If you know me personally, you probably clicked on this blog post because of the feature image. I know, it surprised me too when I saw it for the first time! To clarify any misconceptions, no, I don't model, have never modeled, and most likely never will… but who really knows? What I can tell you is that for one weekend in June, I was one (kind of), and this is the story of how all this came to be.
Phase 1: The Introduction
One day in May, I was scrolling through the Instagram hashtag, #AtlantaPhotographers. I have always loved photography, but I know it's not my strong suit. I would much rather write (duh!) or produce a video. But, I was searching the hashtag hoping to find a photographer who's work I loved, and I could collaborate with. I wanted to get content for my site, but also show off their amazing work as well. That's when I came across Sheena Shahangian (IG: @SheenaShahangianPhoto).
It was like every picture on her feed told a story. The images were raw and moody, but also honest and showed the personalities of each muse in their own unique way. I was sold! I knew I had to work with her.
Phase 2: The Shoot
By this time, a month had passed and the day had finally come. It was the shoot day. I got up at 4:15 am, walked to my bathroom and began to get ready for the day. There was so much to think about. While I like pictures and don't mind being in front of the camera, I had never been a part of a professional photo shoot.
Though I wasn't nervous, I was slightly uncomfortable because this shoot was forcing me to address aspects of myself and my identity that I wasn't ready to uncover. It wasn't so much the shoot itself, but how I and others might view me afterward. I just wasn't ready to deal with all of that.
"If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives."
But time waits for no one, and the truth is I would have never been ready. I still don't think I'm ready now, and the shoot happened months ago.
To be completely honest, I've always loved the idea of photo shoots, being in front of the camera, posing, etc., which might be surprising since I've spent the majority of this post talking about how I don't see myself as a person who can be in front of the camera. But the truth is, I love it! For years I have down played my interests because, well, that's not what people know me as.
I'm Sydney Umeri, the basketball player, writer, girl who took too many credits to graduate early, the girl with the good internships, etc. But never Sydney Umeri, the model.
Then there is the thought that I don't look like the typical girl in front of the camera. Why would I risk embarrassing myself to pursue my interests. How could I possibly go against the status quo?
The truth is, I had always been looking for an opportunity to get in front of the camera, not to model, but just to say I did it. Just so I can say I checked something off my bucket list, pushed myself to do something I usually wouldn't, and was able to address a few of my most prominent identity and image issues. With all of this said, though there is never a perfect time to tackle all of these things at once, my time came sooner than I thought. Sheena was the answer to my prayers.
Phase 3: Sheena Shahangian
For someone with as many apprehensions to this shoot as me, I could not have asked for a better photographer than Sheena. Despite my aversion to seeing myself as a model, Sheena helped me move past my mental blocks. Pushing me to view myself outside of the two dimensional box I put myself in, and more as a well rounded 3D version, displaying parts of myself I typically hide from others.
With patience and an eye for awesome lighting, flattering poses, natural positioning, and her sheer talent, we were able to move through my photo shoot capturing wonderful images that greatly boosted my confidence as the morning wore on.
One thing about Sheena is that she is unlike many photographers. She wants you to see yourself differently. She wants to pull out aspects of you that you often don't show out of lack of confidence, fear, self-consciousness, and in many cases, because you simply don't know those traits exist within yourself.
To say the least, she was able to do that for me. I remember always complaining that people, "Simply don't get me". But I never took the time to show people multiple aspects of myself, because I wasn't fully comfortable with myself.
Now I would love to say that I am no longer self-conscious and am living an extremely carefree life, unbothered, and frequently going against the status quo, but that's not true. There are still so many parts of me that I have yet to reveal. But I'm truly grateful to Sheena for allowing me the opportunity to see myself differently, and for giving me the confidence to share more of myself with others.
So the lesson here is to not limit yourself to what society says you are or who people make you out to be. If you have passions, dreams, or just bucket-list items that may catch people off guard, pursue them anyway. Life is too short and it's way better when you're fully and authentically you.
If you are interested in working with Sheena or simply want to view more of her fabulous work you can find her here. Also, she travels, so if you're interested but don't live in Georgia, you should still reach out. She is one of the best!