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

Embracing the darkness and having an epiphany!

I am having what I can only describe as an epiphany! Last year I was thinking quite a lot about moving back to Denmark… I do this intermittently. I was born there, lived there until I was eight/nine years old. My grandparents stayed there and I spent my summer and winter holidays there for many years. My larger family still lives there and about 12 years ago my parents moved back there. It seems that no matter how long I live in England, I will never be 100% English, though most of the time I do feel it, I still have so much Danish in me. I often think of moving back and then suddenly I dismiss it for one reason or another.

Lesley Boudoir BW-9690

This time it was because I had the opportunity to take on the studio and I have no regrets about this at all. I am however experiencing something I have not experienced before on the same scale and that is a clinging, a yearning, for scandinavian things – music, art, books – and it seems to me that if I can indulge in these things here, and continue to follow both the old culture and the new pop culture, then I will have no need to actually move there.

So what does this have to do with photography? Well, I have realised that my some of my studio photography has been developing and moving in a different direction to what I expected – especially the boudoir/Essence of Woman project. My photography is much darker than I thought it would be (what did I think? I am not sure really). By dark I don’t mean gory, scary or mean, I simply mean that I love the darkness within it, the dusk, the shade and the shadow with shards of light, as opposed to the white and the bright! I have been watching quite a lot of Danish crime series – The Killing and the Bridge and not forgetting the excellent Borgen and Swedish series like Wallender and films like The girl with the dragon tattoo and Babettes Feast. I have also been reading a lot of Scandi crime novels – some Danish, Swedish and Norwegian – (from authors such as AAse Larsson and Jo Nesboe to name only a few) and I have only really been doing that in the last couple of years. So what I am trying to say is that I feel that all of these, including my own ancestry and love of many things Danish, must be having some influence on my photography – more so than I realised.

Serena Witt hires (42 of 130)

At first I was liking my photography to Film Noir… well there is not a French bone in my body and apart from loving Paris, I have never been particularly fond of French Film Noir – nor of their singers or musicians. So whilst I was watching The Bridge the other night, listening to the exceptional theme tune Hollow Talk By the Choir of Young Believers, I started to realise that what I was actually influenced by was not Film Noir (as such, though black and bleak it still is), but instead I am very obviously influenced by the country and continent of my birth; the ice cold winter days, the snow and the darkness, the candles in all the windows, the feel of the dry, chill wind on your face, the birthday cakes with flags on, the well-lit streets of Copenhagen against the black sky, the warmth of the schnapps as it trickles down your throat on a freezing cold xmas day, the long bus journeys in snow boots and hats and gloves, the heat of the radiators on the trains that make your face go red whilst the snow falls  on the windows and your hands struggle to soak up that heat, and the dark underground bars and cafes that welcome you in with Brunkager and hot coffee. It is this that my creativity seems to draw upon in my photography. It IS the light (without light there is no photography), but it is the candle light, the glimmer and hope of the light, the cold and the darkness as we wait for the light and longer days of springtime, that is my influence. It is the candle light that beckons me – the candle light that creates ‘hygge’ (a sense of cosiness – though it means so much more) and the harsh unrelenting winter walks along the beach, and the wind – that crazy northerly wind that makes everything feel like it is 10 degrees below what it actually is – that pushes me forward whilst holding on steadfastly to my past.

KTP Boudoir hires (11 of 41)

It is a bit of a revelation. I have never before sought out Scandinavian music to find the soundtrack to myself or my creativity, until now. The music I have been listening to as I work has been dark, bold, soft, gentle, open, unforgettable, cold, brash and very Scandinavian – there is a real purity in it – almost like ice – sharp, soft, gentle and strong and very beautiful. It has evoked memories of urban cities as well as dark dense woodland, bright, light and carefree summers, and comes with a big black line drawn under it that makes it unmistakably Scandinavian – all of it, albeit, sung in English – and yet that too is unmistakably Scandinavian, as I don’t know a single Dane that cannot speak fluent english. 

Lesley Boudoir BW-9602

So the point of this? Well there isn’t really one.. just that I am musing…musing about the thought of sounding so english, yet being so Danish and how one’s true nature will inevitably always appear if one is creating something like art, literature, photography etc because I don’t think it is possible to lie about one’s creativity as it has to come from the heart, from one’s soul, one’s essence – and my essence is obviously still very Danish.