Why I love photographing…Women

This is going to be the first in a series of ‘Why I love photographing…‘ There are all sorts of things I love to photograph, but the reason this is the first is because I have truly realised in the last few months that my passion is portrait photography, and especially photographing women.

As women, we grow up with images of long-legged, well-endowed, perky-breasted Barbie Dolls and super skinny, beautiful Super Models and subconsciously – and consciously – we think that this is the way we SHOULD look – not to mention TV shows like Baywatch and any of the American sitcoms, soaps and dramas (there are too many to mention!). We very early on begin to think about all the things that are ‘wrong’ with the way we look, rather than embracing the way we look and loving ourselves as we are. I have noticed that even my daughter who is a complete tomboy has a totally distorted view of her body and her self-image. She compares herself to other girls in her class and in the school playground and even at the age of 6 she was already saying she was fat or that she had a big belly – which incidentally she didn’t/doesn’t – but it was in comparing herself to the others, that for some reason she aligned herself to the idea of being fat. I have always been very careful about the language I use around as far as body-image is concerned, and have never made a big deal out of it, but it very noticeable that it is from such an early age that we are confronted with images and ideas of what we should look like, rather than images depicting what we do look like and how different and glorious (in our differences) we all are.

Essence of Woman

Essence of Woman

As we get older, these limiting and often destructive self-beliefs stay with us into adulthood. When we grow boobs, get pregnant, grow bigger boobs, get a belly, get a bigger belly, lose the belly, lose the boobs, have more children, develop scars, suffer during hormonal changes, fight our way through menopause, go through depression, end up with a hysterectomy etc all these beliefs shift and change, and not usually for the better (at least not for a while, and often not without help)- they often get worse and leave us without a clue as to who we are or how to feel good about ourselves.

This is where I hope I come in. The reason why I love photographing women is that through the medium of photography, I hope to be able to not only show women how beautiful they really are – even if they have forgotten – but also show them how other people see them. I can’t count how many times someone’s partner or husband has told me that the woman in their lives is the most beautiful thing on earth and that she just can’t see it herself. It is so difficult to see ourselves objectively. I for one, hate my own smile. I don’t like my teeth, but if ever I mention this, people inevitably say ‘what’s wrong with them?’ – they can’t se what I see – and likewise, I cannot see what they see. We are terribly self-critical, more so, I believe, than most men.

Photography can be such an amazing aid in rediscovering one’s inner and outer beauty. I can’t recall ever doing a portrait or boudoir shoot where I didn’t think the person was beautiful in some way. To me, it is all about the person and finding out who they are on the inside and then capturing how they shine. When you see that ‘shine’, you see their beauty – both inside and out. Being able to capture that, is why I want to be a photographer and why I love photographing women. Helping women feel beautiful, helping women feel special, helping them regain part of what has been lost or forgotten. It is such an immense privilege really and being there when they see the images, is really special. It is, however not just about the final images. When a woman walks into my studio, nervous and a little anxious about being there and not really understanding how she got there (emotionally), seeing her relax, seeing her start to have fun and then once the shoot is over, saying upon leaving ‘I didn’t think I could do that, but I would do it again!’ THAT is why I do what I do. THAT is why I love photographing women.

Tips for photographing women

This is a whole other blog post really, but if I was to just give 3 tips for photographing women, I would say:

1 – If possible, meet with your clients in advance of the shoot. Get to know them a little bit, make them a coffee and chat with them to see what it is they are after and what they want to achieve – and most importantly WHY they want to have a shoot in the first place.

2 – Pinterest! I always send my clients away with some homework. I ask them to set up a Pinterest board and share it (with me in advance of the shoot) full of images for inspiration for their shoot! We all want very different things, like different pieces of art, have various ideas of what beauty is – so by giving them some homework and making them think about the sort of things that inspire them, I am giving them ownership of the shoot, so the shoot becomes a two-way thing and they can truly feel a part of it, rather than an object within it.

3 – Don’t worry! If for some reason the shoot isn’t working – your client is ultra nervous or perhaps something is just not clicking – just breathe! Take a break, have a laugh, make a coffee – and don’t be afraid to tell your client that you might want to try something else… even if it means redoing the make-up, or changing clothes. Of course it is important that you are in control so that your client doesn’t feel any more nervous than they already are, but the most important thing is to be REAL, to be CONGRUENT. Don’t pretend something is working if it isn’t…take 5 and fix it! Guess that goes for all subjects!

Essence of Woman

Essence of Woman

If you would like more information on my Essence of Woman project or would like to talk to me about booking a session or seeing what is involved in having your photograph taken by me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch either via social media or email: christina@christina-dithmar-photography.co.uk

Funeral Photography

Funeral Photography – To be or not to be a funeral photographer…

I have for some time now been thinking about offering my services as a funeral photographer for traditional as well natural/humanist funerals. I look back on all the funerals I have been to (which is not many I have to say), the funerals of loved ones that happened mostly when I was in my early twenties, and I realised how much I would have loved there to have been photographs of the whole family and close friends together, so that now we would be able to remember the day more clearly. We would be able to remember who was there, what the flowers looked like, the church, the weather, remember the people there then and later deceased now too, remember that the day, although sad, was mingled with hope and some happiness from us all being together again. I was so caught up in the emotion of the days, that I simply don’t remember anything. What a shame for the end of someone’s life, their celebration, to simply be forgotten.

For many families, weddings, christenings and funerals are the only time that they get together, and often these events are quite far apart. These days many of us live far away from our families, especially our extended families, and as we get older, funerals are the only time we all manage to be in the same place at the same time.

I know that people might think that it is a little macabre wanting to photograph funerals, but essentially, photographing a funeral is much like photographing a wedding, for a photographer. As a wedding photographer I spend most of my time keeping my distance, using a photojournalistic approach to photography. I never want to be the centre of attention, I just want to blend into the surroundings, become part of the furniture and be very sensitive to the needs of the people around me. Of course there are always the posed family group shots, the fun bridesmaids ones, the ones of the children at a wedding and some time alone with the bride and groom, but who is to say that the family shots could not also be a part of a funeral, just dealt with more sensitively perhaps.

Wedding photography takes a great deal of planning, with meetings/consultations with the bride and groom before hand. In the same way, I would meet with the family of the deceased – or perhaps the person suffering from a life-limiting illness – and discuss what they would particularly like to be photographed, creating a shot list, much like I would for a wedding. If it is a traditional funeral, they might only want the arrival of the cortege and the family as well as the service and the leaving of the cortege to be photographed, or perhaps they want the whole day shot, including the wake, the service and the cremation, the decorations, the food, flowers, the headstone, any speeches, the order of service and most importantly the people. On the other hand, if it is a natural funeral, in a woodland venue perhaps, they may wish for the photographer to be there all day, taking photos of people, offerings, decorations, flowers and the farewell celebration at the end. I think we all have different ideas about what we would like as our funeral – how we want people to celebrate our lives once we are gone – and that in itself is the beauty of it. It would be such an honour to be able to be a part of that, to help the families carry on the memory of their loved one.

On a personal note I would definitely want my funeral photographed and have already decided on the photographer I would ask and the celebrant too. I would want my loved ones to be able to remember the day with fondness, hopefully with a little joy in there too, as well as the inevitable sadness that funerals hold – we can hardly get away from that and nor should we. I don’t think that there are many funerals that are completely joyous occasions and at times, shooting a funeral could well get very emotional (for those that know me, you know that this is the part I am likely to struggle with most as I have been known to cry at weddings), but I think one would simply have to acknowledge that the emotions are there and take a break, if and when the break was needed.

I would offer that each funeral package should come with a book of the images included in the price and I would personally want to offer a bit more than just the photography. I think the option of having a larger keepsake book made, where the family can add old letters, memories, writings, ticket stubs, diary entries, emails, drawings, personal photos and all sorts of other lovely things that can be scanned in and added to the book of funeral images, would be a wonderful idea for the people left behind to have and to pass on to the next generations to follow so that they may remember too. As I love writing, I think that alongside the photography it would be wonderful to offer a ghostwriting service especially to help people who are planning their own funerals well in advance and who want to record their memories or memoirs and leave messages for the people they leave behind.

I really hope that I get the chance to do this. It feels like it is something really important for me to do, and I just hope that there are other people out there, who agree with me. I would love to hear from people who have either experienced having a photographer at a funeral, or who think they might like one – or even people who totally disagree with it, and think I am quite frankly a little barmy! I’d be interested in your views…

Thanks for reading as always!

Christina