Real Life Gratitude


The Rory Story

Mary Moore started as an attendee and is now proudly the 2019 Real Life Conference Director, Curator, Community Liaison (picking a title is hard!). Today Mary shares how Real Life has impacted her life since its inception.

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

I gave birth to my first son one month ago today. His name is Rory.

I have never felt more powerful yet vulnerable than the days following his birth. For this past month, my days have been filled with joy and moments of doubt, that I’m doing everything “right.” So, to emphasize my precious feelings of power and joy, as I continue to recalibrate, I decided to share my gratitude for the Real Life community.

I love that attendees, speakers and organizers of Real Life Conference share a passion for photography, but beyond that they genuinely support one another in a pursuit for personal and collective growth. This camaraderie has helped me to tackle my barriers towards becoming a mother and in turn I have become a more wholehearted person and photographer. Simply put, Real Life helped me arrive to this life I am so thankful for today.

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 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. I wrote, ‘Fear 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. That facilitated exercise created an unexpected goal of those three days. I made myself open to have a conversation with the pressure I was placing on myself and the pressure I felt from the outside real or imagined.

— 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 and expectations to create life on their own powerful terms. I saw stories of motherhood and birth that I had rarely seen portrayed. I saw stories of the raw real experience 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 that gratitude for them will always flow through me. Now this year as the Director 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 taking the leap to attend.

Real Life Conference is much more than a photography conference. It’s something you need to experience to fully understand. So if you’re intrigued, let these words be your push to share in this enriching experience with a community unlike any other.

Oh, and I didn’t forget, here is the beautiful ending to the Real Life Rory story. Rory and I were captured day one by Jenna Shouldice, as planned.

Photo by Jenna Shouldice

Photo by Jenna Shouldice

Mary Moore