perhaps, but it always there, and always expressed differently.  I feel extremely privileged to get to share a window on people’s expressions of love, to capture moments of love, to photograph celebrations of, yes you guessed it, love.  Love can be a great many things to a great many people, it’s what makes the world go around.  It is our strength and all of our weaknesses. Our highs and all of our lows.  Our laughs and our tears. Our happiness and our grief.  It is the love we have for one another, and the love we feel in return which helps shape us into the people we are today and the people we will become tomorrow.

I have always been a romantic, whether it be my Piscean aura, or just the fact that I am an extremely emotional person, (thanks Mum!). So, I guess, wedding photography was kind of always my calling, combining a love of photography, (yes there’s that word again!), a natural creativeness and a love of love.  – What else could I be other than a wedding Photographer!?

Photographing my client’s expressions of love often triggers thoughts about my own views and experiences on the subject, what love is to me and how that’s changed as I have grown up. Was it like I expected it to be? Did it live up to my huge, wild expectations or was it (most certainly, in some cases) a massive disappointment? Is it just overhyped slush!?

I remember when I was younger, say mid-teens, I had braces, I had glasses, I had no sense of style or what looked good on me, I had no idea of how to make the best of myself and I hadn’t yet developed the “I don’t care what other people think of me” approach to life. I felt all of my friends were prettier than me, they were all more popular than me, they all had more boyfriends than me.  I was the geeky, conservative, quiet, shy, sporty, lanky girl with braces. I had friends yes, but I couldn’t help but feel that I would often become the butt of a joke, just because I wouldn’t stand up for myself or because I wasn’t as popular with the boys.  Back then I wasn’t interested in love.  I was more concerned with finishing school and being allowed to live my life my way.  I was always fiercely independent and was constantly told I had an old head on young shoulders.  I had no confidence and was ridiculously shy, especially around boys.

I left school and went to college (sixth form).  An all-girls school so the majority of the students were girls, the only boys that I knew there I had been at secondary school with so already knew me as geeky, conservative, quiet, shy, sporty, lanky Sam with braces, (although I had since had my braces removed,) so it was hard to shake my already smudged reputation.  I listened to music, read romantic novels, watched rom-coms, wrote poetry, planned my dream wedding, my perfect wedding dress.  Kept a scrapbook. But I was still self- discovering.  I still didn’t know who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do.  Love to me then was unattainable. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be with me.

It was the same throughout and after University.  I studied, I had friends, but ultimately, I was unhappy.  I was in an unhappy relationship, and my view of love had now changed. I had now got to the disappointment stage.  When everything you had been told as a child now appeared to be a lie. How could love suck so badly!?

By this point love had broken me.  I had learnt a lot yes.  But ultimately, I was at a point where I wished I had never experienced it.  That I was incapable of love or being loved. I certainly was in no rush to try and find it again!

Then everything changed, and I know this may sound a little cliché but… I learned to love myself.  I had spent years being told I wasn’t good enough and that I was wrong, had spent years feeling worthless and that I would never be happy – because I didn’t deserve it! Forever thinking that I wouldn’t get the happily ever after that you see in the movies. But, and it took time, I slowly learned that actually, it wasn’t me that was the problem.  I learnt to accept my flaws, learnt to embrace those qualities that made me different from my friends – and for that exact reason, because they made me different and different was good. I realised that people liked different and that they were drawn to different…. who wants to be the same anyway!? I bought a flat, moved jobs, joined a new sports club, made new friends and finally started living the independent life I had wanted at school. I could do it! And I did...and I loved it!

Love to me was a journey of self-belief and learning to be comfortable with the skin I was in.  There is a well-known saying,” you cannot expect someone to love you if you cannot first love yourself” and it’s true! By learning your own worth, you learn what you do and don’t deserve, what you will and won’t accept.  And no standard is ever too high. Your happiness should never be limited and never be measurable.

Love is a learning curve, as you change so does love. It means different things to you at different points in your life, when you need it to be different things. I am sure it will continue to mean different things to me as I continue to grow and change. It can be a hug and companionship when you are bored or lonely, or it can be a lifelong partner and a happily ever after…the love of a child, of a pet, the heart and soul of a business, a passion or hobby…but above all, it is adaptable. It is fragile, and it is enduring. And right now, for me, it is dinner on the table after a long day at work.  It is planning a weekend’s activity to separate out the chores. It is patience and understanding. It is time together that involves just being in the same room.  It is saying sorry after a row. It is being annoyed with someone 95% of the time and you still not wanting to be with anyone else. It is tolerance. It is a running partner when you can’t face going out in the evening cold alone.  It is a friendly face in a still unfamiliar part of the country. It is teamwork. It is about tolerating your worst habits and encouraging your best. It is a hug whenever you want one. It is your best friend. Love is giving you time to grow and support to change. Love is home.