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Week 29 // Knowing Unknown



It has been a week since I last wrote, in quite a state of turmoil about losing the dress I have shot this series in each week for the past 8 months. It rained that day… all day. Unusual for Texas. And it was chilly out… so the skies had that solemness that only winter can bring. It all seemed to match my mood entirely to well. I spent a few hysterical hours on the phone with a girlfriend of mine. At one point I jokingly said “well… this means that it’s going to either have to be a totally different dress, or NO dress at all.” The moment I said it… I knew. “Dammit” I told her, “This means I’m going to have to go get naked in the woods doesn’t it?” To which she agreed with a sly grin I could hear on the other end of the line. And so there in the midst of the loss – a glimmer of where to go next. A very horrifying glimmer, but a glimmer nonetheless.

Know matter how much I didn’t want to… I knew I had to shoot it. I couldn’t let the raw emotion of the day pass me by. I could not back down from the challenge to go somewhere that felt so vulnerable. So I grabbed my gear and out I went into the cold and rain. There in the quiet of a dry creek bed, with only the sound of the gentle rain tapping on damp fall leaves, I set up my camera with a rain poncho over top… stripped down to nothing, and began shooting. I would like to point out to anyone who doesn’t know me, I’m an extremely modest person not at ALL comfortable with my own nudity being out there… particularly in such a permanent fashion as what I am doing right now. But I discovered something in doing this shoot. It is not in fact the most naked I have ever felt…

The day he died and I was left behind… everything was stripped from me. I was too lost to even move. Waiting, wondering. I could not feed myself for weeks. Or drive. Or do much of anything on my own. For months I did not spend more than a few hours by myself for the paralyzing fear of being alone with my own heart. I was completely broken open. Nothing has ever made me feel so fully exposed as his death. To my surprise, even physical nudity does not compare to how naked I felt then. But it as close as I can articulate it visually I think.

It has not been an easy, this project. There have been many weeks in which I just wanted to walk away from it. Many days it has brought me to tears with frustration. The past few months especially have been a struggle… my motivation dwindling. And so perhaps the loss of the dress came exactly when I needed it to. It has shaken up everything. For the first time in months, I am feeling some excitement about the unknowing of it all. I’m feeling a spark of desire to explore how I will deal with my body for the remaining images… what coverings will I use? Fabric? Nature? None? And what part of my story will this now begin to tell? Perhaps it is about stepping outside the confines of a label like “widowed”. Or exploring beyond who we thought we once were to find that we can in fact be all number of things in this life. Or about stepping more fully into our true selves. Or all of this.

I don’t know where it will go… and that is both scary and exciting. To be right where we are… at an ending in the middle. An ending unplanned. And thusly a sort of new beginning before we wanted to begin again. A new direction when we did not want or ask for one. That is life, is it not? And death. If we so choose to live it as such – which my fiancé very much did. It is one of the most important lessons I learned from him after all… that no matter what direction life takes you, there lies an adventure waiting before you.


“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of living with loss. If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post. Or to see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

14 Comments Post a comment
  1. This photo reminds me of HBO’s True Detective series. There is a crime scene in it that looks a lot like this. Great photo.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014
  2. :D

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014
  3. Courage at it’s best!!!

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014
  4. you are so beyond brave, woman. There was a part of me that KNEW you were going to get all bare-ass naked after losing that dress. I just knew it!!! But, man, I have so many questions. Never mind shooting this and how brave that is, but to be naked and ALONE in the middle of the woods like that? Umm, that doesnt seem very safe. Please bring someone with you. This scares me, on a basic safety level. I dunno, maybe Im just paranoid because of things Ive been through … but I worry. Mommy. This is a beautiful shot and what you do is beautiful. My fav line is “to be right where we are … at an ending in the middle.” I love you.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014
  5. This photo takes courage. You did it. You are such a beautiful person on all levels Sarah. Your spirit shines through everything you do. Thank you for sharing yourself at the most vulnerable place a person can ever be. xo

    Thursday, November 13, 2014
  6. Sarah, the bravery of your soul shines through. Your courage and artistry touches me to the core. To choose to live fully is the greatest gift you have given the world.

    Saturday, November 15, 2014
  7. Congratulations! Such a brave photo. Not the most naked you’ve ever felt…I think I know what you mean…

    Friday, November 28, 2014
    • You are right about that. And thank you.
      Hope you are enjoying the adventures in learning Somali (it sounds like you are!) =)

      Sunday, November 30, 2014
      • Thank you! Loving Somali has made me feel as publicly naked as I’ve felt in a long time…

        That may be why I loved the photo so much. Losing that dress made you feel exposed. Probably losing anything makes us feel exposed.

        We have things as our primate ancestors did–tools to help us do things. They give us an advantage, and they help us do tasks more easily. We trust our tools, love our tools. The Bible and the Ancient Greeks talk about sacrificing to swords and nets.

        When we lose those things, we lose that power and hope we instilled in those items. Now you lost your dress and everything you hoped for with it–exposed and a little less powerful.

        When I learn a language, I lose the tool that allows me to communicate. But allowing myself to be out there naked without my communication tools makes me realize I don’t need those tools. I find other things along the way that keep me going. Then I become better at Somali.

        You lost what you thought you needed–through death and loss. Yet you found you can still make it without them. You found other things along the way to keep you going, like art.

        Keep going!

        Sunday, November 30, 2014
      • What an AWESOME reply! I never truly thought our projects could have so much in common – but you are so right. I love the things you always illuminate. Thank you for that!
        And now, tell me, how do I say thank you in Somali??? ;)

        Tuesday, December 2, 2014
      • Mahadsanid! ;)

        Thursday, December 4, 2014
      • I think the reason your photos resonate with me is because I see their central theme as vulnerability, even more central death or loss.

        Not having that thing that you feel you need–especially a person and companionship and love–leaves you naked and defenseless.

        Much of my language writing comes also from a place of vulnerability. The language-learner is deprived of their most basic means of communication. For this reason, I identify so much with immigrants, who lack communication skills and societal knowledge to function in society–complete vulnerability.

        What do we do when we’re naked, defenseless, without the means to communicate or connect? We do what we can with what we’ve got. This is what you’re doing with your art–and it’s beautiful because it completely exposes your vulnerability.

        Thursday, December 4, 2014
      • This project has definitely been incredibly vulnerable for me. The very idea of even trying to explain to people that I essentially run around in the woods nearly naked taking pictures of myself… lol it made me cringe in the beginning. I was so worried people would think I was just a total weirdo. Eventually though, slowly, more people in my life came to see the project and everyone has totally embraced and supported it. It has amazed me. But my gosh it felt so uncomfortable and scary at first to put such deep emotional stuff out there. And often times it still is!

        Ya know, I remember visiting Germany in high school for a month, and not being able to communicate with anyone. It was – as you said – a totally vulnerable experience… far more than I had expected. I never forgot it. I think its awesome that you willingly go into such vulnerability with language. So few people would be willing to do that.

        Thanks again so much for sharing so much… er rather… Mahadsanid! =)

        Saturday, December 6, 2014
  8. Very brave of you and very nicely executed.

    Monday, December 15, 2014

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