Some of you may remember the February Boudoir photo shoot contest, and our lovely winner Esther! If you saw her photos you may have thought they weren’t very traditionally ‘boudoir’ for a contemporary photographer.
My perspective on boudoir photography came after I learned that in the early 20th century, when the boudoir was just becoming fashionable, it wasn’t necessarily a room to lay around in, dressed in one’s lingerie. It was a lady’s private bedroom, sitting room or dressing room. It was the first time a woman had the autonomy to her own space in which she was free to do and entertain who she wanted to. The boudoir came to represent a woman’s true passion, interests, and where she could speak freely! (And I’d also like to note this was the same time in history as women’s sufferage!) So I hope that explains my unique take on ‘boudoir’ photography!
I’ve posted a few photos from her shoot over the last couple months, but part of the arrangement with Esther was that once she received her finished photos she would send me a little write-up about her thoughts and experience with the shoot.
I know how much I was blessed and touched and inspired and excited by this project-but I was eager to hear what Esther thought about this highly unusual opportunity!
These are her thoughts. I hope you can take a moment to read her letter, and that it will give you a better understanding as to why she was nominated in the first place and why I had to photograph this beautiful, strong, amazing woman! (text in bold is mine)
THE PHOTO SHOOT EXPERIENCE
I am writing this letter in response to the beautiful photos that you took of me back in January. I want to begin by sharing with you my gratitude that you took your time to organize and offer this experience to me. This is something I don’t think I would have ever initiated on my own behalf. I have learned so much in the process and would like to share some of that with you.
Firstly, I want to express how much it meant to me to be nominated by my friend Rashmi for this photo shoot. She was able to recognize that this would be something that I would benefit from, knowing that it would be extremely meaningful at this point in my life, this point in my healing journey, to record and to document, myself. Her thoughtfulness and kind words reflect her deep support for me, for our friendship, and serve as a testament to her loving nature of helping the people around her. I know that I would have never gone about doing something like this for myself, on my own accord.
So… a photo shoot. I have to say the whole thing kind of scared me at first because I don’t like looking at myself. In fact until the last year, I was content to stay as invisible as possible. It is not to say that I didn’t like the way I look or my body, because I have never had much of a problem with that, but more so, I didn’t like to get any attention from other people.
During this last year there has been a tremendous amount of change in my life. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer again (it came back after 16 years of being cancer free), thus leading me unto an existential questioning of my life, how I had been living… In the process of my personal change as I confronted many of the emotional issues surrounding my illness, my long-term relationship also dissolved as I realized that I needed to carve out my own space at this moment in time. I moved out, separated from my partner, and became a single mother with two children. I went through surgery again over the summer, which led to me losing my voice for 6 months following. That period was marked by some fear, as here I was with children and barely able to raise my voice above a whisper. I couldn’t work, and wondered if my voice would come back. All in all, the time was much needed for me to process what had just happened. Without a voice I was forced to stop, listen, and reflect, which is exactly what I did. In this space of calm, and deep meditation, I re-connected to myself and rediscovered. I wondered where I had been hiding all these years.
My voice came back in December 2010, just before the photo shoot. It was interesting because the last six months I had spent focusing inwards but I think also taking more of a conscious decision to be more present with myself, to be more in my body, to honour, respect, and take of myself.
I was so frightened to do this photo shoot. I almost cancelled a few times. I tried not to think of it, and on the day felt very scattered. I hadn’t planned anything out, nor devoted any time to thinking about it. I don’t know if I really knew what was going to happen and what the pictures or the process would be like. I showed up and I guess that was what mattered.
When I met Claire I instantly knew that she was someone that I could feel very comfortable with, and that I could work with. She was so easy-going, encouraging, and made me feel right at home from the beginning of the shoot. When she began to take pictures, I felt gradually more and more comfortable, until the point came when I was actually having fun! It became really like a dress-up game… And the hours passed before I knew it. All in all, it was a very positive and enjoyable experience.
Receiving the photos was wonderful. They were really beautiful, some of them looked way better than I had imagined them to be. Claire is an amazingly gifted photographer.
I still find it hard to look at myself but this photo shoot was a beginning.
The power of portraiture into helping someone reclaim their identity is so important, especially in times of upheaval and change, when your body or your role in life is shifting. It is kind of grounding, in terms of freezing a moment, freezing yourself, in order for you to reflect upon yourself. A moment, a breath… a pause.
That is what this photo shoot was for me. A pause for myself, to treat myself, to pay attention to myself, to record myself, to have other people tend to me… What a treat and luxury to have this experience! And to take away with me photos of my body at this moment in time, photos that somehow chronicle this time period in my life, and affirm my health, and really my beauty.
All and all this was an amazing experience and something that I would definitely do again, and also recommend for others to do as well. Photographs are very powerful for me served a healing and life-affirming function.
I thank you Claire for all your hard work and all your talent because it comes through in the photos. You have opened my eyes to something that is very important and have created some amazing memories that I can share with my family.
All the best,