Real Life Gratitude


The Rory Story

This is a personal story from the 2019 Real Life Curator, Director, Community Liaison, whatever you want to call her, Mary Moore. The Real Life Conference has had a huge impact on her life since it began, so big in fact she wrote a blog about it.

Mary Moore (left) and Erika Jensen Mann (right) sit front row at the 2016 Conference | Photo by Jody Goodwin

As some of you know, I gave birth to my first son one month ago today. His name is Rory.

I have never felt more powerful yet vulnerable in my life than the days following his birth. Feeling this struggle in my walk around “real life” has been a lot to process. I debate myself daily if I feel emotionally available enough to stretch beyond grounding myself and Rory, but today I'm realizing that spiral of doubt could go on forever and I really don't want it to. So here I am sharing some of my gratitude for this community as a way of diving back in.

Before Rory, a lot of my self love was cultivated from experiences with community members at the Real Life Conference and beyond. I've tackled several consuming fears and shameful ideas I had about myself through listening, learning and sharing genuine moments with many amazing people at this event. We shared a passion for photography, but beyond that we shared our humanity. I can honestly say that (unexpectedly) Real Life has brought me a lot of joy and helped me to tackle my anxiety towards becoming a mother and in turn I have become a more wholehearted person and photographer. Here are some highlights of this journey:


— At the inaugural Real Life, speaker Kirsten Lewis Bethmann shared her raw path to motherhood openly and honestly on stage, including all the heartache and determination she had along the way.

— During Kirsten's two-hour master class she also breastfed her hungry baby while delivering her talk. This openness and confidence in her role as a mother and working professional moved many and really stuck with me.

Photo by Erika Jensen Mann

Photo by Erika Jensen Mann


— To begin the conference Erika Jensen Mann asked everyone to write down our number one fear on a post-it. My fear was about all the risks of becoming a mother. Writing it felt simple, but that rarely spoken feeling was debilitating my relationship, work and life. Erika then asked us to share it with someone. Wow, bravery stepped in to make that happen, but doing so sparked a deeper connection to my fear in a way that helped to make it less powerful. From then on I made it a goal of those three days to have an open conversation with that fear.

— Jenna Shouldice spoke about her long term birth photography project on stage and I was in awe of her stories of women's resolve to live beyond limits or expectations and give life on their own powerful terms. I saw stories of motherhood and birth that I had rarely seen portrayed that I could actually relate to. My fear still lived within me, but by the ending night party I felt enough confidence to ask Jenna that in the event I became pregnant if she would photograph my birth.

Photo by Jenn Nauss

Photo by Jenn Nauss


— Through the lessons I learned and the barriers I confronted I became pregnant. I came to Real Life early in my first trimester and shared the news with everyone there.

— Jenna, Kirsten, Erika and so many other friends (old and new) were in attendance to celebrate with and thank for their authenticity, openness and support. I didn’t know the majority of these women before Real Life and now through deep discussions and silly experiences, like the pajama night panel discussion, we have bonded deeper (while not caring how silly we look).

Photo by Kirsten Lewis Bethmann

Photo by Kirsten Lewis Bethmann

Beyond these highlights, there is so much more I could share. Every speaker, over the three years, have had an impact on my person and gratitude for that will always flow through me. Now this year as an organizer of Real Life, to say I am passionate and excited for November is an understatement. Life shifting events have happened not only to me, but for many attendees and speakers after they took the leap to be there. Simply put, Real Life Conference is much more than a photography conference. It’s something you need to experience to fully understand. I invite alumna to share their life-shifting, post-conference stories — publicly or privately — with friends you know needs to come.

Here I am with Rory on day one. Taken by Jenna Shouldice, as planned. Wishing feelings of gratitude for everyone, I’ll see you in November!

Photo by Jenna Shouldice

Photo by Jenna Shouldice

Mary Moore