Through her lens, a photographer glimpses the future!

As a young filmmaker in Washington D.C.

Before I moved to Australia and became a full-time yoga teacher, I had a different life.  I was a documentary filmmaker focused for many years on using the power of media to draw attention to political, economic, and social injustice.  Frequently that work put me in contact with women leading small organizations or grass roots movements with few resources but unwavering commitment to fight for the health and safety of their communities. Often they were motivated by personal experience with violence and exploitation whether it was the brutality of the Taliban in Afghanistan or sex trafficking in Asia or domestic violence in the United States.

In order to help a broad audience understand the devastating, multi-generational  consequences of poverty, racial injustice, or sexual violence, I would ask these women to share some of their darkest moments on camera. One of the members of the production team who helped research and film their stories was a thoughtful, talented young woman named Andrea with a passion for still photography. When we went to meet and interview women, Andrea carried her camera and started shooting portraits.  The way each woman interacted with the camera revealed something beneath the surface that words could not always express.  Inspired by those early photographs, Andrea developed a personal project: Every single day for one year she would find a woman who commanded her attention in some way.  It could be in the way she walked, or spoke, or laughed.  She could be a comedian, a welder, a dancer, a mum, or a tribal elder.  Her role didn’t matter so much as her ability to live in a way that challenges traditional ideas about how women are supposed to move through the world.  Andrea started with women she already knew through her work as an activist and filmmaker but she also found the courage to stop women on the street or in the supermarket.  She would explain her project and if the woman agreed she would photograph her, ask her a few questions, and then post the “woman of the day” on her blog.  In her collection of photos were well-known leaders in their chosen fields but also many women who do their work quietly in their families or communities but have the kind of spark that lights up everyone who comes in contact with them. Her work culminated in the book She Inspires 365 .

When Andrea asked to photograph me, I was incredibly honored.  At the time  I was trying to find the courage to step away from filmmaking, a career that had given me so much and defined me for so long.  Most people were perplexed when I began to timidly suggest that I might make more time for teaching yoga.  “But it’s so hard to succeed in film and you’re doing so well”, they would say.  “Why would you give up now?” When Andrea asked to photograph me in a yoga pose, it felt like she was acknowledging that my desire for change wasn’t crazy or irresponsible.  That it might be time to crack myself open a little bit.  In her photograph of me , she caught a glimpse of something I couldn’t even yet see – the me I was struggling to become.  Ultimately to become that Jennifer, I had to let go of everything I knew and move to the other side of the world where my next incarnation was awaiting me…

Crescent Lunge
Photographed for She Inspires 365 by photographer Andrea Leoncavallo

To visit Andrea’s She Inspires 365 blog and read how I described my yoga practice back in 2010 click here.  You can also see the photos and read what all 364 other amazing women had to say.  And the book makes a beautiful gift for the inspiring women in your life!