A Spirit Session With Thea Coughlin: the gift of being seen / by Christina Rosalie

I've been meaning to tell you since the leaves were falling and the grass was still waving waist high in the fields about Thea Coughlin, and the magic that happened when she took my picture.

To start at the beginning--I needed an author photo.

I thought a long time about how I wanted those photos to be. And I was nervous about hiring a photographer.

In the past whenever I’ve had a photographer take my picture, I’ve always felt like that set of circumstances manages to bring out my most introverted awkward self . I start acting dorky. Inevitably I slouch, or make wry, ridiculous expressions.

Behind the lens I feel confident and easy; and over the years I’ve taken many self portraits that are straight from the heart and true to who I am in the moment. But in front of someone else’s lens I feel gangly and uncertain. With the exception of a handful of the off-handed candid shots by those closest to my heart, whenever someone takes my picture I end up smiling a little rigidly; or looking far too serious, and the outcome when I look at it on the screen or printed always feels a little foreign.

Also, I had no idea what to wear.

So I emailed Thea a shy, hopeful request: Would she maybe take a few photos of me that I could use for my book, and for other future workshops and sundry places where I might need a photo that reveals a little glimmer of my soul?

I'd seen the portraits Thea had taken at Squam of Elizabeth, and, having spent time with Elizabeth I understood just exactly the extent of the magic she'd achieved. Thea had captured something essential and ephemeral about Elizabeth that comes through in person but often gets lost in translation of film or pixels.

I hoped for that.

Still, when she showed up on an overcast fall morning, I was nervous. For about eleven seconds.

Because then she hugged me, and her beauty and light simply filled the space where any hesitation would have lived; and we sat my kitchen island and drank tea and got to know one another in the most easy, lovely way.

And then I brought her up to my bedroom and she poked through my dresser of barely folded clothes and my overstuffed closet with things falling of hangers, and she asked me to find my favorite pieces: Stuff that I love to wear; stuff that feels like me.

And because she was so perceptive and intuitive and grounded, something that I’d been dreading became fun. Instead of struggling with finding something to wear, I found many. She convinced me to try combinations I never would have, paring my love fore ruffles and beauty with my tomboy self that lives in ripped jeans and sorrels. Instead of feeling nervous, I started feeling giddy and beautiful.

And then we wandered up into my woods and fields where I always take walks and feel deeply at home, and she shot picture after picture until I began to feel the way I do inside: brave and beautiful, feminine and strong, confident and a complete goofball.

And that’s just exactly what she captured.

I want to tell you this because doing a Spirit Session with Thea was one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever given myself. It isn’t just about the photos she takes—-its about the way she takes them. The way that she is attune to the energy dancing between the her subject and the lens; the way she makes you feel in the photo just exactly the way you feel in your soul.

If you ever find yourself needing a photo like this. One that makes your heart sing because it feels authentic, and gorgeous and true to you and the creative work that you do, seek Thea out. She's pure magic.

{All photos by Thea Coughlin}