"I cannot thank you enough for this experience it was absolutely amazing for me."
So she wrote to me in a thank you note. She later expressed that I would never know what this experience meant to her. And I think she is right, I cannot know. I am only the photographer. Charged with the task of sculpting and teasing the individual beauty from each of my clients. I am not a psychologist or licensed therapist of some kind.
But what I do know is that there is an unintended second order reaction to a boudoir photography session. A reaction that may in fact be more powerful than just receiving a handful of beautiful images. I have often been advised by many a client how the experience has been a fulfilling one, one with deep meaning, reaching into and filling a void in self-confidence, self-worth.
Women become interested in boudoir photography for a variety of reasons, and their concerns number almost as many. Our society finds itself in a raging hurricane of images of feminine beauty, blasting from every form of media. While intellectually, the mind knows the imagery is manufactured and carefully tailored to sell a product; emotionally, women compare themselves to the impossible perfection found in these images and wrestle with terrible self-doubt.
Yet, they know that they somehow must compete. While they have the attention of a special person, yet they know he is blasted with the same ubiquitous imagery. And so they come, interested, and harboring a great deal of trepidation for their perceived shortcomings, yet they come. To see if they too can be held in such esteem by their loved ones. To give them a special gift, the visual feast that conveys desire to crown the affectionate relationship that they already have.
To this end, women show great courage as they do in all their great endeavours. Seeking to become mothers because they have so much love to give, but at great pain and danger to themselves. Seeking out boudoir photos because they have so much love to give, and yet engaging the scrutiny of personal vulnerability.
They arrive to the photosession not knowing what to expect, unsure of themselves, unsure of the process. And because of this, we go out of our way to make them comfortable, welcoming them, helping them select their best outfits, talking with them, laughing with them. The make up staff is as personable as your best friend, asking about your husband or lover, your background and interests, and your hopes for this shoot, all while pampering you with the attention lavished on a 5th Ave. Supermodel.
As supermodels dont typically walk around looking like supermodels (ever see the before and after shots of models in their every day lives and during a shoot?), so through the magic of make up, hairstyling, lighting, and expert camera work, we transform our every day clients into supermodels for a day. And they truly look stunning; even I am amazed every single time.
We want this to be an enriching experience. For our purposes, we need them to be engaged, to communicate what they came to say to their loved ones. In our images, they must let themselves go, to be able to impart through body language and facial expression, an earnest and genuine affection and desire. And to this end, we encourage them during the process of the shoot in a non-judgemental atmosphere so that we can achieve what they came to do.
We find that after 30-45 minutes, their initial concerns melt away and they are encouraged by the sample images they see and our exhortation to do even better. By the end of the session, they are physically sore (posing is hard work! -- modeling is not a trivial exercise!), but emotionally they are recharged and gratified.
And even still they harbor a twinge of self doubt. Until they see their photos. And then the tears start flowing. Yes, tears. Its that powerful.
Me, personally, I like to create beautiful images. The world is a weary place, filled with corruption and misery. And so I wallpaper my life with beautiful images. But I am deeply touched by how this simple visual craft is able to so powerfully affect my clients, as if I was a counselor or special friend. It makes what I do that much more meaningful. Its not simply boudoir photography anymore, its
'Chicken soup for the soul'