Debra A. Copeland

Picture Stories

Deb Gets to Be Celeb...For a Day

Young women (and others) living in the digital age take, share, and distribute pictures of themselves all the time. I grew up back in the day when selfies hadn't been invented yet and personal photos were available only individually on paper. Way back in the middle of the last century, when I was a kid, the only people who had telephones equipped with cameras were the Jetsons; my adolescent reality was a rotary, then touchtone phone shared with every member of the house.

For picture taking, my family shared Kodak cameras over the years. After all 24 exposures had been shot, we mailed the roll of film off to a lab which developed the negatives and then mailed the photographs back to us. Unless you used a Polaroid, there was no such thing as instant gratification back then, a lot of patience was involved when it came to picture taking. Inevitably, whenever pictures of me personally did came back in the mail, I was disappointed. I used to hate having my picture taken. Pictures only reminded me of what I perceived as my physical flaws, never my attributes.

All my life, I've been shy in front of a camera. So when my friend. . .

Photograph by Nick Crettier

. . .Eka Kapiotis, healer extraordinaire and generally magical person, gifted me with a professional photography session. . .



. . .with highly regarded and internationally published photographer Molly M. Peterson, I was nervous. 

The photo shoot had been gifted to Eka by Molly personally. Thinking I could use publicity photos when promoting myself as a writer, Eka generously passed the gift on to me. (I probably should mention here that not only have I spent a good portion of my life self-conscious and uncomfortable in front of cameras, I've also struggled with the notion of self-promotion. It wasn't that I didn't appreciate Eka's thoughtful gesture. It's that I didn't think I was worthy.)

For months I put off making the appointment. Finally, after a couple of earlier nudges, Eka reminded me that the gift offer soon would expire. I took a deep breath and contacted Molly. We set a date in early November. Election Day, to be exact.

When I happened to mention to my singer-songwriter/entertainment producer friend. . .


. . . Mary Shapiro what I was up to she said, “Hey, that sounds like fun--I'll be the producer!"

A producer! Mary inspired me to contact Kathleen Keller, a makeup artist whose clients included the Washington National Opera and several D.C. news outlets. Kathleen and I were acquaintances; she agreed to travel out to the country, out to "Little" Washington to do my makeup. 


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

A couple days before the shoot, Mary called to iron out details. While we were on the phone, she mentioned that she happened to be in possession of a bottle of champagne and a pomegranate in need of being eaten, why didn't she bring both to the shoot. Champagne. Pomegranate. Why not?! Here I'd been thinking all "serious author" but what if we made it a party, I love a good party! If the photos weren't used in promotions, I could still enjoy them personally. (Thank you, Mary, for making that offering, and for bringing ceremony to our gathering by speaking of the pomegranate's symbolism--which escapes me at the moment! 😳)


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

We met on the appointed day, cracked open the champagne, and Kathleen got to work. 


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

While I'd hate to have to do it every day, I love getting dolled up on occasion. I chose two outfits for the shoot, one a fashionable but professional blouse and pants ensemble, the other a gown I found on sale for $ not $$$. After hair and makeup, I dressed first in the gown. We went to the barn and climbed the stairs to the hayloft, where Mary arranged props and Kathleen applied finishing touches.


Photograph by Debra A. Copeland

Struck by how well it matched my new gown, I brought to the photo shoot as a kind of security blanket the prayer shawl my old and dear friend Karen Beach knitted for me the first time my son deployed to Afghanistan. When I'm wrapped in it, I can feel the love; it's like Karen's giving me a hug.

I also wore to the photoshoot my beautiful, hierloom-quality power cuff, given to me by my husband, and a cheap strand of pearls, which Mary decided looked better wrapped around my wrist than my neck. 

Mary had instructed me to bring props, things connected to my writing. I brought the lamp from my writing table and a copy of my book.


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

Then Molly got to work, and so did I, smiling for the camera.


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

I said I wanted it to be fun. . .


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

. . .but they made me laugh till I cried.


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

Enter stage right: Dexter, the dignified sheep herding dog, taking a break from work on the farm and conveniently wearing a tuxedo. Things got a little more serious.


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

For a while. By this time I had a champagne high and we were cuttin' up again.


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

I'd told Molly I'd like the photo shoot to be outside. She and her husband lived on a farm. At the time, I'd been reading and hearing a lot about the calming effects of chickens on humans. I was curious to find out. Would it be all right, I inquired of Molly, if I were photographed with the hens? Molly hospitably agreed. 

But when we left the barn and arrived at the chicken pasture, the man of the house did not make me welcome: while sitting on the ground holding one of his girls, I was ambushed from the rear. Turning to face my attacker, I saw a rooster with fire coming out of his eyes, one foot raised, poised to attack.

Thankfully, Molly was quick on her feet, and wearing some badass boots, one of which she used to shoo off Ninja Rooster. When Molly told him that if he could not be civil, he could be dinner, I know he settled down. 


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

The hen looks a little traumatized, unfortunately (but at least I don't). The prayer shawl still has briers in it. For some reason, I haven't wanted to pick them out.


Molly’s husband Mike, farmer extraordinaire and all around good guy, snapped this picture of us all. (I never got around to putting on the blouse and pants.) After the photo shoot I changed back into regular clothes and we all went out to lunch (except Kathleen, who had to go), and we had the best time. And, yes, of course we voted.


Congratulations to Dexter, who became a father as well as appeared on CBS Sunday Morning (along with his human family) a few days after the photo shoot. (Photo is of Dexter's second litter, not his first.)


And all best to the rooster, who appeared on CBS Sunday Morning too, crowing his head off again.


The photo session did end up being useful in publicity, as attested to by this poster created in 2013 for an event hosted by the Culpeper County Library. 

Postcript: It's been more than seven years since the photo shoot with Molly Peterson. I recently complained to my husband, while viewing myself in a video, that I sure can look goofy at times. He replied that at times, I am goofy and that I should just accept my goofiness, embrace it. We live in an era when videos are recorded, photos snapped, moment by moment as we (and others) record and memorialize every aspect of our daily lives. I've had to learn to get used to being in front of the lens, its everywhere. At their best, the photographs and videos we take serve as reminders of special times in our lives. Remembering special times in our lives allows us to relive them. Reliving the special time I had at the photography session with Molly Peterson, I realize that I have a much healthier attitude about feminine beauty today than I did even as recently as 2012. Today, in 2020, I'm more comfortable in my own skin. I don't know if it's a benefit that's come with age or is the result of over two decades of serious soul/energy work, or maybe a combination of both, but hey, isn't every woman beautiful anyway, when she knows who she is?


Photograph by Molly M. Peterson

Thank you, to the beautiful, exceptional, and inspirational women who made this Picture Story possible: Eka Kapiotis, Molly M. Peterson, Mary Shapiro, and Kathleen Keller.


03/2013 and 02/2020