If you've never heard of this place you're in for a wonderful story. Linwood House is a beautiful Victorian mansion near Robert's Creek on the Sunshine Coast. But unlike most regal estates this one has a lofty goal, its rooms and manicured grounds are part of a master plan meant to change lives and give love and dignity to those who come to visit.
The specific mission of Linwood Ministries is: "to provide safe and inclusive spaces for all people to discover possibilities and tools for transformative action. Attention is given to the empowerment of women and girls, especially those caught in the cycles of addiction, abuse and sex trafficking." A few times a year the house opens it big doors to something they call the Urban Journey. "Many women living in the DTES of Vancouver face daily challenges of addiction, violence and sexual exploitation. The Urban Journey is a 3-day retreat away from the daily chaos of the city to Linwood House. Participants have an opportunity to pause and reflect on their personal journeys. Creativity, art, music, nature, prayer and personal support provide each individual with the tools for transformation."
I had met the founder of Linwood Ministries, Gwen McVicker, a year ago and was moved by the words and passion she has to describe social justice for women around the world. The podcast from her talk can be found here. Gwen and I hatched a plan to provide a portrait session for the women after they had their spa morning on day two of their stay.
I thought a lot about this portrait session. I didn't want it to be a typical corporate headshot or a glamour session. I wanted to capture peace, calm, deep beauty, love and rest. A portrait that would be a reminder of their time at the house and the work they had done so far on their own journey. I wanted this portrait to be a take home reminder of the deep care they encountered and that they are worthy and truly beautiful. Well it turns out women are women and we all don't like double chins and worry lines. Of course this is true. However, many of the women couldn't remember the last time they had had their photo taken. Some were pleasantly surprised by the image of themselves on the back of my camera. One woman in particular couldn't believe that she actually liked what she saw for the first time in a long time. Gwen told me "I don't think she has ever felt so beautiful, something was redeemed in that print."
Photography can be used for so many things. I love seeing first hand that it can be used to heal and redeem. Thanks Gwen and the women at Linwood for the deep blessing of allowing me to be a part of the healing journey. If you would like to donate to the work of Linwood Ministries or read more about the work they do, please visit their website.