Shadow&Soul PhoBLOGraphy » photos by rhs.

  • Welcome!

    Thank you for checking in on Shadow&Soul Photography! I am currently based out of Bloomfield Hills, MI, and I specialize in on-location lifestyle, still life, and portrait photography for adults, children, and families. Here you can view some of my latest photos and follow along as I document my everyday adventures. If you are interested in viewing my work in a more organized fashion, you may wish to view my client and art portfolios using the buttons above.

    Please kick back and enjoy the images, and drop me a line or leave a few notes on any of my posts if you like what you see. It's a pleasure having you here! - rhs :)

Disclaimer: There has been a lot of online discussion recently about the KAD/adoptee experience that I believe is fantastic for purposes of dialogue and raising awareness. I had written this post prior to the release of the most recent NYTimes article, so this post should not be viewed as a response to it. This topic is different, but relevant as an aside.  To be clear, I cannot and do not claim to speak on behalf of KADs/adopted persons, or to suggest my ways of handling the very complicated adoptee experience is correct and universally applicable. My thoughts are my own and I thank you for being respectful.  -rhs

Dear Friends,

I do not intend to overwhelm my photoblog followers with frequent posts on this topic. However, as with any potentially life-changing event, I felt it might be helpful to outline my thoughts for those who have inquired. This topic is not photo-related nor photo-heavy as of now… we shall see how this works out over the next few years.

After a very long hiatus, I have decided to re-embark on my search for my birth family. This is a journey that many adoptees in the community have taken with results as varied as the people themselves.  For my part, my previous attempts to search have been nothing short of painful. DNA tests, letters written, and tears shed over dead ends led me to a fairly dark place of rejection and loss that festered within me, albeit privately, for most of my young adult life. I did not speak of those thoughts frequently or openly, not even with my adopted family. However, the feelings never left. It was only after having passed the bar and having welcomed a joyful new family member that my perspective on the situation truly changed.  And now, after having been kicked to the curb several times, and after an extended recovery period, I am ready to to stand up and start anew.

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Those who know me well may ask why things are different this time, and the answer is simple: this time my goal is not to meet my birth family. This time, the goal is simply to make myself available and approachable for my birth family to find me.

There were many flaws from my search before, and for me, the most notable was attitude. At the very beginning I felt so entitled to the information about my birth mother, the circumstances leading to my relinquishment, and my medical history, that recovering anything less than 100% of the information was unacceptable. After 10 years of searching, my 20-year-old eyes saw only that my birth mother owed me an explanation for everything; that I deserved an answer for why I felt so lost.  I was blind to the feelings of shame and loss that perhaps my birth mother was feeling at the time of my birth – and where I was not blind, I simply did not care. All that mattered in the beginning was me, my feelings, and my desire to place the blame for my pain somewhere. And all of that was, to say the least, short-sighted and selfish.

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I have been toying with this thought for a while now that, despite how badly I wish my birth mother and family to be a part of my life, I do not need that relationship to feel complete. I no longer desire to have a close-knit maternal relationship with my birth mother – merely, I want for her to have found happiness in her own life. As badly as I want to have questions answered, I do not need those questions answered to know that my future will be bright, and that my world will be full of love.  As I mentioned in my 30th b-day post, I am more whole than I have ever been, and I know that those around me will love me and be there, even if my birth family cannot be there.

For me, this journey is not about forgiveness for my birth mother’s absence as much as it is about my own thankfulness for where I am today.  Mind you, I am not talking about the guilt-ridden “all adoptess should be grateful” rhetoric asserted by misinformed family members and random members of the public. Indeed, only adoptees truly understand the complicated nature of what it means to be grateful regarding adoption. Not loving every part of our adoption experience does not mean we are ungrateful for that which makes us feel alive and driven.  I have hated Korea for hosting a society that frowned upon children of unwed mothers, and that put pressure on those mothers to relinquish those children. I have hated the USA for hosting a society that did not appear ready to address the issues of race, rejection, gender, loss and other issues international adoptees often face – a society that appeared to view adoption as a charitable act.  And, sadly, I have hated my birth mother for putting me in this position, leaving me to battle these demons alone. But even in those moments of despair and disappointment, I have also been lucky enough to always have someone who loves me pull me close and help me remember that I have much in this world still worth fighting for. Adoptees can be grateful for our families and our successes and simultaneously be at odds with those who proclaim “we are better off” now than we were and who demand we just “move on.”  When I speak of thankfulness, I mean thankfulness for the whole package – for where I am now, and for how difficult it was to get here.

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Of course, not every adoptee feels this way – we all experience pain, love, loss, happiness, confusion, and anger differently.  But for me, I am at peace with my decision to start slow and to search in a way that puts the ball in my birth family’s court in the end.  No private investigators, no sneaky tactics that might cause more harm than good. I cannot in good conscience demand of my birth mother her most private and personal information and expect to give nothing in return – we are beyond that now. I am at a point in my life where I can be the brave one and step into the spotlight: I can travel to Korea, try to be on TV, put ads in the paper, share my story via social media, and so forth.   It is my turn to control that narrative; I can put myself out there and be vulnerable, and make the space between us safe and welcoming for my birth mother and her family to enter. Yes, it is a bit intimidating to open myself up to rejection again – to expose those feelings I had tried to keep private for so long. But today, I know myself better and I know I can take it.   I shall allow myself the openness that will allow her to find me someday, if that is her wish.

I have been blessed by the love of my adoptive family, my husband, my son and my long-time friends. If my birth family wishes to be a part of this life in some way, they are welcome … if not, “gwaenchanhayo.”

Thank you all for joining me on this journey and for your support over the years. I look forward to what the future may bring.

xo, rhs

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About 10 years ago, I had my first encounter with the mother of all fashionista shows, Sex and the City.  The outfits, the “lady issues,” and the SHOES – my 20-year-old heart could barely take it! :)   Indeed, I was several years late boarding the Carrie Bradshaw train due to the lack of cable at home and funds in my college-aged wallet. That being said, my interest in fashion had been around since, oh, age 1; and when I first laid eyes on those gorgeous silver d’Orsays from Season 6: Episode 9, my brain reset.  I was completely smitten.   Since then, I have been on a committed (but not exactly “die-hard”) quest to own those shiny lovelies. It has taken a while, but this year is the year that my grubby hands were finally able to get hold of these untouchable, unicorn-like shoes.

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My personal style has evolved quite a bit since college. Though hoodies and chucks are still on regular rotation, I find myself reaching for staples like pencil skirts, fitted blazers, pumps and the occasional animal/skull-print accents for everyday wear. Though I would never put myself out there as being a completely fashion-obsessed person, I would say that my love of styling clothing and finding special pieces has grown significantly in the last few years thanks to the discovery of new style inspirations (Wendy Nguyen, Jean from ExtraPetite, Kate Middleton) and a re-discovered appreciation for classic icons (Audrey Hepburn & Jackie O).

I have many special pieces I know will stand the test of time (my first Louboutins from the Mr., my LV Speedy, my Burberry trench) and several more that I will always hold dear, even as they fade out of their on-trend status (my McQueen skull scarf, my lilac Balenciaga City bag). However, these SATC shoes, for me, transcend fashion and have become something else entirely. Without a doubt, these shoes are a symbol of accomplishment for me – they represent patience, hard work, dedication and an all-around drive to become someone stronger, smarter, happier, and whole.  I know it may seem silly to put such an emphasis on an item so ephemeral. But to apologize for doing so would likely be doing myself a disservice given my efforts to obtain these.

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The quest to have these shoes was not simply one of saving enough money to buy them. Money was not the issue as much as it was feeling as if I had earned the right to own them that was keeping me from  just “picking them up” at the store.  From the day I first set foot on the University of Michigan’s campus, I made a promise to myself that I would “never go back” to being the self-doubting, scared and angry little Asian girl I was in high school – a girl who, now, seems like a mere shadow if myself. I wanted to prove to myself, more than anyone, that I could be a Carrie Bradshaw of the real world – a stylish, confident, professional and driven person. A flawed person, of course, but still a person who accepts her flaws and learns from her mistakes – one who never stops believing that she can continue to grow and become a positive role model for others.  I wanted others to know that I am someone who does not take anything for granted, and who is not above rolling up her sleeves and getting a little grit under her nails to get the job done.

Without meaning to sound arrogant, I believe I can look at myself today in the mirror and see, reflected back, a self-assured, confident, motivated and accomplished woman. I am a mother of a beautiful son, a wife of a wonderful man, a hard-working lawyer, a home-owner, and most importantly, a happy person. It seems fitting, and much like a touch of fate, that for my 30th birthday this year these shoes came back in stock, with only one pair remaining in the right color and size at the time I was ready to purchase them.  It means a great deal that, after all this time, I was able to buy these shoes with my own money, for an occasion that marks the beginning of a new and exciting time in my life. Though I may never have a little daughter with whom I may be able to share this story (and if she’s lucky, the shoes themselves), I will at least be able to share my accomplishments with my son, hoping to set an example for him that he CAN be who ever he wants to be if he has the courage and will to fight for it.

By no means is my journey toward being a better person over. My 30th birthday marks only the beginning of a new era, with new goals and new challenges ahead.  I know that it will never be easy walking in this woman’s shoes… but as Carrie once said, at least now that walk might be a little more fun. :)

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Manolo Blahnik “Sedaraby” in Silver

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