Alaina Michelle

Conversations on Trauma and Awakening: Alaina Michella

Interviewed by Gabriella Evans
“There is a deep humanity and freedom in confronting the hardest things to look at.”

Alaina, who was born and raised in Vancouver, studied at Emily Carr University and is now a practicing fine art and portrait photographer working internationally.

Her photographic style is intimate in nature, and revolves around themes of creation, intuition, freedom and sensuality. Many of her works hold an anonymous quality to them; allowing the viewer to insert themselves into the image. Her photographs are distinguished in their ability to evoke nostalgia, and a sense of internal struggle. The vulnerability involved in her work is an important practice for her and her clients alike.

When not behind the lens, you can find Alaina cooking for her friends and family, travelling the world, mentoring other photographers, and always stopping to smell the flowers.


Describe yourself in 3 words. 

Creative, curious, passionate.


How would those who love and respect you describe you? 

I asked those closest to me to describe me, and I have to say - this is such a powerful exercise everyone should do! I was described as nurturing, fun, open-minded, artistic, driven, someone who seeks connection, and my favourite of all, 'joiede vivre' which translates to 'the joy of living'. My best friend said that phrase and I think it's the best way to describe my life philosophy.


What helps you feel safe and grounded? 

I feel safest when I can share openly without fear of judgement. I'm also the type of person that needs lots of space and time to digest and to come to my own conclusions. Moving my body daily helps me feel grounded and unstuck. I also recite mantras each morning that revolve around gratitude and knowing that I have everything I need within me. These daily check-ins are a form of self-care that I have come to love!


How would you define trauma? 

We are shaped by our environment and life events. Painful events can be stored in the body as energy, which I believe contributes greatly to our internal programming and coping skills as we move through life.


How has trauma contributed to your suffering?

My trauma has contributed to my suffering in the way of not feeling like I am enough. This has manifested into seeking external validation, playing small and self-sabotaging.There have been times I've found myself feeling very disconnected and paralyzed.


How has suffering contributed to your personal awakening or evolution?

Sitting with my suffering has allowed me to realize that the traumas behind my self-limiting thoughts do not define my character. There is a deep humanity and freedom in confronting the hardest things to look at. Doing this has allowed me to grow and move forward. My confidence has evolved because I’m no longer scared to look within, rather I treat myself with compassion and curiosity as opposed to fear.


How has suffering contributed to allowing you to align with your highest creative self, if it has?

By being open and honest about my suffering, the shame aspect has dissipated. Practicing the radical acceptance of ‘what is’ has been extremely powerful for me. It’s taught me I can rely on and trust myself without wishing things were different than they are. I’ve found peace in realizing my thoughts are not who I am. On the most basic human level we can all relate to each other in our suffering. The circumstances may differ, but the basic human needs are all things we share. This has been very beneficial in my work as a photographer where I rely so heavily on my own vulnerability and the vulnerability of thoseI work with. I create art with intent and the photo sessions have a therapeutic effect on both me and my clients. It's an incredible gift and responsibility to have this as part of my work!


What words of wisdom would you offer to those who are stuck in suffering that is similar to what you have been through in the past?

Energy is always moving and evolving, which means you if you feel one way now it doesn’t mean you will always feel that way. Seeking help and community, moving the body and meditating have all helped me. We can be perfect 'works in progress' - this type of work is ongoing and you just have to take it day by day. I also think it's super helpful to be inquisitive and to adopt a curious attitude when inquiring within. Be kind to yourself :)