To view the two series of Rachel Brathen by Anais Benoudiz:
…read here for Enlightenment series
…and here for the Golden Girl series.
My name is Anais Benoudiz, and I am a Venezuelan photographer living in Miami.
I started photographing yogis when I started my yoga journey after a nasty divorce and losing my business. To beat off depression, I started taking classes at a yoga studio near my house. Little did I know, it was going to change my life!
In the middle of my depression and battling to get off antidepressants, I started to practice yoga every day, read books such as The Autobiography of a Yogi and followed yogis and spiritual leaders on Instagram to feel some comfort through their wisdom. I needed to know that everything was going to be okay!
One of those people was the one and only Rachel Brathen, also known as Yoga Girl. The minute I started following her, I was blown away with her beauty and soul. Even though I still cannot do a handstand because I am a beginner yogini, I still kept following her because her posts comforted me and inspired me.
The photo shoot took place on a Sunday, and I had prepared everything for it weeks in advance. The week before the shoot, I sent her emails reconfirming the shoot date. She never reconfirmed nor answered any of my emails so I had to cancel everything because my team had other gigs and I did not want them to have to cancel. So, I had to tell them that Friday before the scheduled date: “The shoot has been canceled. I have not received confirmation from Yoga Girl.” I can tell you I was so sad because all I had dreamed off was to meet her and thank her for her inspiration.
Saturday night, around 8 p.m., I was in my bed when I heard the sound of my iPhone receiving an email. I did not pay attention, but five minutes after I decided to take a look.
It was her!
She was asking if we were still on for tomorrow and to please call her. So I did.
It turns out I was sending the emails to an email account she was not checking, and she was wondering what happened that I never contacted her.
Long story short, I had to start calling people who were able to work for me the next day. It was not easy to find an assistant, a makeup artist and a body painter in such a short notice. The people I usually work with were already busy in other gigs. I could not find an assistant. I was panicking but the gods were on my side because I found the most amazing makeup artist to help me and to my luck, she was available. I was relieved that she had worked for me before in other photo shoots. So I called Yoga Girl back to tell her that we were still on for Sunday.
The Day of the Shoot
I set up everything in the morning for the shoot, went over details with the body painter and checked my lighting arrangements for the session.
Rachel arrived at my studio with her friend Jessica. The minute she came into my studio, I was blown away with her beauty and energy. We chatted for a few minutes and I introduced her to the makeup artist who was going to work on her hair and makeup. She grabbed a quick bite of vegan sushi that I ordered for her because she was starving.
As soon as the hair and makeup was done, we started to paint her body in gold, but we had many concerns. We did not know whether to go completely nude, or cover the nipples with something to paint over them. I was a little concerned that her nipples would absorb the body paint and get irritated and she worried about the level of nudity of her breasts. She had not brought anything to cover them, so I started hunt through my house for some kind of covering or tape that would not irritate her skin when removed, and that we could cover with paint. After 15 minutes of looking and looking, I finally found some nipple covers in my bathroom cabinet, and a brand new nude panty. We were good to start the shoot!
Ever since I photographed her, people see the photos, and the first thing they ask is: How is she? Is she pretty? Is she nice?
My answer: Of course she is!
She is a beautiful girl inside and out, and I was very honored to work with her.
This photo shoot was one of the hardest for me. The paint on her body would come off with every asana, so we needed to retouch her constantly, and time was running out. She was enjoying the photo shoot until we started throwing the colored powders all over her while shooting. It looked like a fun idea at the beginning, but we were not expecting such a mess. It was not comfortable at all for her, and there were times that I thought she wanted to kill me and leave, making it look like an accident! She kept saying laughing: “Oh my god, you crazy woman! Can’t believe I’m doing this! Anais, You are a crazy woman!” With a professional attitude, she kept smiling and having fun.
It was not easy for me because an uncomfortable person was posing for me and my camera was getting all dirty! So believe it or not, I started to silently panic! Besides, we had such little time left to do everything because she had other engagements after the shoot.
Powder was being thrown at her on and on. Powder was all through the air, the lights and the studio floor. It was messy but so much fun. As the shoot went on, she started to feel more comfortable and embraced the powder. We had some good laughs in the process.
Then, the bomb question: “This paint going to come off, right? I need to be in Hallandale by 5 p.m. and I cannot show up like this.”
All I kept saying inside my head was: “Please god, it better come off of her body; otherwise my career will be over and the person I admire the most will hate me!”
Obviously, I played it cool and said with strong conviction: “Of course, darling! Not to worry! You will be out of here perfectly clean in no time!” and handed her a towel, shampoo, shower gel and a sponge.
Anyway, all I can say is that I am glad I tortured her (in a good way) because the turn out of the photos are amazing! This has been the hardest and craziest photo shoot I have done so far. No pain, no gain! We are both satisfied with the images, and her fans loved them too.
Many people ask, why did you decide to do such a crazy idea for this photo shoot? My answer is: Why not?
If you don’t take risks in life, you will never grow or win. I’m so happy I took the risk to do this even when a lot of people were criticizing the fact that she is was naked. To those people, I would like to say, art is subjective and risky sometimes. She was not naked, and I made sure to portray her in an elegant and artistic way. I know many of you are used to seeing her in a more conservative and spiritual way, but isn’t it nice to present this beautiful, inspiring soul in a different way? An artistic way! She is gorgeous inside and out, why not portray her in an artistic, fun way? Let’s get out of our comfort zones to explore amazing possibilities!
Rachel, this “crazy woman” wants to thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with you and for letting me torture you! You are an amazing person and I loved meeting you! Keep inspiring people, and being you! You are an icon in many people’s lives, including mine. Keep shining!
Fun Fact: I have never been so happy to see someone getting out of the shower…all clean! Dear god, what a relief! Also, we had to clean the studio floor for days to get the powder off! My advice: Do not try this at home!
View Anais Benoudiz’s work with Rachel Brathen: