boudoir reasons

CTV News On Your Street – Ben’s Dudoir

When I began doing boudoir and dudoir photography about 5 years ago, it was really special. I was always aware that what I did when I was shooting in this genre meant something to the people I worked with, in a different way than when I was shooting weddings, new babies, and families. All good professional photography is meaningful and personal. (Even if you’re shooting corporate gigs, you’re still working with people and for people, so it’s personal.) But the genre of boudoir has captured my heart, and while over the years my love of photography in general has waxed and waned, as it does for anyone working in a field for a long time, I’ve always felt that boudoir was special, and that the work I did with people really mattered.

When Dez Melenka from CTV News Edmonton’s On Your Street contacted me for a serious story she wanted to run on dudoir and male body image, it made my day, and it made my day again when she said we were for sure going ahead with it. I’m so pleased to be able to bring more of a spotlight to the area of body image issues for both women and men, and to talk specifically about the higher pressures that men are under these days. From the term “metrosexual” to Channing Tatum’s lady-pleaser movies to Buzzfeed’s recent video where the Try Guys work with a style consultant, there’s a definite undercurrent of society telling men as well as women that their appearance is just not good enough. In a GQ study, 75% of men surveyed said that compared to 10 years ago, men today are under more pressure to care about their appearance.

Ben, one of the organizers of Edmonton’s chapter of the men’s group, The Remarkable Man project, decided to give dudoir a go and get outside his comfort zone. He told me that while one of the reasons he’s doing this is to give his wife some nice sexy photos, there was another reason: “I believe in what you’re doing here, and I wanted to support you.” While many of my clients say things that give me the warm fuzzies, that hit home in a deeper way. It’s amazing to have someone believe in you, isn’t it!

I have to say that while I have had challenges over the years, shooting a dudoir session while being filmed is up there with the best of them. Sometimes photographers talk about being “on the other side of the lens” but this was both sides simultaneously, and that doesn’t happen often! It did feel a bit like an artistic collaboration, though, so that was a neat aspect of the experience.

My friend Tammy who runs The Photographer Studio, which is shared studio space in two studios for photographers where I do a lot of my work in Edmonton was able to accomodate us coming in last minute for the session the next morning.

Ben is a bright and eloquent man, who shared honestly about the things he likes and hates about his body, and things he’s always felt self-conscious about. It’s refreshing, every time I have a session, that people find it easy to be so real with me. Ben said I was very friendly and warm and he felt comfortable with me, which I strive for every session – whether I’m working with a man or a woman. He also said that like all the other men I’ve worked with, he’d have been more nervous working with a male photographer – interestingly, from what I’ve heard, both genders typically prefer the female eye.

Here’s some of the eye candy we created together!

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Boudoir Reasons: Perfect – Gloria’s Story

Made a wrong turn once or twice
Dug my way out, blood and fire
Bad decisions, that’s alright
Welcome to my silly life 

When Gloria first contacted me, I knew it was a bit of an act of will. Like many of my clients, she’d been considering boudoir for a long time, and had finally come to the crux of the matter and made the call, or rather, in this case, the email. I find that email helps ladies preserve that sense of safety, especially in the beginning, so most of my clients approach me that way. Little did I know just how much she’d had to work through to get here.

Gloria told me in her initial email, “I have been through some amazing experiences which has brought me to where I am today.” And when I asked her on our session day about her reasons for doing a session – a standard question of mine on meeting a new client – she had a more unique story than most. After many years in a truly awful abusive relationship – she told me some stories that made me really angry, my usual response to abusive situations – she finally had the courage to leave the guy and find a better life. That definitely gets a cheer from me because it takes so much courage to do something like that. More courage than most of us can muster – and I immediately understood that Gloria was an extraordinary woman.

In real life, though, the part that takes even more courage than leaving is the long term recovery process from the deep scars that abuse causes. I was touched watching her sing along to Pink’s Perfect, a song I myself am pretty partial to, near the end of our session. She sang like a believer in the message that we should see something better in ourselves, for ourselves. This is one of the more extreme examples I’ve come across so far of someone doing boudoir for themselves and their own self esteem. Gloria is also one of the ladies I’ve worked with who isn’t a 20-something. I don’t think, and I never have, that the prime of your life is defined by your age. Part of that is that I grew up in the same home with my wonderful Grandma, whose vivacity and uniqueness (who am I kidding, a little bit of healthy eccentricity that I may or may not have inherited) helped me to see aging as a glorious blooming of a person after a hard life. Gloria was obviously in the prime of her life – in a place of emotional recovery from the brokenness of being mistreated, in a place where she could finally see some of her own beauty that had been torn down by someone’s meanness. She’s obviously found the road to a place of happiness and inner peace that she’s living life from these days, and it’s amazing to see. She’s definitely come a long way, and I’m happy to have been a step on that journey… And maybe more than one step – she was saying she might want to do another session next spring!

You’re so mean when you talk about yourself,
You are wrong

Change the voices in your head
Make them like you instead 

There’s a couple of misconceptions about boudoir photography that I don’t want my business to be a part of if I can help it. First off, boudoir is certainly not only for 20-somethings. It’s one thing to celebrate youth, and another thing to celebrate life, and I hope that my sessions will encourage the latter. I hope that more people will decide to celebrate life, at any time. Whenever they are ready, or even if they’re not. A lot of people think that boudoir is something people really only do as a gift for a partner, but it can be so much more than that if you do it for yourself. And heck, if you’re with someone or you want to be, sometimes doing something for yourself is doing something for your partner or future partner, at least I’ve found that myself in the past few years as I’ve been on the road to recovery from an eating disorder. Partly, for me, working with other women on their journey is helping me to heal, to see the beauty in myself as I look for it in the ladies and gents I work with. Partly, I’d like to help others to heal because life isn’t easy. Few people in our lives make it easier for us to see the beauty in ourselves. I hope I can be one of the few for some people at least.

 

Due to her past, Gloria – not her real name – requested that her name be changed and her images not be entirely public with my old Partial Privacy contract option, so a selection of her photos are in my “Private Show Gallery” which is password protected for Interested Ladies Only. If you are serious about working with Seven Deadly Sins, but you’d like to see a few more images, please give me a call and I will happily allow you a glimpse into the private gallery. My options have changed since this session, however. Get in touch to find out more about image and name protection.

P.S. The image thumbnail with this post is some artwork I did for a friend several years ago while I was in art school, and for me the emotion of it was a bit about abuse history in my family, so I’ve included it here.

Boudoir Reasons: April’s Story

Recently I had a wonderful experience working with a plus-sized client who was obviously beautiful inside and out. She told me that she had chosen me because she had seen larger ladies as a part of my portfolio, and because she believed I did beautiful work. It seems she wasn’t disappointed! As she was able to see first her previews and then her final images  she said the photos were “in one word… AMAZING. Thank you so much, I knew I could trust you with this.” That felt really humbling, and it struck me to my core – I had been trusted. I was aware that people were trusting me with their photos, but nobody had really put it into words before. I hadn’t thought about just how much they were entrusting me with until I saw it said like that. What a gift to be entrusted with something so personal – the fragile self-esteem of someone who is learning to love themselves, as we all are to some degree. It’s epic. Epically scary. And really, almost everyone I work with falls into that category.

Some people have already found that trust in themselves, and they come to boudoir ready to embrace themselves, ready for that joy. Others, like April, are a little earlier in the process of self-acceptance. You can see the courage and its counterpart, the fear, behind their eyes as they are embarking on the journey of boudoir photos with me. I can also tell these people when they say, “I’m just not the kind of person who would ever do this!”

Ironically, about 90% of my clients say that. I think I’d be out of business if only ladies who were the kind of person to immediately be attracted to getting a boudoir session signed up with me! I also think it’s a sign I’m doing this right. I set out to do boudoir because I wanted it to matter.

This particular client was the largest lady I’ve worked with so far. I almost never know what someone is going to look like when they open their door. It’s rare for me to meet the people I work with in advance except in cases of pretty bad anxiety about the session, and I confess I actually enjoy the challenge of finding the beauty in a person through my lens when I see them for the first time. It wasn’t hard to find the beauty in April, really. Her smiles lit up the room, and her story about the love of her life changing her feelings about how she looked really resonated with me, because that’s my story too. It made me feel kind of melty inside actually, hearing my story in someone else’s life. There’s some pretty awesome men out there, ladies, don’t you deny it!

I was nervous at first, knowing that I was being trusted with a relatively new and fragile self-esteem, but when I got home and saw that the photos had actually turned out very well, I was hopeful. Maybe they would really mean something. Maybe, as almost every artist and dreamer I know hopes from time to time, I am doing something that makes a difference.

April had decided to do this session as a gift for her fiance on their upcoming destination wedding and honeymoon, something she said she’d never have done without his supportive words about her loveliness  and those of her friends. Her maid of honor for her upcoming wedding was apparently very encouraging, and she ended up showing her the images as well, and getting a really positive response. In two weeks, her fiance will see them, and I suspect given what she was saying about how lovely he finds her that he will find them quite precious.

April – not her real name – has a job in a sensitive field and was really happy that my contract provided a Fully Private option. (You can find out more about my three contractual options at my FAQ. Clients who take the time to read through it often find it helps prepare them to have a session.)  I have never heard of a case of someone being stalked because of their photos being posted on a boudoir site (and trust me, it would be news) and I swear it’s not something anyone should worry about, but there’s definitely some people out there who wouldn’t necessarily understand boudoir for the self-esteem enhancer side so much, and I understand why some families and workplaces may be intolerant of any deviation from what is considered normal. When I asked if I could share her story and deviate from our contract with this one image that couldn’t identify her, she graciously agreed, and said “If it means more ladies can work with you like I did, whether for them or their partners, I’m all for that.” I remember taking this photo actually, and telling her sometimes the beauty is really found in the details.

I hope that if you are coming here on the fence about getting boudoir because your self-esteem isn’t great, you’ll consider that maybe this could help you. And for me – maybe I can make a difference. Here and there, maybe I can help someone find a way to love themselves more. If that’s something I am remembered for, I will be grateful to have had the chance to be a force for good. Self-worth and self-esteem for everyone!