Portrait of Heather Fleing by Louisville Portrait Photographer Ben Marcum

From Heather

I’ve been watching my husband grow into his art for years. I’ve seen the stunning portraits he’s created, how beautiful and also how real he makes everyone who gets in front of his camera look. And every time I would look at the newest round of portraits, I’d think “I want to do that. I want to put on an extra-fancy gown and get my hair and makeup done and have one of these glamorous portraits.”

And then I would think “No, I’d look dumb. No, I’m overweight and I don’t want to see myself like this. No, it would look really lame and vain and people would think I was ridiculous”. So you can see that I pretty much kept myself from even considering sitting for a portrait, despite wanting to do it and even despite helping Ben refine some of his marketing content intended to refute those very same concerns for other clients!

But finally, something clicked for me about this time last year. I was tired of not doing things, I was tired of holding back, tired of feeling like I needed to make changes in my life but not doing them. So I decided to start working towards a future where I didn’t say no to things, and one of the first things on my list was finally sitting for a portrait. I’m kind of into traditions, so I really liked the idea of sitting for a portrait to commemorate the occasion of my fortieth birthday.

For reasons not related to my portrait, I decided it was time to finally figure out some work-life balance and give myself time and energy to eat more healthfully and exercise regularly. I did set a goal to lose weight, but I tried to set it as a byproduct of taking better care of myself, not as the only reason to eat mindfully and get regular activity. I also decided that no matter how that journey went, I was sitting for my birthday portrait – if I lost weight before then, awesome. And if I didn’t, well, I was still really proud of everything else that I’d accomplished, so I was determined to honor all of that by sitting for my portrait, proudly, and saying “This is me at 40. This is where I am and how far I’ve come, and at least for today, it’s going to be more than enough”.

Once I made my mind up, that was it. I put it on the calendar and Ben and the Beauty Patrol blocked the day off for me. I wasn’t sure what to wear; I knew I wanted a big gown and lots of accessories – I was heavily inspired by the styling in Philip Laszlo’s portraits from the early 20th century – but I didn’t really have it narrowed down past that. In the end, after looking at and rejecting a ton of dresses (seriously, a ton!), I decided to wear one I already had.

I don’t wear much makeup, and I keep my hair pretty simple, so I was both excited and nervous to have those “done” for the portrait. I knew from all of Ben’s other portraits and from working with them on some of our wig portrait sessions that the Beauty Patrol would take exquisitely good care of me – and I was right! Pam and Alexis absolutely nailed the hair and makeup I wanted for my portrait – it was perfect. The entire experience was relaxing and so nice – they transformed me for the camera but I still felt like me.

What can I say about the actual experience of finally being photographed by my husband? I think we were both nervous! But I never doubted for one second that he would create a portrait I would love. I sat in the chair, I trusted his directions (and made him put on Bon Jovi as an homage to my big 40) and it was fabulous. He didn’t let me see the gallery from the session – I told him to pick the right one and show me once it was ready.

We shot the portrait a week before my birthday and he told me he didn’t think he’d be able to get it edited and printed by my actual birthday. I know how much time he puts into his portrait edits, so that wasn’t really surprising. What WAS surprising, though, was walking into my in-law’s house on my birthday for dinner and seeing my portrait printed, framed and lit on an easel! If you know anything at all about his work, then you know that Ben is really into the idea that portraits are art and should be framed and treated like such and he’s really into presentation – which showed in all of the work and care he put into planning and executing this incredible surprise. I am so glad I didn’t stop myself from having this experience and from having this piece of art that marks a big life milestone.