When someone inspires me, their energy is usually VERY CONTAGIOUS. I tend to attract pretty vibrant women that are nurtures, healers, and bad ass entrepreneurs. I have to say thats the V I B E of my T R I B E. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I felt compelled to offer the blog stage to Women who EMPOWER Women.
Its no surprise, if your in the Austin TX area that Laura Morsman is one of those women who inspires, uplifts, and empowers everyone around her through her photography, her stories, and just those simple one on one moments you have with her personally. Laura is an editorial, soulful, and extremely talented photographer. She is so loved and respected in our circle of Women, I am so honored to have her be a guest and feature on this months Women Empowering Women series.
Whats Y O U R story?
In short, I'm a strong being, an adventurer, a highschool drop-out, an anorexia survivor, divorced once, married twice, bad-ass business owner, animal lover, advocate, mistake-laden, justice seeking, always learning, ALLY, human. ME.
I grew up in the Midwest and always went my own way when it came to my life. I experienced a very up-and-down, great seasons and terrible seasons childhood, and learned how to take care of myself and dive into my emotions and interests at a very young age to keep me focused, passionate and connected to myself. I always knew I wanted to be proud of ME and that was my main goal- I let that guide me and I never doubted that if I could dream it, I could do it.. and everything else that was all-wise and all-wonderful that Oprah told us at 4pm every day that we could be, do and accomplish amidst our own adversities. Without having a familial safety net, I realized it was truly up to me to determine my own path, and that I couldn't let myself wait for the day for someone to believe in me, before I started believing in myself. I never graduated any formal schooling, I was homeschooled but wasn't taught the traditional courses. My father also had emergency brain surgery when I was 11 and that froze my family's world for quite a while financially, emotionally, and in many other ways. A lot of our stability was impacted throughout that experience as well as our education with my dad being one of my primary teachers. When it came to applying for college I knew there was not a chance in the world I had the standardized education required to get the framed piece of paper.. until I read the fine print, and found a way to transfer into a state university with 24 credit hours only comprised of photoshop courses and psychology credits from a local junior college! Needless to say, that took me through my senior year of a childhood-development/ceramics/painting degree at a state university and I left school after the sudden death of a childhood friend I attended college with. That traumatizing experience led to a lot of moments who shaped me into who I am. I had already started my own illustration/painting/photography business in highschool and was at the point of coaching my university professors in how to sell their work and run a business of their own to make more money than their teaching salaries, but after moving to Dallas with my first husband, I started working as a manager for Anthropologie! I LOVED IT. What a great way to combine my love of people and psychology, while surrounded by all of the wonders of Anthro.. and candles.. After 4 amazing years there, me initiating my divorce at 22 years old and realizing that the trauma of losing my close friend so young in life had propelled so many trauma induced quick decisions in my world, I realized I needed to claim my world back, through the grieving of my friend, through the moving across the country, from the quick marriage I found myself in and out of, I needed to get back to the life I wanted and worked for. Fast forward to now, I have now owned my photography business for 8 years and have been a full time photographer for 5! I travel the world photographing people, hearing their stories, photographing their souls, and connecting with people I never dreamt of getting the chance to know. I am so grateful. I also never lost my interest in working with kids, and though I get to do that all the time through my photography, I also volunteer weekly at Helping Hand Home for Children, a children's home in Austin TX that is a safe haven for children healing from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment. It means so much to me to be able to give even a very small part of my week to local children in need, and has opened my eyes to just much how much impact we can make on a daily basis to help those around us, no matter how large or small the action, and that children are in crisis and in need all around us.
What do you love most about YOURSELF?
I love that at a very early age I was introduced to therapy and mental-health awareness, and persevered through the continuing process of my own journey of recovery. My therapist and I were my only advocates at the time, I didn't grow up in a space where therapy and vulnerability was encouraged to be sought after or expressed, and having that opportunity to get treatment for a life threatening eating disorder, depression, and anxiety saved my life. I am very proud of that young person and all she overcame. I love the strength in that person that allowed me to know it existed, and only grew from there.
What gets you truly excited about life?
I get excited about life when I'm able to realize that we are in control of each one of our days in large amount of ways and also.. totally not in control of them in many ways. Each day we wake up, we've got a certain amount of hours that our narrative of who we are, how we interact with our world around us, how we treat ourselves and others, how our world defines or doesn't define us, the space we allow ourselves to take up in this world, the way words can land within us, the way our words to others can be mindful or not, can be shifted, changed, expanded or subtracted, and that excites and scares me at the same time. When I'm able to truly let this sink in and be present with it, I realize how much each day can offer us time to make an impact, be that or good or bad.
How would you define your P U R P O S E in life?
I feel like with this short time that we have, I want to use every last moment of energy I have to be a support to others who need it. Advocacy, a voice, an ally, a person who stands in their truth and experience unashamedly, a person who is open to continually learn, a person who can raise others up and support those who are marginalized. In the end we ALL are all that we've got here,we are here together sharing this space and this air, and that feels like there is a huge amount of purpose in that idea for my life, in my opinion.
Describe the V I B E of your work?
My work is editorial and emotional. I never got into the habit of asking people to "smile" in photos, because honestly I feel like me asking anyone to emit any specific emotion on demand feels unnatural for me to do. One of my goals in photography is for someone to truly see themselves in the images I hand back to them, and not see my guidance or posing. I want my images to be very personal to someone and bring them back to that moment and season of their lives whenever they look at the image, to see how far they have come and what they have overcome to arrive to the right now.
How do you use photography to EMPOWER women?
I do my best to empower any person through my life and business by trying to create a space that is safe, inclusive, welcoming, and hopefully, in some capacity, allows them to embrace and celebrate their raw, inner strength, their experiences and their journey, coming through in the
images we take together. Images are so powerful and can also be such a source of insecurity, self scrutiny, trauma, and so much of that feels like it comes from a fear of how people will perceive us, have perceived us, our choices, judge our physical bodies and identities, held-onto ideas of engrained social norms of "beauty" and what one "should look like", and then sometimes that cycle of fear and degradation of ones identity and choices turns inward on themselves. Sometimes I see people in front of my camera that took a lifetime of someone telling them they are not existing to a certain standard, and started to believe those same things about themselves. It can be incapacitating for some... I try to create an energy and environment of absolute safety and acceptance whenever I work with anyone. There will be times where my clients put themselves down in front of me, tell me what a spouse, partner, boss, doctor, family member, or friend has said negatively about their appearance or bodies, and that hurts to hear. Those words stuck somewhere deep inside those people and possibly impacted their own personal truths in some way. If I have any job, it is to have someone leave a session feeling supported and accepted, for simply being.
What's your favorite Empowered Woman story?
Oh my gosh there are so many I don't have a favorite! Malala Yousafzai's story, Oprah Winfrey's life story is one I have always admired since I was child, the journalist Noor who is connected to the incredible ISeeYou Foundation that serves shelters, families in need, and people experiencing homelessness, I love Ellen Degeneres's story, I could go on forever sharing stories of women that are empowered people.
What did you imagine yourself doing when you were 21 yrs? How about now? Or in 10 years?
I don't think I have ever thought that far ahead. I literally wasn't expected to live past my anorexia when it was at it's worst, I had a 28 day life expectancy and my organs were in failure, and so each year I get after 14 years old has been one I'm forever grateful for, and after my friend Devin passed away when I was 18, I just think of one day at a time.
Right now, at this very moment, what do you want most in life?
I want to continue using my work, words, ability, my able-bodiedness and privilege to support others
in whatever way I can. I want to be a strong and supportive ally to those that need one and be a person who continually advocates and stands for equality and anti-racism in my community and world.
If you could deliver a message to a woman in her 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, what would that be?
I feel like I can only share a message from the perspective of my personal experience that may not land globally/for everyone, but for me, investing in my mental health was one of the best choices I could have ever made for my life. From working through familial trauma, general life, and anxiety and depression, investing the time, effort, energy, and money into therapy has been monumentally life changing for me. I believe that everyone has their own unique story, some of it great and some of it very painful, and in my experience, until I valued that story and my experience enough to get help for some of the parts that experienced trauma, I had no idea how much of it was holding me back from truly living my life.
What's your M A N T R A?
Such a great question! I don't think I can narrow it down to just one but I'll try!
"We are not free until everyone is free" , I saw this painted on an illustration by the incredible Lisa Congdon! THIS is everything to me.
Thank you, Laura for sharing your soul and inspiring others. You don't realize, but shining your light gives others permission to shine theirs!
To connect & follow Laura's work please visit her website: