When you look at photos of yourself, do they look and feel like you?

Or are your photos just a symptom of something bigger – something you aren’t facing?

My name is Melissa Nathalia de Blok, and I break down people’s walls like it’s my job.

(…That’s probably because it IS my job, but I digress.)

Whether it’s a silly face contest with Sir Richard Branson (clearly, I won), or reconnecting you with the deepest layers of your self – I help people celebrate their inner child, their journey, their loved ones, and their sense of purpose in a practical way.

Who are you, really?

Most of my clients don’t come to me because they need beautiful photos.
That’s just a bonus.  While working with me does lead to honest images of you and your life – the true result ends up being much more transformational than a bunch of pretty photos.

But I ask you this: how can a photographer capture you honestly, if they haven’t truly grasped who you are?  And how will they grasp who you are, when you feel like parts of you might be lost, elusive, or hidden in the dark?

You want to make more of a mark on the world through honest expression.  You’re acutely aware that an external shift in your success – or a renewed sense of movement and flow –  will require a deep and honest look at your internal ecosystem.

Maybe you sense that it’s time for you to take a detailed look at who you are, because you feel deep down that you’re ready to celebrate who you are.

Or, maybe you’re having trouble connecting with parts of who you are (or know you can be).  You’ve spent so much time exploring and introspecting, that you now find yourself missing the bigger picture. 

Perhaps you’ve had some major changes in your life that have led you to me.  My clients often claim to have found me by chance, in the most random of circumstances.  They feel a deep calling to create change, and are passionate about their craft. And of course: they’re ready to invest heavily into creating magic, both internally and externally.  But… they know they don’t want to go through this shadow work process alone (that takes ages anyway).

How can shadow work help?

All my clients go through my Signature Shadow Work Process.

Shadow work, put simply, is the process of facing the parts of yourself that are lurking under the surface.  The things you dislike, feel guilt/shame towards, or are running away from… all that is your shadow stuff. 

I often say I don’t coach – I coax.  I give you practical tools that allow you to work independently – but with my constant guidance.  It’s important to remember that everything you need is already within – I’m just here to give you a polite nudge in which direction to look.

Through a series of workbooks, clarity calls, and personalised voice messages (introvert-friendly!), I reconnect my clients with themselves on a deep but practical level.  First we find ways to celebrate where you came from, then we look closely at how incredible you are in the present.  We look at everything – and everyone – that makes you who you are.  Finally, we tie it all up by reconnecting your present moment – from your daily rituals to an honest look at your character – with the vision of where you want to be.

Before our photo sessions even begin, you’ll end up with clarity on your identity, what kind of mark you’ve left, and practical plans to help you move forward faster towards your dream life.  You’ll be able to look at the parts of yourself that you currently hide or run away from – and feel a growing sense of pride and celebration about everything you are.  Finally, your excuses will no longer feel like obstacles – but simply parts of your life that you’ve learned to harness.

What about the photos?

My Signature Shadow Work Process (outlined above) is designed to help you understand how confident you deserve to be, and foster a deeper connection with your purpose, power, and sense of self.  But you are human – and as humans, many of us need to see to believe.  I show up with my camera after the signature process to document and visually prove your internal belief that yes: you are worth celebrating.

A Day in the Life of You, for example, is amazing for people with a personal brand, or for people who feel like they need a reminder of the beauty in the mundane. As the title gives away, I follow you around for a day and capture a glimpse of your every-day life.   It’s a chance to be seen in your entirety, with nowhere to hide – a photographic version of the internal shadow work we’ve already done together.

As a bonus, you also get a full portrait session with me, so you can express your identity with photos that feel like you, where you look comfortable, confident, and real.  You end up with images that look like someone got an intimate glimpse of your mind, heart and spirit – every side of you.

A Celebration of You is all about celebrating yourself through the eyes of your loved ones.  In this unique experience, I literally celebrate you with an intimate lunch party.  I then photograph you with the people who make your life better, and help you fall in love all over again with who you are – as well as who you surround yourself with.  

Finally, The Essence of You is for the person who believes they deserve to be celebrated to the max.  This 6-day experience covers literally everything that makes you who you are (including the aforementioned experiences).  This is perfect for the person who cares deeply about legacy and self-love.

Note: I no longer am available for photo sessions outside these 3 experiences.

What makes me different?

Apart from the obvious fact that most photographers don’t do shadow work – and vice versa – here are some of the things that make me different from other paths you may consider:

My life experience: Doing it alone will get you similar results – I’m living proof of that – but that won’t get you there as fast as hiring me would.  I’ve incorporated the tools for my own massive transformation (which I’m writing a book about) with my 10 years of experience as a photographer, and tied that into my shadow work.

My complex background: My heart is at home in Nairobi, NYC, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Cape Town, Ubud, Edinburgh, and London.  I am Kenyan-Indian and Dutch, and have hobbies ranging from rally driving to Muay Thai, and sensory deprivation to playing fantasy MMORPGs.  As a result, my clients tend to be spread around the world – and just as complex as I am.  Working with me has a sense of familiarity – some say that it feels like coming home.

My eye for what makes YOU look good: I have years of experience in luxury portraiture (click here to read my take on the difference between luxury and regular photography) – which means you’re guaranteed to have images that you will absolutely adore.  You’d be surprised to find that many photographers care more about whether the image is ‘correct’, than whether or not you feel comfortable and confident.

Photographic honesty: I believe in representing you accurately – no blurring your skin beyond recognition, giving you a body that isn’t yours, or turning you into something you’re not.  It takes longer as I need to subtly edit out distracting elements without minimising who you are, but the result of seeing the real you… that is so worth it.

Experience with people like you: If you’re a creative introvert or lone wolf – like most of my clients are – then you’ll love the Pack – an online safe space that I created for people like yourself.  I started this community of 500+ members a few years ago, so my understanding of my clients goes beyond the usual “Oh, I’m an introvert too!”.

My personal vulnerability: I like to walk my talk.  I can’t ask my clients to get vulnerable with me if I don’t do the same thing.  I face my demons publicly on my Instagram, in order to provide inspiration for others to do the same.

My constant evolution: I believe in endless education, as opposed to doing a multiple-year course and then thinking that’s the end of it.  I have been trained in-person by some of the best (Peter Hurley, Tom Hoops, among others) in the industry, and thanks to the gift of the internet – I spend some time each week learning from masters at photography.  I also make sure I attend conferences and masterminds on a yearly basis – and invest over a third of my time and money into my personal, spiritual, and professional growth.

My respect for inclusivity: Due to my background – I have worked with a very wide range in the spectrum of age, gender, ability, body shape, belief, and ethnicity.  If you’re wondering whether I can or will photograph you – the answer is probably yes.

“I don’t look good in photos”: If you feel like you’re not photogenic, I’m probably perfect for your needs – my roots in photography started with people who felt extremely uncomfortable in front of cameras.  I enjoy working with people like that because it means I can uncover more of the truth, instead of having you revert to your usual poses.

My intuition/channelling: I often read/notice people’s energy shifts, childhood issues, insecurities, and general shadows before they do.  As a result, the flow of my work relies on me sensing subtle shifts in tone/expression and adjusting the session (both shadow work and photography) accordingly.  It’s the number one reason I get the results I do. It’s also why I’m unable to work with people who are unwilling to be open with me – it can be incredibly alarming for a closed-off person to have their discomfort witnessed, confronted, and questioned when they’re so used to hiding it all with a mask.  It’s not something I have the appropriate vocabulary for, but most of my clients automatically feel a pull when I describe this to them.  Some things do not need to be filtered through the lens of language.

My work history: In case it wasn’t clear – before all else, I am a writer.  Other than my shadow work and 10 years of photography, I also spent a few years specialising in online marketing and branding identity for personal/small brands.  Oh, and there’s also the fact that I was a teen popstar…  In another world, I still sing, and have been recording professionally for almost 2 decades.

My decision to live in both worlds: From a young age, I knew that my purpose would rest with one foot firmly planted in the energetic/woo-woo world, while the other would be rooted in science, fact, and practicality.  In my spiritual life, I’ve been studying and learning for 20 years, which has forged a path that passed through Catholicism, Wicca, Islam (Sufism), the Bahá’í faith, Hermetic Qabalah, Druidry, and studies like astrology, numerology, chaos magick, and tarot. I am also extremely passionate about acupuncture and TCM as a whole, and spend lots of time studying energetic forms of healing that have transformed my life. 
However, I’m also keen on studying how to bridge the gap – I enjoy mathematics, appreciate and respect science, psychology and modern medicine, and try to stay as factual and evidence-driven as possible in my work and personal life.  I adore the poetic side of life, but understand that practicality and routine are the structure of all dreams.  As a result, the work we do is energetically in tune while having a healthy basis of practical solutions. 

The last three photos – and the next one – are self-portraits.

Who is this not for?

 In order to provide the highest level of service, I can’t – and won’t – work with absolutely everyone who contacts me.

To ensure my quality and energy levels stay high, we cannot work together if any of the following applies to you:

  • You don’t like being wrong, or confronted about the lies you tell yourself.
  • You’re quick to get defensive when someone points out something that isn’t positive/approving.
  • You just want photos.
  • You’re unwilling to explore your shadows or get vulnerable with me.
  • You doubt the concept of intuition, or your ability to achieve your biggest dreams.
  • You speak about wanting big change, but do the bare minimum to get there.
  • You openly criticise others for having an abortion, being LGBTQIA+, or other acts/identities that don’t really affect your life.
  • You think intersectional feminism or the Black Lives Matter movement are anything but necessary.

You were successfully able to capture the key moments that made us who we are .. [You] were able to show something beautiful where we may not have noticed it before.

You are more than just a photographer, you are a friend – and the level of comfort you inspire can be found back in the very images described before.

Deejay Kace

The African Mzungu, Nairobi

You showed a side of me I never thought I could appreciate. …  I think it opened me to being more comfortable in my true skin … I wanna say thank you again for the self esteem boost and showing me more about myself I couldn’t see long ago.  

Carol Linh Lee

Dubai

Working with you is like being filmed without knowing it, and then having the footage played back to you – and you had no idea that that’s what you’ve been doing in the world.

Private Client

Actress, NYC

Curious, intrigued – or just plain ready to make a shift?

I like to start with a conversation, so that we can see how I might be able to support you in your journey.  During this stage in the process, I get clarity on what you need help with, and you get to see whether my work is right for you.

Practical notes:
I am available wherever planes will fly and boats will dock.
Introspective photography experiences can be booked 2 -24 months in advance.
I work with a maximum of 4 clients per month, so I recommend booking early.

Not ready to reach out to me yet?
No problem.  You have 3 other options:

 

An honest note on being ready”

I have spent many years of my life saying that I’ll do a particular thing once I’ve reached a certain place (mentally, financially, physically) in my life.  It’s taken me a lot of heartache to discover that I would’ve reached that place faster if I had done the particular thing I kept delaying first.  As George Clooney’s character says in this wonderful clip – you have to do the thing you’re afraid to do before you have the courage to do it.  The courage shows up afterwards.

Everything is a muscle – your courage and level of readiness included.  If your current path isn’t working for you, the only way to shift your results is to make a shift in your process.  If you want small shifts in your results, then small shifts in your process will work – but if you desire large shifts in your results, then why are you choosing to wait for some sign of permission?

Truly, we are never ready.  Ever.  So I always ask my clients to get honest:  either commit to making a shift in a big way, or say the truth – that not being ready is either an excuse to avoid showing up fully, or because I am simply not for you (which doesn’t offend me in the slightest, as I am not for everyone).

More love notes:

I barely know you outside of your photography, and yet I feel like we are good friends.

You allow a person to really be themselves, and just before things start to feel awkward or stale you jump in with a question or a thought that may not necessarily be related to the shoot but unmasks whatever genuine emotion you intend to capture. I think of myself as naturally quite shy, and I usually expect to look awkward and goofy in pictures, but both times I’ve had shoots with you so far I’ve looked forward to being in front of your camera and excited to see the end results. I see myself in the mirror every single day, but there’s still something so special about seeing myself through your lens.

I was in disbelief at how amazing you make me look! You manage to capture such genuine moments that I feel like I’m seeing my true self through someone else’s eyes. … although feeling so stripped down and vulnerable in your pictures is shocking at first, it makes me feel truly beautiful.  Usually when someone takes a picture of me, I look for all the possible flaws that can be seen: skin imperfections, awkward poses or expressions etc.. but whenever you’ve taken pictures of me I’ve been like “wow! I’m gorgeous!”

Your pictures make me love myself.

Stefanie

Nairobi

Dear Melissa,

Having my picture taken with you was a relaxing experience. I felt as though I was in the hands of someone who knows their craft in and out, and would deliver perfection regardless of my shortcomings.  You were chatty and welcoming and that helped create a warm atmosphere, which kicked off the shoot to a great start. Furthermore, you were very handy with offering tips on how to pose, what to accentuate to improve a pose, and how to work with the camera… perhaps because you used to model, thus know the tricks of the trade? Whichever it is, it makes you a fantastic photographer to work with. 
You understood how tense and strange being in front of the camera could be, and you remedied it.
Winnie Muthoga (Thogi)

Nairobi

Pin It on Pinterest