the "she Is" project
All photos by Jillian Zamora Photography
We have become a society that screams our opinions at each other without any regard. We were built on the diversity of people, but somewhere along the way we have become a group that is judgmental, biased, and insensitive to those who are different. How do we expect to teach empathy and understanding to the next generation of young people if we are only modeling self-serving agendas? Being convicted by this question, I started looking inward at how my work could make a statement about the beauty of diversity.
I realized that, although it may be a small start, I needed to stop talking and start listening more. I needed to find a way to use my art to make a statement of strength in diversity. While there is grit in telling my own stories, creating a platform for OTHERS to share their journeys seemed like a much more powerful statement. And just like that, the She Is scarf was born.
I wanted the art to be a symbolic microphone of sorts. A safe haven for whoever was wearing it to share their thoughts, opinions, and stories without fear of judgement and without interruption. The scarf communicates “She Is” in Morse code and allows the wearer to fill in the blank.
An event was set up, and on April 2, 2017 a powerful and diverse group of about 20 women came together to celebrate their uniqueness, tell their story, and to have their portrait taken while wearing the scarf. Each woman was asked to answer four questions. They were encouraged to talk about the most positive and negative moment that shaped them, why they chose their current path and what the best thing about being a woman truly is.
The She Is Experiment celebrates our femininity, but more than that, it seeks to exemplify and amplify the good characteristics that we as a group wish to achieve, regardless of race or gender.
The She Is women are kind and compassionate, awkward and quirky, smart and academic, explorers and companions, pragmatic and dedicated, spiritual and flexible, passionate and resilient, driven but humble. We are thoughtful and creative, nurturing and gentle, courageous and independent. We are First Amendment Avengers, mentors, and advocates for the weak. We are artists and creators, daughters and mothers, wives and friends. We are women, and each of us have our powerful stories to tell.
Honestly, being raised by the family I was raised in (three awesome siblings and two loving parents) is probably the single most shaping positive experience I can think of. So much of who I am is because of the love they showed me, the lessons they taught me, the priorities they modeled for me, the humor they shared with me and the experiences they so freely gave me.
Perhaps I would say the most recent one of miscarrying my second pregnancy. Talking about it still brings stinging tears to my eyes. But my oh my, how all the more grateful it made me that I get to hold/love/raise my first child, Juniper. It reminds me that I am not owed her. I was not and am not guaranteed her. She is a gift from my gracious and loving Heavenly Father. Pregnancy, getting to carry life within my own body, is a gift. I wish I was pregnant with a thriving 15 week and 2 day old baby in my womb. But instead of spending all my waking hours envisioning the things I lost, I feel all the more emboldened to not take for granted all that I have been so generously given.
Call it cheesy, but I honestly feel more like my path was chosen for me than me choosing it. I’m more of a “come what may” personality versus a vision-caster. I don’t think I ever would have chosen being a wedding photographer as a profession—that’s for people way cooler than I am. And I don’t think I saw myself running a business that brings home the majority of our family income while being a mom to a toddler—not going to lie, I always pictured myself as staying at home while my husband brought home the bacon. I didn’t see myself getting married at 20-years-old—THAT’S PRACTICULLY A BABY. And yet, here I am. My life goal is to honor the lord by submitting my life/plans/finances before Him and then come what may.
Gosh, I don’t even feel equipped to properly answer this question because there are so many “best” things about being a woman. I can tell you my personal favorite thing about being a woman is the privilege of my body both growing life in the womb and then being able to nourish life outside the womb. It will forever astound me.
Fiber Artist, Art Educator, Co-creator of FIN Press Publications
Some of the most positive experiences in my life have had very little to do with the moments themselves, and more to do with the people who shared those experiences with me. My dad encouraged my fierce independence and taught me the importance of hard work and dedication in any endeavor I chose. My mom models for me something even greater. She shows kindness and empathy to everyone she meets and is by far, the greatest listener I’ve ever known. At 19, I met my better half, the person who is daily challenging me to be a better person, artist, teacher. Jake doesn’t just listen to my outrageous plans to take on the world, he helps me brainstorm a plan of action and then holds me accountable to stick with it when I start to get scared and want to back out. He is my equal, my mentor, my partner in crime, my world traveling buddy, and my teammate when raising our girls. They are my positive experience.
A few years ago, Jake and I miscarried with our second child. We had just finished a very successful year and a half of art shows, and we were ready to slow down and expand our family. I couldn’t help but feel heartbroken. I struggled mentally with how little information we were given by our doctors and felt isolated by the whole ordeal. It wasn’t until choosing to open up and be vulnerable that I realized how powerful the female community can be and how common miscarriages actually are. Story after story was given to us exposing the same struggle. Soon my Mama wounds began to heal. I feel as though that sweet babe taught me a lot about what is really urgent and the bittersweet fact that this life is short. We must live fiercely today and not waste a second of it because we are not guaranteed tomorrow.
Teaching the next generation of youth is where I feel I am making the most difference in the world. I love sharing my passion and love of art with teens, but more than that, I love showing them that their voice matters and that their art can make a difference. Teaching while becoming a mom has helped me learn that parenting is just an extension of my role as an educator, but on a much more intimate level. It is mine and Jake’s responsibility to raise our girls to be free thinkers, empathetic and loving to others, and to grow up with enough courage and confidence to take risk and find joy, regardless of what path they chose. And doing all of that while creating art has only made my work that much more authentic and purposeful. I am a better mother and teacher when I get the opportunity to create. My identity is so closely intertwined that I only feel complete when I’m attempting to balance all three.
Because of where we live and all of the women who have come before us, we can be anything we set our minds to. When there is exposed inequality, we are allowed to have a voice and fight for those injustices. On top of that, we have the power to grow and produce and sustain life which makes us, arguably, the most powerful beings on the planet.