I probably use the word "magical" too often. Like, the pizza I'm eating right now? Magical. That first cup of coffee in the morning? Magical.
As a lover of fairy tales and all things Harry Potter, I tend to look for the magic in everything. As a photographer, I try to capture that magic as often as I can. The dictionary says that to call something "magical" really means that it is "beautiful or delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life."
I may use the word too often, but if there was ever a time to call something truly magical, my session with Katy Herndon would be it.
I met Katy for the first time at the Copper Kettle Tea Bar in my hometown of Foley, Alabama. It was a themed tea based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, and so I was surrounded by fairies and fauns in true fairytale form. A talented cosplayer, Katy was dressed as a fairy, with a sparkly face to match her sparkly fairy dress, and wings in her favorite color of blue. I later learned that Katy not only makes a convincing fairy, but can also hold her own as many a Disney character, from Snow White to Cruella de Vil.
Beyond cosplaying, another of her many talents includes playing the violin. The first time I heard her play, I was so drawn in by her music I almost forgot to take pictures of her, and trust me that is saying something.
Katy has been playing violin for 26 years now. Her oldest love, playing the violin has not only given her the opportunity to meet new people and go new places, it has also given her that soul-happy creative outlet some of us so desperately crave.
When Katy asked me to do an I Am Me Session with her, not gonna lie, I was really excited. As beautiful as she is talented, I couldn't wait to get her in front of my lens. We decided on Blakely State Park as the location for her session, and I don't think we could have picked a better spot. To be honest, it was almost more than I could handle. There is no possible way I could have really captured the beauty of this moment when her bow first hit the strings. I'll say it again - it was MAGICAL.
I mean, it was heavy y'all. I had tears in my eyes the moment she started playing. The sounds of the strings echoing through the woods, the morning light, birds chirping in the background, wind rustling the leaves around us, walking through tall grass, and Spanish Moss hanging from the oak trees...it felt supernatural, like at any moment a dove was going to come land on her shoulder. I wouldn't have been surprised.
Katy has this gentle power about her. She is humble but confident, sensitive but strong, a sweetheart but a total badass. For her 30th birthday, she treated herself to a 3 week trip to New Zealand (which is, by the way, my favorite place on the planet). She went by herself (hello, independent woman >insert fist bump here<) and took the Lord of the Rings tour (because, duh) and spent her birthday in front of Bilbo's house playing Bilbo's birthday song on her violin.
Katy's adventurous spirit is nothing new to those that know her. Her favorite memory growing up was having treasure hunts at her grandparents' house. Her mom would draw out these elaborate treasure maps with clues that led to a buried treasure - the most coveted, of course, were Polly Pockets. Katy would run around those paths in the woods for hours searching for her take. I imagine her even then as a creative costumer, dressed like a pirate with a wooden sword and eye patch, yelling, "Aargh, Matey!" at the squirrels that dared to cross her path. (But then once she realizes they are a friend and not a foe, she invites them along for the adventure).
Now a world traveler, New Zealand isn't the only place across the big blue wonder she has been. Katy has knocked 14 countries off her list so far, and Greece is next. Katy isn't just a dreamer, she is a doer. A girl after my own heart.
I think the dichotomy of Katy's personality goes hand in hand with her instrument of choice. When I think of the violin, I think of elegance and grace along with strength and power. When I think of the art of playing the violin, I also think of hard work and patience. And if her WEEKLY appointments to the chiropractor aren't clue enough, I think of perseverance.
By the same token, when I think of elegance and grace, and strength and power, my mind also goes to the art of ballet. So it shouldn't surprise you to learn that Katy is not only a talented violinist, but also a ballerina.
If I had asked pretty much anyone else to hop on that tree limb so I could take a photo, they either would have laughed at me, or I would have laughed at them (inwardly) (maybe) (probably not) as they attempted. But Katy was up in a single bound, landing in pointed toes and her "princess hands."
As a child, Katy both played the violin and danced, but when Katy was eleven years old, she had to quit ballet in order to pursue music. Though she never regretted choosing music over ballet, it was always something she longed to go back to in some capacity. So, three and a half years ago she started taking adult classes at the Mobile Ballet and hasn't looked back. Well, other than looking back over her shoulder at her toes cause the girl's got skills...
Katy now dances twice a week, and loves it. For the last year, she has even been able to dance en pointe. As in, on her toes. I don't have to tell you that it takes a lot of hard work and motivation to reach that level. Not only that, but to make something so difficult look so effortless, that's just a kind of grace I've never known.
Pointe technique is what a lot of us think about when we think of ballerinas. It's iconic. It's the thing they strive for, and work so hard for - that illusion of weightlessness, of defying gravity. It's like magic.
I am so grateful for ballerinas. They teach us all how incredibly beautiful the hard things can be. How truly magical life can be.
And I am grateful for Katy. Little though I know her, she has shown me the power of pursuing your love, or loves. That the hard things are beautiful if you just keep trying, and that it is never too late to start trying, or to try again. As Oscar Wilde once said, “Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”
Well, maybe you can be afraid. But never let that fear stop you from being who you were meant to be. As Mr. Wilde also taught us, it's important to be yourself. Because everyone else is already taken.
Thank you again, Katy, for giving me the opportunity to photograph you and share a little of your story. The world is better because of you! Don't forget to give Katy some comment love below. Part of the goal behind the I Am Me Sessions is not only to recognize the value of each and every person through photographs, but also through encouraging words. And, with 20+ comments, Katy gets a free 8x10 of her favorite image. So comment away!
To catch the magic live, she will be performing this Saturday (March 3rd) at the Gulf Coast Renaissance Faire. I strongly encourage you to go watch and listen to her play! You will not regret it. Plus, Ren Faires are like thebomb.com. (That's 90's lingo for us 30-somethings. Don't actually go to thebomb.com. It just rhymes.) She will also be performing again at the Hobbit Tea at Copper Kettle, which is always a fun treat! Check out their Facebook page for more info.
For you ballet enthusiasts, the Mobile Ballet Adult Recital is on May 11th at the Mobile Ballet Studio. Or, if you've always wanted to be a ballerina, or maybe want to go back to it, I have heard great things about their classes, so go check them out!
Katy also performs for private events, including weddings, so if you've always wanted to walk down the aisle to "Liz on Top of the World", then give Katy a shout! (Just don't make her play Canon in D again. She'd done that like a million times. Just kidding. Kind of. I mean she'll do it if you want her to. Maybe.)
And that's all she wrote! Have a great week!