How A Photo Can Make You Feel Brave

Photo by Dave Puente

I really believe that people come into your life for a reason. And Dave Puente is one of those that showed up at exactly the right time.

I’d been a fan of his incredible photos for years, marveling at the beauty that went so far beyond a simple photograph. But when he said he wanted to work with me I was nervous. If a camera is rolling on video I have no problem being my goofy self and I love being pushed out of my comfort zone (there’s no way I would’ve gone hang gliding if three go-pros and a WCCO photog weren’t there.)

But still photography is a different story. I grew up feeling awkward in pictures, I burst into tears before a round of professional headshots when I was 23 because the makeup artist painted on so much makeup I couldn’t recognize myself and told me “this is what your face is supposed to look like.” I looked like someone pretending to be someone else in those pictures.

Meeting Dave was so different, instantly I felt like we’d known each other for years. That sort of rare connection where the conversations feel so easy, so natural.  And Dave didn’t want the made up version everyone gets on the news, the properly filtered Instagram persona. Which is good because he got the very unfiltered me who swears like a sailor and laughs about her ridiculous dating life.

I brought him first to the place I love most: Boulder, Colorado. The poor guy literally got off the plane from Minnesota and I made him start hiking! But I’m glad I did because he took one of my all-time favorite pictures of me:

There are so many things I could nit-pick about myself in this picture, but instead I fell in love with the laugh lines around my eyes, I didn’t mind my profile or thin lips because I’m smiling, really smiling. Everything about this picture was me, a me that was just starting to love herself again.

I’d gotten out of a long relationship six months before & honestly was still very much healing from the heartbreak. I went a long time not feeling beautiful or worth someone’s time, but somehow through Dave’s lens I was starting to feel like myself again. I was also seeing a side of myself I didn’t share with many.

I don’t take pictures where I’m not smiling – I’m a happy person and my go-to is a giant smile when the camera comes on.

Looking at Dave’s pictures I saw a side of myself I had hidden away. It was the first time I talked about my anxiety on social media, about the struggles behind the smile. It felt like letting out a breath I’d been holding in for years. I heard from hundreds who could relate and I felt instantly less alone.

His photos made me feel beautiful & brave, happy & sad, confident & vulnerable. I’m grateful to have these to capture a moment in time that was so painfully important. But more than anything, I’m grateful for the man behind the camera. The man who listened without judgement, whose kind words were slowly bringing me back to life. The man I’m so lucky to call a friend. An unbelievably talented, kind, beautiful friend.

Please enjoy a few more of his incredible work from those two days.

Author of Approachable Outdoors Kylie Bearse

Kylie Bearse

When I'm not exploring the trails, I'm a Meteorologist! You can see me weekend mornings on NBC affiliate 9News in Colorado. Have a weather question? Don’t hesitate to ask!

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