Two weeks ago, I found myself staring at my reflection in the mirror in the barn’s bathroom. That morning I’d picked out a cute outfit for my photoshoot—a black strapless dress with tiny pink birds on it, black leggings, and my tall boots—but now that I was wearing it I couldn’t take my eyes off of the tan lines on my shoulders. It felt wrong to be wearing a dress at the barn, like I was trying to jam my feet into shoes that were three sizes too small. I couldn’t recognize my face with all of that skin showing.
I’d shoved a plaid, long sleeve shirt into my backpack just before I’d left the house, just in case. I put it on. My hair is shaggy right now—halfway through growing out—but my makeup looked nice.
Three years ago I was working in IT, wearing collared shirts and watching my soul shrivel up in the glare on my monitor. My memories of that time are punctuated by episodes of irrational anger, unrealistic expectations, and sudden, overwhelming pits of despair. I bounced back and forth between periods of blind ambition and gnawing apathy. I didn’t know it then, but that wasn’t the person I was supposed to be.
Twelve years ago, Julie Austin was laid off from her graphic design job and found herself working for a local animal shelter, where she fell in love with pet photography. She’s spent the last eight years focusing on her photography career full time. Sometimes the universe aligns itself and the path you’re destined to follow licks you in the face like a shelter dog looking for a new home.
Sometimes you go to the racetrack and bring one of racehorses home with you a year later.
I feel like my future has finally started to take shape. The fog is parting; if I look into the distance I can make out more than vague outlines and fuzzy shadows. The person I’m trying to be and the person I’m supposed to be are converging, my mind and heart are learning how to sync up, and the fractious pieces of my personality are being sanded down and bonded together. My spirit is settling into my bones.
So I wore my plaid shirt, and I listened to the shutter on Julie’s camera chatter alongside us while I told her Raglan’s story. When he bashed his giant head into my stomach I wrapped my arms around his face and held onto him until he managed to wrestle me off again. I laughed—a lot. I cursed a little bit, too.
Jamming all of those feelings into the frame of a photograph isn’t just a matter of spinning the dials on the camera and holding your finger down on the shutter release. There’s more to photography than the technical aspects of knowing what all of those numbers mean, just like there’s more to being an equestrian than just riding horses. Passions like these are buried deep, all the way down in the blood that pumps through a person’s body. There’s a pulse to them that thumps alongside the rhythm of our hearts.
Thanks for sharing a piece of your talent with us, Julie. 💕