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“It may sound silly, but we started doing Romantic/Boudoir photo shoots at Darling Way Boutique because I had been wanting some "good" pictures of myself for years. But, I never could find a photographer that I thought would be able to let me be my fidgety, dreamy, silly, romantic self, and still capture a photo I would be proud to share. Especially publicly. But I am. I can't believe it, but I really like the me that Kelley finds through her camera lens. (Thank you tons, you talented woman!) Lately, when I get hit with the waves of insecurity that all of us face regularly, I look at this pic and smile. I remember that when push comes to shove, I can face anything (including a camera, lol) with nothing but myself, my heart and my spirit and make good things happen. So, the point is, I want photo shoots here for all of our clients to be powerful, and have real, lasting meaning/impact. I really am a romantic idealist, aren't I?”
The story actually began almost twenty years ago when I was in my mid thirties and struggling to find a way to connect with my then husband. We had been married for over ten years, I had birthed several kids and hadn’t found peace with my body or appearance, and I was starving for affirmation of myself generally, but particularly of my physical attractiveness to him. He spent so many hours at the office that I dreamed of putting alluring photos of myself there to generate a bit of lust and longing for me which might inspire him to come home earlier with romance on his mind. I was even more uncomfortable in front of a camera then as I am now, but I kept seeing examples of other women who had done incredibly appealing (not raunchy, but sexy) photos and I wanted someone to “make” me look desirable too. Garnering all of my courage and furiously fighting my doubts (amazing how desperation wins out over even fear), I did a session at a local glamour photo studio. I tried my hardest to pull off a confident, sultry hot, sex pot look despite my stressed out, working mom, wife in a badly strained marriage, true misery. I have no idea what I wore, how I did my makeup or hair - I just know I prayed that the camera could find more of my spirit than I could see daily. I knew I had a romantic and sexy soul, but I hadn’t been in touch with it in a long while. I was hoping that the photographer and setting would bring that spirit forward again, because truth be told, I was afraid I might never find it otherwise.
Looking back, I can see that there was part of me that figured if I could at least look feminine and worthy of love in one set of pictures, I could at least know what I was aspiring to. Or maintain hope for resurrection. Otherwise, all I saw around me were reminders of my much less than attractive self: chaos, disarray, unfinished projects, frumpy clothing, candid photos of my most mommy self (if my kids looked cute it was way more rewarding than trying to make myself look presentable), and a disappointed husband. The view from my wiped out eyes was barren and desolate, but I yearned for beauty, attention and excitement.
When I got the photos back, I wasn’t thrilled. Some of them I immediately discarded with dismay, but a few were not what I hoped for, but I wasn’t totally embarrassed by them and I was desperate enough that I wanted to give them to my husband no matter what. I so hoped that my husband would be impressed with them despite my misgivings. Even more, I wanted him to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that my desire to be attractive to him was strong enough to push me to go so far outside my normal comfort zone to even sit for the session. In truth, I was handing him photographs, but wrapped up within this gift was my ego, heart, vulnerabilities and hopes for our marriage.
I can’t remember where we were when I gave him this present, but what I will never forget was the look on his face when he saw the images. It would be hard to adequately describe the emotions I saw play out in the first couple of seconds, but they included bewilderment, shock, disappointment, a bit of sorrow and a flash of pity. Needless to say, it almost brought me to my knees.
He tried to recover and pacifying platitudes were forthcoming. He feigned appreciation as much as he could while being noncommittal about his opinion of the photos and my attractiveness (or lack thereof) to him. I tried to reign in the despair and pain that had instantly flooded over me. I tried to laugh at how silly it was of me to try to look glamorous and that it was no big deal but rather just another less than stellar gift from me to him as usual. I have no idea whether he realized then, or ever, just how huge an effort and risk that gift was for me- but even though I was so insecure that I couldn’t admit it then, I knew part of my spirit died a bit that night.
Twenty years later, I know and accept myself a lot better than I did back then. I realize that those “glamour” photos rang false because their approach was to turn me into what the photographer wanted to shoot rather than their photographer trying to find me personally. But, I still bear many insecurities about my physical appearance and attractiveness. I have dreaded facing photographers even for joyful celebrations and rarely voluntarily pose for solo candid shots. I prefer not to look at pictures of myself (just as I usually avoid mirrors) because they make me feel less confident. I have learned to feel relatively confident by focusing on what I feel are my strengths and pretending acceptance of my physical self, but looking at pictures of myself shatter this illusion easily. I honestly have no idea whether I really look like what I see in photos of myself or if my mind distorts the images somehow so that I see the worst exaggeration possible. Perhaps this is what it is like to be color blind, one sees something and knows that others see something completely different but can’t imagine what that looks like. All I do know is that I generally feel incredibly vulnerable, unattractive and completely exposed when photographed.
Yet I know I need to practice what I preach, which is to know and sincerely accept my whole self, not just the parts that I am naturally more comfortable with. So, as we often do in life, I am seeking my own healing at the same time as offering it to others.
At Darling Way, we believe the early Romantics had it right when even in the early 1800’s, they were smart enough to recognize that romantic energy naturally fosters love and appreciation of self, others, art and beauty. With this always in mind, Darling Way Romantic/Boudoir Photography is a natural extension of our mission.
In our studio and photo sessions, we will help you discover and express your romantic soul. (Yes, we each have one even if many have buried it deep within the dark confines of their battered heart.) Our photographers will either follow your lead or guide you along the way in order to capture your true beauty and spirit through their lens. Of course, romance isn’t flat; it is robust, evocative and has depth of feeling. The same is true of our portraiture. Your personal energy will radiate from the images honestly and forthrightly, or we haven’t done our job properly. There are many people skilled at creating pretty pictures, but to work with us, a photographer must excel at bringing more to a photo than just a scene. There should be no doubt about who you are or what you are about; even the worst self doubts will be overpowered by the forceful reality of your true self emanating forth.
We want for everyone what I found from my experience. A plain and simple reminder of who you are when you allow yourself to be truly seen.