Over the past few years, I’ve gotten into the habit of choosing a word of the year, rather than making any resolutions. It felt less restrictive, and frankly, I was tired of feeling like a failure when I didn’t manage to achieve the lofty, unrealistic goals I kept measuring myself against. I started in 2010 with the word Do. Since then, I’ve had Plan, Build, Inspire, Finish, and Focus. Some years, I’ve photographed my word, other years, I’ve incorporated it into my journaling. One year, I even forgot my word completely until most of the year had passed!
But this year’s word, Focus, has been on my mind and in my heart all year long. I tried so hard to find a different word because it almost felt silly choosing something so photographically centered, but in the end, it really just stuck with me. Throughout the year, I’ve been thinking about focusing on less activities, working on my focus in photography, finding my drishti (focus) in my yoga classes, and focusing my attention to keep from getting distracted. (OK, I’m attempting to keep from getting distracted…) All in all, it’s been a good word for me.
About the time I started thinking about my word last December, I had the idea to incorporate this process into my lesson plan for a special group of women that I teach once a week. The ladies of Angela House are pretty near and dear to my heart. It’s a constantly changing group of women who enter the facility straight from Harris County Prison. Each of them fill out an application and go through a rigorous process to be admitted. They live as a close-knit community, working together to beat their addictions and overcome their pasts while learning life skills to help them on their journey. Angela House, run by Sister Maureen, has a staff of caring and selfless individuals that include a therapist and a doctor, and whole slew of volunteers that help the facility function and thrive. Each week for the past 3 years, I’ve had the privilege of introducing these ladies to the wonders of photography through FotoFest International‘s Literacy Through Photography program. Angela House is the only adult group that LTP works with right now and we’ve seen so many wonderful things come out of it.
The lesson plan I was working on revolved around portraiture. We discussed how expression and body language work together in portraits and we studied how the setting and context of images could change their meaning. We discussed basic lighting and photoshop and how the media portrayal of individuals may not always be accurate. We pulled all the pieces together with a discussion about authenticity since part of Angela House’s requirements include a class with the staff therapist using Brene Brown’s Shame Resilience curriculum. By the end of the unit, each of the ladies were able to create portraits of each other and we combined their portraits with other images they had taken earlier that had meaning for them.
The end result was a stunning display of images that graced the annual FotoFinish exhibition in a powerful and eye-catching display.
The project was so well-received with the students that we’re doing another version of it this year with a new group of women. We will continue to learn about portraits and choose a word for the year, but this time, we’ll be changing up the process to include a study of light and shadow, silhouettes, meditation and mandalas. We already started the process and many of the women have chosen their words, including me. My word for 2016 will be EASE.
I can’t wait to show you what they create in the weeks ahead and I always love to see what words people choose and the stories behind them. If you’re the kind of person that would choose a Word of the Year, won’t you share it below in the comments?
Choosing my words carefully – Angie