Hannah Nicole | Senior Portraits in "Paris"

"Maybe you should go to Paris. It helped me a lot."
 "Oh, but Paris isn't for changing planes, it's... it's for changing your outlook, 
for... for throwing open the windows and letting in... 
letting in la vie en rose." 
Sabrina [1954]
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"You've worked hard and you've been through a lot, it's time for you to spread your wings, to go to Paris."  My dad, ever the rom-com-lover, has a knack for making movie references at perfect times in real life (like when I draped onto his bedroom door, with a seven-page handwritten later from Caleb in hand, rocking back and forth with the hinges, asking his advice on what I should do:  "Who are you kidding, he had you from hello."  Or the day after Caleb proposed and I showed dad my ring "I cannot believe that anyone can deserve you, but it apppears I am overruled.")  He was talking to me as I approached my high-school graduation.  I knew he wasn't talking about literal Paris, but he called me Sabrina and thanked me for my years over the garage and wanted me to find myself as a woman.

You know when you meet someone during their years in Paris, and Hannah has just arrived, suitcase in hand.  La Vie en Rose means "the pink-tinged life" or "life in love."  I think in some ways once you go to "Paris" you never really leave, at least not in your heart, and you're always learning yourself.  She's off to Seattle and art school and wet, windy autumn.  It will throw open her windows.

In anticipation for this new 'country' of her life, I wanted to photograph Hannah in a way that she hasn't seen herself.  Hannah is most comfortable in soft, jammie-type clothes with messy hair and chapstick.  She loves cheese, but hates mac-and-cheese, and learned about poise-through-pain during ballet.  She has been writing indirectly about her ache, and recently shared more details of her reality.
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Dear Hannah, 

Oftentimes, in my short experience on earth, people need to think more and pay better attention.  Many use words that they don't know what they mean (I'm guilty of this, I've learned -- I try hard to speak accurately) and they create a life of fake happiness and pretend.  That isn't to say they don't have genuine joy or care about good things, but so often there is fear and even inability to be honest in their own brains and hearts.  Their is a flimsiness to their world.  You are unlike these people.  

You, young lady, have balanced the truth of your struggle with sincere respect to your family.  Life hasn't been "The Hannah Show," no, most of the times it's "The Make One More Peanut Butter Sandwich and Fold One More Towel and Tie One More Pair of Shoes Before Math Problems Show," which can be a very boring show some seasons.  But throughout the lonely homework nights, the upheaval, the not-traveling to exotic places, the responsibility, the break-downs, the photographs, the complicated emotions, you have been on a treasure hunt.  You have been unwilling to give-up on beauty and you crave the depth that only pain can teach.  Your self-awareness and kindness are moving.  The adjectives you use when you speak and write are accurate, not excessive or unnecessary (but, I mean, we both want to get better at describing with verbs, right? ;) 

Sometimes, if I can offer a word of advice, I think it's time to pause the search and settle in for an embrace.  There is much you will be, and there is more that you don't know than you do know, nevertheless you are not average nor are you dumb.  But it's okay to 'be' and stand up straight at times.  You have maturity greater than most I know (and I look up to you for that.)  You are more talented, more wise, more happy than I think you give yourself credit for.  I wanted to show you in images what I see in your heart: a knock-out, strong, canny, red woman and you do not fade into the background.  Looking under the couches and in the dirt has rewarded you with many gifts; don't hoard them away waiting for the perfect time, until you are all you want to be.  Pull them out and use with confidence.

God has made you to speak, sometimes with your fingers and sometimes with your pictures and sometimes with your mouth.  He will make others to listen and learn.  I love your easy sweetness and how you giggled with your hands over your mouth, shaking your head in disbelief, when you saw these pictures.  "I can't even look at them!" you said.  "It's...I.. I just look so beautiful."  You said it like you almost believed it, too.  You are Hannah.  You are beautiful.  

You are beautiful because you write me tear-jerking texts that I never respond to and you write again.  You are beautiful because you have laid in dark rooms on various couches, unable to sleep.  You are beautiful because you love your father and you love your mother and you love the family they've given to you.  You are beautiful because you enjoy comfort food, and you meet the Comforter in His meals.  You are beautiful because your eyes.  You are beautiful because you sat in my house, engaging my dad and my little sisters and my baby boy, with sincerity.  You are beautiful because laughing hard brings tears to your eyes and your desire is written all over your face:  You're looking forward to the next time that happens, hopefully in a couple minutes.  You are beautiful because you take the time to listen and take the time to write.  You are beautiful because you are generous.  You are beautiful because you're brave and you're beautiful because you're scared and you're especially beautiful because you know they go hand-in-hand.  You are beautiful because you savor mango salsa.  You are beautiful because you're peaceful. 

Go off to Seattle and be yourself and please keep sharing with us, because learning from you has been one of the most clear 'goods' of this year.  La Vie en Rose, my friend.


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