Brittany ‘Minh Thủy’ Hawley is a very special person. She came to my studio for portraits a few years ago and I was so thrilled that she came back again a few weeks ago for portraits this year. She took advantage of the Shop Local initiative, and we had such a wonderful time. I am somehow more in love with her portraits this time around and I’m so very excited to share them today!
Now a bit from Brittany on her experience:
“I recently turned 25 and never expected to live to see that long. Here I am.
I am starting graduate school in a couple of weeks- studying public health, and want to focus on trauma from a public health perspective. I currently work in mental health. I am a transracial adoptee, with ambition to educate the world on adoption and trauma. I care deeply about social justice issues.
I am underestimated a lot because of my age and size. And then I go about proving people wrong all the time. People don’t expect me to be outspoken or advocate for myself or others. People don’t expect me to be as smart as I am because I “only have my Bachelor’s degree.” I think people expect me to fit in a box and be this “gentle woman,” and let me tell you, I am an empathetic, badass woman who does not have time for nonsense these days.
I wanted to be photographed again because I struggle with my body image and who I am as an individual. I wasn’t supposed to live to see 25, and so being here still seems like it should be photographed, ya know? I am trying to figure out where I fit into this world as a Vietnamese woman who has been surrounded by and raised by White people my entire life.
I like keeping people on their toes, because they never know what I’m going to say or do. A lot of these photos are badass, and a lot of them are vulnerable. I suck at being vulnerable, and while I joke I don’t have feelings, I feel really deeply, but I never show people that. Apparently, you can be a badass and still feel deeply, and trying to find balance for both of those.
I also try to bring joy into people’s lives with slight goofiness, and I enjoy that that is captured as well. I have also struggled with family and belonging for so long due to being adopted, and I wanted a few photos with my mom figure to just celebrate being a part of a true family, experiencing unconditional love and the mom look. Who knew having a mom was so important?
It’s nice to be loved by someone who doesn’t have to love you. (My other mom figure lives in D.C., so she could not be a part of this, sadly).
I really enjoyed a lot of these portraits because they’re ‘typically male’ poses, and I am posed here like, “screw gender norms.” I actually really hate how feminine is only seen as “dresses and long hair and nails done.” Or masculine is “only suits and button downs.” Excuse me? I look cute as hell in a dress or a suit. Just trying to change systems and norms. I am a strong, feminine woman, and I get to choose what is feminine.
My short hair, suit wearing, tattooed self goes against “societal expectations” for women, and I absolutely love defying every single system that has been put in place.
Oh, I love Jenn. I came back because she made the experience so great the first time, and now we’re friends. She knows how to help me see what other people see, which is a big struggle for me. And we always have so much fun and so many laughs. Jenn knows how to make people feel safe and beautiful in her studio.
And, this was my first time working with Emily, and she is just as amazing. We even have a similar tattoo! I’m not one to wear makeup, and Emily did a wonderful job. Most importantly, Emily did a phenomenal job with my hair and eyebrows. I’m very particular about my hair, and Emily nailed it! And she is just so much fun to talk to, and she also has great hair. She understands the power of being a woman with short hair in this society.
When I look at these images, I see a lot of my personalities. Serious, goofy, intimate, some of them I’m just waiting for someone to ask me something and letting people know facts or opinions.
One in particular, the one with the flowers, just really helps me see my Vietnamese self. It’s hard to describe, it just does. I’m just myself in these. I’m not fully hiding behind my professionalism, which I almost always do. I’m just fully, authentically, unapologetically, me.” ~Brittany