My mission is really about supporting women in being seen in the world.
Recently I had the pleasure of talking with photographer and speaker Jennifer Alyse. We talked about how she uses public speaking and photography as vehicles to promote personal, social, and spiritual development. She shared some of her greatest life adversities which lead to her creating her Empowered Series of photoshoots for women. In May 2015 she created a short documentary film titled Empowered, that explores the courage of following one’s intuition and authentic expression. Rather than a conversation about photography technique, she inspired me to continue cultivating a deeper connection with my intuition and to trust my own resilience in the face of life’s adversities. Character traits that are essential for everyone to cultivate.
JB: I love your photography work, but what’s so unique is your approach in working with your clients. Your work is primarily portraits and I know you’ve photographed models, celebrities and actresses from over the world and during college you were a model, working on the other side of the camera. Tell me about your clients now and why you’ve created the Empowered Series. I love this approach.
Jennifer: Yes, it’s true, I modeled during college, so I’m comfortable on both sides of the camera. My mission is really about supporting women in being seen in the world. In May 2017 I’ll be hosting an Empowered Event, in Portland. I’ll bring in keynote speakers for a daylong retreat to give women tools to elevate themselves in living their lives from a place of personal power.
With my clients, I get really excited helping women reclaim this innate intuitive power they have. I work with them in being seen in the world for what is authentic for them and what their message is to bring out. It’s set up as a photoshoot experience but it’s actually so much more. These shoots unfold in a way that women feel seen in the process and that allows them to step into this innate power they already have.
We create an environment where women can truly tune into their bodies and receive the tools of what it feels like to be empowered. They find their own way into the body wisdom that we all have but have shut down in so many ways because of our upbringing, culture and work places. It’s powerful when it wakes up in a woman and she starts to recognize it. There’s so much resistance and shame around how we feel about our bodies. We’re creating a way to support women getting comfortable and feeling proud of their own unique body shape. It culminates with them being really comfortable in their own skin and unique beauty in front of the camera. Our bodies have an innate ability to guide us in and out of situations when we open and up and really listen. When I tune into my body to listen that’s when more synchroncities and possibilities show up in my life. I want to provide a safe space for women to claim some of those tools for themselves.
We shed stories of not good enough, not skinny enough, not young enough, not old enough to clear all those limiting beliefs. I believe collectively women have so much innate, intuitive, heartfelt power, that it’s vital for them to learn how to use it to do business in the world. I’m hoping that as women we can be revolutionary leaders and innovators by being role models for generations to come and show a different way.
JB: That is really inspiring and refreshing. Other successful entrepreneurs and artists I look up to say that having a strong center and following their inner voice has been crucial to building their businesses. What about getting clarity through adversity? Can you tell us about a time when you had to completely trust your intuition to get you out of a situation that wasn’t working for you?
Jennifer: One of my greatest life adversities was escaping an abusive relationship.
I was living with someone for about two years who was manipulative, emotionally abusive and controlled every aspect of my life at the time. It took strategic planning with my family to get me out of the house. In the process he lied to me about having terminal cancer. I literally took my camera, my laptop and my taxes from the house in the middle of the night and left everything else. I was stalked for six months and wasn’t able to get a restraining order because he didn’t show any signs of physical violence. During that time, he made a pornography site from images he had of me and I was stalked all over the internet.
Pulling myself out of that relationship was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It really showed me that I have an innate knowing all the time and I’m being guided. I can start all over with nothing. I’ve also realized that our greatest adversities can become our greatest assets in our life, if we’re willing to be open
Because of that experience, I’ve been very protective about what I share online and how I share it. Up until now I’ve felt like it’s stifled my ability to speak out. Now I feel ready to use my voice on social media. I want to do it in a way that connects with people to be of service from some of my most difficult life experiences. I’m coming out of a very sensitive time and feeling clear and strong about my message and mission because of it.
JB: I feel like you’ve also woven together your spiritual practices, mastering your craft and your business into something that allows you to shine and flourish, while being of service. Personally, I’ve been questioning whether it’s possible to have the foundation of my spiritual practice be a pillar of how I run my business. I wonder if I can be aligned in all these ways and feel authentic. That word is so overused these days. Most of the time, I think of those things separately and feel lost trying to combine them all.
Jennifer: I know exactly what you mean. I have those voices in my head that say, can I really be photographing models, actresses and celebrities from over the world and is that still spiritual?
I also believe there’s a profound difference in knowing who and what you’re working for and what your intention is. My belief is that we’re all here together to support one another. At the moment, I’m doing that through my photography practice. I really believe that every aspect of our lives is spiritual, even how I handle my finances. Especially how I show up in my relationships and take care of my health, all that is the foundation of my practice.
JB: Can you give me a few concrete examples of when the lightbulb went off for you that your business and your spiritual practice was actually one in the same?
Jennifer: A little back story is I graduated from college with a business degree and I knew that I didn’t want to work in a corporate environment because there was something in my soul, tugging at me saying, I want to do what I love. I was very connected to yoga at the time and “on the path” as people say and I was a part of a wellness center that had yoga with a leadership center for personal growth. During that time I had to make many choices and I asked myself, “Do I go with my sprit or do I choose safety and security?”So since my early twenties I’ve been exercising this way of living that’s revolved around going with my spirit. It was always an unknown and I never knew how things would turn out.
Then, years later, I was living in Arizona and interviewing for jobs and I got a serious, six figure offer for a job with a vitamin company that I loved. It was one of those pivotal moments when I decided to say no to this job, sold everything and bought a camera. I moved to Portland to study with my mentor at the time, Phyllis Lane. That was a defining moment in learning to exercise this muscle of intuitive courage. Seven years later, I have a business that takes me all over the world with a clientele that is exclusively word of mouth. I feel alive, connected and abundant.
Keep in mind it’s a moment to moment practice. I absolutely get overwhelmed and say, “Oh my god how do I do all this?” But that’s not the question. The question is, “How can I be still, get quiet and listen.” That’s the question that can be so challenging to ask ourselves in our day to day lives. It’s so easy to say and so challenging to live.
JB: So that’s how you’ve cultivated it, because after years of taking action this way, it becomes the stronger GPS system guiding your decisions.
Jennifer: Yes, exactly, and now for me, there’s no other way of being. I’ve recognized that everything is actually connected. When I see life this way life it feels magical and juicy. I practice tuning and asking, “Where am I being guided?”
At the moment I can’t keep up with the demand of work and I’m not externally doing much to market myself. My focus has been on my craft and my cultivation of spirit. That doesn’t mean I’m siting on a pillow meditating for hours every day, what it means is I’m cultivating a rich relationship with my inner world.
I’m starting to speak out more now and share my personal beliefs about our connection to spirit, our soul, whatever you choose to call it, it’s actually the foundation of our lives. I just launched my new website and I really tried to lean into that more tangibly with the new site to have it reflect this about my work. Whether it’s work, or our emotional, physical or financial health, I believe cultivating a rich inner life is key, because that’s when syncronicities in our lives happen naturally. I’ve spent many years cultivating a strong relationship with my soul to check in with myself and feel if choices I’m making are aligned with my spirit, regardless of the pressures around me or how enticing an opportunity looks.
Something I keep telling myself lately is, “May love prevail, may love prevail.” What I mean by that is, may we love ourselves enough to let that trickle into the love we give every other person, so it benefits the greater good of all.
For more information about Jennifer and #EmpoweredWomen click here.
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Being Seen Event: March 3-5th, 2017 Portland, Oregon
Empowered Event May 21, 2017
All photos are courtesy of Jennifer Alyse Photography