“And love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside. “
-Lin Manuel Miranda
“I grew up in love!” That is a statement I hope a majority of us can say with some degree of certainty. Love as a constant and transforming force in our lives. It might have come from our parent(s), or a friend, a trusted teacher, a like-minded grouping of people, or even the love of your life. Whether it came from all these spaces or just one, we know it. It can sometimes be impossible to describe, but it’s something we feel, and we let it guide us toward what makes life grand.
Words and rejections hurt. They hurt more when it causes you to question who you really are and why you’re not allowed to celebrate that. I took that hurt and turned into a lifestyle—an approach to art that echoed a rejection of what I experienced, and a way to honor how I was raised.
Growing up, I experienced that love and what it can do through my parents. I watched them move in circles of grace—embracing differences, inviting people into our home and endeavoring to get to know them for where they were, not where they thought they should be. We had an open-door policy in our home. Friends from all over would come and listen to music, have some drinks, play some video games, or just come so that they had a safe place to land. All were welcomed. Through my parents I learned that differences were what attracted me to people, not similarities. I knew not everyone thought this way and was and am well aware that people are often repelled by differences, being quick to comment and insult. I’ve experienced that first-hand, and it just pushed me harder to be the opposite.
I live in a body that moves differently than most, one that occupies spaces in a way that many would say is too much. I tower over most, especially those of my gender, and my skin is of a hue that is awesome for a confection but is not, as some feel, okay for a person. These things that make me uniquely me have also made me fodder for many an insult or rejection, be it from a person I liked, a neighbor who was once a friend, or a stranger who felt it important to make sure I was aware of myself. Words and rejections hurt. They hurt more when it causes you to question who you really are and why you’re not allowed to celebrate that. I took that hurt and turned into a lifestyle—an approach to art that echoed a rejection of what I experienced, and a way to honor how I was raised.
I first picked up a film camera when I was a child and became fascinated with what I saw through the viewfinder. I’d snap away, capturing what I could, when I could, with no real regard to technique or even if it was in focus. I loved that tiny point-and-shoot camera and what I was able to do with it. I even started devouring Life and other magazines, getting completely wrapped up in how a story could be told in just a few frames. I got a little older and eventually put down the camera, but that did not last long at all. I picked it up again in my late twenties and found it was the puzzle piece I was missing. I started capturing all sorts of images—from my travels and working with young people—and it just felt right. The more I captured the more I saw similarities in the different people, places, and things frozen in time in each image.
I have traveled here and abroad and have learned we have more in common with one another than we truly realize. A smile looks the same in any language, as do tears. People pose the same in groups, and everyone stands a little straighter when they have on an outfit that fits in just the right way. We all coo over babies and celebrate when a couple says, ”I do!” We also all love the same, and when we’re in love, we hold our partners the exact same way. We give our spouses the same looks when they say that one thing, or forget to do that other thing. It’s all the same, and through my lens I have and am seeing that more and more.
I firmly believe everybody deserves a great portrait; every body, every couple, and every family deserves to have their story told. I know that if we saw that sameness within one another, even with our differences, maybe we would learn to embrace the things that make us alike and better appreciate what makes us different and unique.
The phrase “I grew up in love” is something that shaped me and guides how I see my chances to photograph those near and far. My hope is that you, too, are motivated by that love; that the things that make us the same push you to photograph and create.
Jaime Patterson is the photographer behind Hidden Exposure Photography: Hi, my name's Jaime and I'm a body-positive lifestyle, family, boudoir, wedding, and portrait photographer based out of Richmond Va. I believe everyone has a unique story to tell, and I want to be on hand to hear it, capture it, and share it with the world! I love those moments that you may miss — that shy smile from your partner when you think they're not looking, how your hand rests on your belly when your baby kicks, the way your eyes sparkle when you see your person walk down the aisle, and the way you embrace your whole self when wearing your best outfit and truly looking as sexy as you feel. I think every body, every relationship, and every family deserves to be seen.