Celebrating the Beauty of Women as a Photographer - A Letter from Ali Brassel
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Dear sweet sister,
I’ve always been a dreamer and the kind of girl who follows her heart more than her head. I’ve always loved photography but never did I think I would start my own photography business as a senior in high school. Six years later, my passion has turned into a full-time business. I question often how this came to be. But I think when you are doing what God created you to do, He will pave your path.
It started by photographing my closest friends and before I knew it, strangers were stepping in front of my lens. And as I began photographing women young and old I quickly realized that each one shared something in common: they all had their own specific insecurities. Sometimes they admit it aloud, sometimes it bears itself through a look, and other times they share their insecurity with me after their session. I desperately wanted every person I photographed to feel beautiful. But I also grew angry and frustrated, because many just couldn’t see how lovely they truly are.
One evening, I was photographing a senior and as the session progressed I could tell how truly insecure she felt in front of the camera. She was constantly trying to make herself look “thinner” and complained about her hair and appearance almost the whole session. At one point, after capturing a photo I loved, I showed her the back of my camera in desperation to help her feel more comfortable and confident. When I looked up, tears were welling in her eyes. Quietly she said, “I’ve never seen myself this way before. I look beautiful.” As I drove home that night, I wondered how I would respond if I saw myself the way God saw me. I’d like to think it would be similar to how my senior responded to seeing herself through the lens of my camera.
It’s easy to receive and believe this false idea of what beauty is. But with a camera in hand, I’ve learned that God doesn’t make mistakes. And if we strip away all these ideas that beauty is a flat tummy, shiny hair, (Page 2) and perfect skin.. we can get to the heart of the woman. We find worth, goodness, and dignity there. We find Christ there. Enrico Pertillo (Chiara Corbella Petrillo’s husband) said it perfectly... "In you, in the totality of your beauty, there is always He.” By photographing women and rejoicing in how God created them, I’ve learned to love how He created me.
"I’ve learned that God doesn’t make mistakes. And if we strip away all these ideas that beauty is a flat tummy, shiny hair and perfect skin... we can get to the heart of the woman."
Sister, you are priceless. You are beautiful. Your smile and inner radiance inspires people like me and most importantly it reveals all that God is.
All my love and prayers,
Get to know Ali
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi there! My name is Ali Popp. I’m 24 years old and newly-married! I just got married this past October. I own my own photography business (Ali Brassel Photography) which I started as a senior in high school. I like to think of myself as an introverted-extrovert... Considering the fact that I have a deep love for people and conversation while at the same time deeply treasure my alone time...Photography truly is my passion but I also have a deep love for anything that involves creativity. I find myself going through phases where I become obsessed with learning something such as embroidery and after a while move on to learning something else. Photography though is the one consistent love of mine when it comes to creative outlets.
How does your Catholic faith affect the way you live your day-to-day life?
Oh man, my Catholic faith has changed everything about how I live my life. But in a good way! It is truly my source of hope. It is my rock when everything around me is shaky. It is the one consistent, driving force in my life. It has made me a more empathetic and over all just a better wife, friend, sister and daughter.
What’s the most empowering piece of advice you’ve been given as a Catholic woman?
“When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.” I heard this quote at a high school retreat and it has stuck with me after all this time. I wish I could remember who said it! I love sharing it with anyone who may be going through a rough patch or find their past mistakes holding them back from being a happier, more full person.
Tell us about a woman who inspires you. What lessons have you learned from her? How has she influenced your life?
If I sat and listed out every woman who has touched my heart and changed the way I live my life, I would be typing forever. Mother Teresa is for sure one of my biggest inspirations in life. The way she loved people and Jesus is how I strive to also live my life. Just thinking about how much I adore her could bring me to tears! I also give so much credit to a sweet Dominican Sister named Sister Maria Kolbe. She was my 8th grade teacher and she brought the Catholic faith to myself in a beautiful and tangible way. Her love for Christ and her Catholic faith made me fall deeper in love with Christ and His Church. My mom is also a woman who I admire so deeply. Her pure and giving heart have been a driving force in my life. I’m forever grateful for her. Lastly, my sweet, sweet friends. Gosh I love them. They build me up in ways I’ll never be able to thank them for. They love me fiercely and hold me accountable in my faith and everyday life. They are my daily reminders of how much God loves me and has blessed me.
What’s your favorite way to pray?
Admiring the beauty of God’s creation is one of my favorite ways to pray. Whether that be by immersing myself in nature or thanking God for the beautiful person in front of my camera. I find God in the stillness and in a smiling face. I also have a deep connection to the rosary and Mama Mary. When I was young, while praying the rosary, the silver chains in between the decade beads turned gold. Since then, the rosary had been such a powerful force in my prayer life.
What’s currently your biggest stumbling block in pursuing the Lord?
My biggest stumbling block in pursuing the Lord is definitely my own laziness and lack of worthiness. I definitely struggle a lot with finding the motivation to carve out time in my day to pray. While at the same time struggle to accept that I am even worthy of praying to a God who has given me so much and loves me so deeply. I am so unworthy and undeserving of receiving His mercy and grace.
What’s a dream you’d love to achieve in the next 10 years?
I’m definitely a dreamer and a girl who is lead more so by her heart than her head. To be honest though, I don’t set long-term goals for myself as crazy as that my sound. Looking back 10 years ago, I would have never imagined where I am now. God has answered prayers my heart never even prayed. He has paved my path in such a beautiful way. In 10 years, I hope that I am still happy and have an even deeper relationship with Christ. I trust that whatever He has planned for my life, it is good and holy.
Fill in the blank
A typical day in my life looks like…
Everyday looks different for myself. I may or may not have a shoot any given day but on days that I don’t have a photo session booked I wake up not long after my husband leaves for work. I’m definitely not a morning person so I tend to take my mornings slow and allow myself time to wake-up. I love making myself a hot cup of tea and then meandering upstairs to check and answer emails for the day. After that I’ll run errands if I have any, edit, and then take my dog on a walk or drive to the dog park. I then like to come home and prepare dinner before Alex gets home. I find that I like to pray as I work throughout the day. Sprinkling prayer across my day is a good way for me to remain centered.
My favorite quote is...
If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, You would be there to lead me, You would be there to help me. Psalm 139:9
I feel most inspired when…
I’m listening to music I love or am in a beautiful place.
The Catholic Church is…
Home. A place for me to find refuge. Where I truly feel whole.