self worth

Nobody is Naturally Ugly

It occurred to me the other day that in all my time as I photographer, I still haven’t met a single person who is naturally ugly. There are people who conform or don’t conform to our cultural beauty standards. There are a few people I’ve seen with awful disfigurements – and if I stare long and hard at them I still can’t make them ugly in my eyes. There’s always something beautiful and redeeming about their bodies that makes me conclude that they are beautiful in the balance of it all. And even people whose faces naturally look a bit frowny or odd are transformed when they smile. I think the worst I can say about some people’s faces or bodies is that parts of them may be unpleasant. Sometimes just odd or more interesting than beautiful. But not ugly.

Something that happens to me probably once or twice a month is that I see a woman who probably doesn’t think much of herself – and I’m always guessing at that by how she carries herself or if she’s wearing something baggy and it doesn’t look like it’s just because she wants to be comfortable. I look at that woman and I have a moment of true appreciation of the human form and I think, “She probably doesn’t realize that she’s beautiful!” And I wish I could tell her, but I’m afraid that people will think I’m a super creepy person or something if I say things like that, no matter how well meaning they are. I’ve only managed to actually say it twice, and I got slightly strange looks each time. Sometimes I merely compliment them on their choice of earrings or handbag to be able to say something that might improve their day, though I can’t say with the depth of feeling I have how beautiful they look to me. And due to societal constraints I can pretty much never consider saying it to a man without it being seen as some sort of come-on. I see a lot of beauty in men, too. Men’s hands, for instance, are often beautiful or special in some way. They often show a lot about who the man is, or who he’s chosen to be.

Nearly always, during photo sessions and especially boudoir sessions, I feel that spike of beauty recognition for a moment, and later I see it in a photo again. Sometimes those are photos that the person doesn’t like. They will tell me, “My arm looks fat,” or “I have big teeth.” Or some such non-sense.

There are some photographers who see real beauty, and others who see possible beauty with some help, and others who see something a little deeper – beauty that shines out from beneath the surface and shows on the surface too. I’ve been privileged to meet some photographers and people who see that way, and I am continuing to develop that side of myself.

Every woman I have ever worked with as a family, wedding, and boudoir photographer has been beautiful. Every single Mom, every single little girl, every single teenager. Some people’s eyes are so stunning they take your breath away. Some people have gorgeous dimples. Some people have incredible bodies with amazing hips or cute butts. And gents, I’m not leaving you out either – but if I were to say I was looking at your butt I might scare some people away from family sessions – even though the truth is that I look at all of you, and I evaluate you all to find your assets. And everyone has some amazing assets, and never just one.

So what is ugly in this world, if not us? Is there a size by itself that is ugly? No. Fat is not ugly – there are many beautiful people – and I do mean beautiful on the outside – that are much larger than the status quo. Is skinny ugly? No, it’s not ugly by itself. There are many people who are very small with sweet faces and happy smiles that we adore. Size is not a standard we can judge beauty with.

But I can point out some things that make us ugly. Condemnation – even self-condemnation. Judgement of ourselves and of others. Tiredness because we don’t let ourselves rest. Hatred of ourselves or others. These things make people ugly, often on the outside as well as the inside. It’s all in the lens we look through. My camera can’t see anything beyond it’s lens without my help. It’s limited, and so are we. If we try to see ourselves and others through lenses that allow ourselves to track down any bit of ugliness we can find, we will end up hating something that may not be ugly in truth. Sure, there’s ugliness in the world, but I don’t believe it’s natural. We make choices that encourage it, or allow it to stay rooted in us.

So the next time you see someone whose face or body doesn’t look the way you’d expect a beautiful person to look, stop to consider. Look at their eyes, their smile, their hands, maybe even the small of their back. See if there’s something you can do to make them beautiful in your eyes.

This post is part of a series called Definition. Check out the original post.

Sexy And I Know It

Every time a gentleman calls me about getting a dudoir session, I get excited! I love it when guys are looking to use dudoir to help them regain self-confidence. Graeme, not his real name of course, had just gone through some really tough times, and wanted to do dudoir in part to help him feel sensual again for himself. I think it’s really brave for men to do something like that, to allow me to look into their world when they’re struggling with their self-concept and give them a piece of my mind – in a totally different way than you usually interact with a stranger.

My man Graeme chose our “Faceless Man” option, so unfortunately I can’t show you those sexy, daring eyes, or that full-out laughter, but he had a totally fantastic time at the session and the photos show that. It was a blast working with him. As you can see, Graeme’s body is not necessarily model material, but because that’s not what dudoir is about, it doesn’t matter. He’s exactly the kind of man I think can benefit most from a session like this.

Graeme may not have entered the session feeling all that great about himself, but once the photos came back he was thrilled. He’s sexy, and now he knows it.


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.