Introducing: The Butterfly Project

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

The Butterfly Project Beloved Photo Session Memories by Michelle Photography

You don’t get to the ripe old age of 41 without having met some pretty incredible people. In my 41 trips around the sun, I’ve been fortunate to have met many and. by virtue of being a woman myself, many of them women. What I’ve learned and seen and experienced, especially by standing beside those friends who have struggled with fear, grief, loss, abuse, and health issues, is that a woman’s beauty shines brightest through her tears. All of us carry with us hurts and scars that shape and transform us, that we fight to transcend, forgive, and live beyond. Some of us have scrapes and others deep wounds that cut us to the core; it’s not the depth of the injury that dictates the transformation.

Like a butterfly emerging from the broken shell of the cocoon, the moment of joyful, beautiful, colorful flight into the sunlight comes after days of darkness, a seeming brokenness, an end.

It’s this moment, this flying toward the light with sunshine blinding you, that I have been so transfixed by lately. There is wholeness to those people who have moved beyond their experience and into a new space for themselves, a transference of energy that, if you pay attention, has a physicality to it. The leaning in, the reaching out, the steady and loving gaze that says “it’s ok, I’ve been there, me too.”

And through that I have envisioned photographing women in what I feel is a completely different way from much of what we see and consume in daily media: women as whole, complete, messy, people; courageous, sexy, strong, vulnerable, defiant, and imperfect.

When my friend, Mala, and I tossed around some ideas about photographing her post-divorce, I felt that there were two ideas slowly drawing together like magnets but I didn’t exactly know what it would look like when the two ends met. Mala wanted to do a photo session around re-purposing and re-claiming her wedding sari, a defiant and powerful gesture both culturally and personally. We started there and let the rest fall into place.

Mala has her own story and her own, beautiful way of telling it. You can read more from her directly here. I see her as fun, artistic, passionate, flamboyant, bold, adventurous, emotional, strong, powerful and, you’ve probably guessed by now, brave, defiant, and sometimes controversial (you can see why we’re friends.) I also know that she has a lot of pain and hurt that she continues to deal with. So I literally had tears streaming down my face when I looked at these pictures and felt that I had captured all of that in our Saturday afternoon together.

I feel these are some of the most honest photos I have ever taken. And, I hope (KNOW), this is just the beginning. (See more below the slideshow for more on that.)



I am offering free sitting fees for other women who want this experience and these images to celebrate their beauty with, inside and out. They don’t have to look like this. In fact, I have no idea what YOUR photos will look like. They’ll look like how I experience you and that’s all that I can say. If you’re the quiet, thoughtful type, for sure I would never photograph you this way. I envision these sessions as a conversation, much as this was for me and Mala. We talked as much as we shot. We played with light, locations, poses, ideas, thoughts, and feelings. (There may also have been wine involved.) That’s all I can say and can promise: it will be a fun exploration. Please get in touch with me if you want to chat about why a session like this interests you and what that might look like.

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