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The Body Beautiful: Tara Whitney

Background: Born and raised in Southern California, I picked up a camera in my early 20s and never put it down again. It started as a way to record my children and family, but I quickly learned that my passion went further.

Has your perspective and point-of-view changed since becoming a mom? And if so, how? I was very young when I had my first child — only 18 years old. I had my fourth and final child at 26. The eight years in between are a bit of a whirlwind and a fog — if I didn't have photos from that time, I don't think i would be able to remember a thing. So, in a way, I grew up in motherhood. It's difficult to say what changed me more — becoming a mother or just getting through my 20s.

What do you find most rewarding about motherhood? Almost all of my children are now teenagers, and I have to say the greatest thing about being a mom at this stage is what we share together as people. I love talking to them, and listening to them. The dynamic changes as they get older, and you can share more of your humor, your stories, your feelings and dreams. We spend a lot of time together as a family, and my people are funny. We laugh a lot and we are here for each other. That is what means the most to me.

What do you find the most challenging or surprising? The hardest thing for me is not imposing any one set of beliefs or ideas onto them, and instead staying open to the way they view the world. I value individuality and free thinking, but that can be challenging during times when a child is in a rough phase. (Ahem, puberty. Ahem, middle school.) It's easy to get stuck in a fretful mindset, where you forget about who your child really is, and suddenly you are just thinking, "I have a lazy kid, or a mean kid, or a bratty kid — WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!" The best advice I ever got was, "Everything is a phase." Just because one of your children is going through a rough time, doesn't mean they will be in it forever, it doesn't mean they are lazy or mean or bratty. It's just a phase. My mantra is "Love them through it." Just like everyone eventually gets potty-trained — everyone eventually figures themselves out.

How do you store/organize/display/showcase your photographs? I shoot digital and film. I store all of my files on my computer and on an external hard drive. They are organized by year > month > event. I have framed images all over my house. We have a large display of nine 20 x 20 images over our couch. We also have a tradition of getting photobooth pics taken once a year, and I frame them and display them in a hallway. I love to print 4 x 6 pieces and have them randomly shoved into mirrors and in boxes on coffee tables, or taped wherever I want with masking tape. I also make coffee table books with vacation photos or collections that I have stacked on a table in our TV room.

Any recommendations for moms trying to capture those beautiful moments? When my kids were young, I used my telephoto lens a LOT. That way, I could sit back and watch them play, and photograph them without disturbing them. I prefer natural shots to posed, and I never like to stop a moment to take a photo. Or at least, I try very hard not to. So that telephoto lens worked out well for me. Now that they are older, I can instruct them a bit more, but I am careful about it because I don't want them to ever feel annoyed or obligated. The best light for photos is bright shade. Think: under a tree, in a garage. The best time of day for photos is early or late. Midday has harsh shadows and bright sun.

Any situation (good or bad) where you wish you had your camera? Luckily, with the iPhone, I always have a camera. :) But if I could go back in time, I would have made sure there were way more photos of me with my babies and toddlers — breastfeeding, holding, snuggling, etc. I was always behind the camera. That is one of my biggest regrets.

What makes you feel beautiful as a mother? When I see a photo of myself, smiling/beaming at one of the kids.

What advice can you give other mothers who might not feel beautiful in their bodies? You know what? This world is full of people trying to be perfect. I say, perfect is boring. Relish in your quirks, play up your individuality. Plus, I am pretty sure your kids think you are the bee's knees. Try and see yourself as your family sees you. Your kids don't care about your soft tummy or your jiggly thighs. Be gentle with yourself. Wear clothes you feel hot in, paint your nails red. Flip your hair around, put on a bathing suit and just have fun.

Where you can find Tara:

Website: Tara Whitney

Blog: Tara Whitney Blog

Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

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