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.
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!