“I’m sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time?”
I looked at the name attached to the message that I had just received. He was the husband of a lady who had contacted me about doing some boudoir photos of her. Friends of friends, I knew them in passing as acquaintances, but not all that well.
“Sure,” I replied. “What’s up?”
For the purposes of this article, and to protect the privacy of the people involved, we will call them John and Nancy.
John replied, “I know Nancy contacted you about doing some photos of her for my birthday. I wanted to ask you to do me a favor?”
This is not an unusual conversation for me to have. Husbands are frequently like little kids when it comes to their wives being photographed in next to nothing. They have special requests for outfits, poses, places and even hair styles.
Sometimes these requests can get pretty damn detailed. I always promise them that I will do my best, but the first thing I tell my clients is that I have the right to refuse any and all ideas. I like photography because of the art aspect of it, and as an artist—a person who is creating something from my imagination—I do not want to have my name on something that is (in my mind) not art.
Assuming that this conversation was going to be typical, I sat back in my leather desk chair and kicked my feet up onto my desk. I pulled my keyboard over into my lap, and replied, “Sure, fire away.”
Then I waited for the long list of fetish-wear or schoolgirl outfit requests.
But the next message that came through caused me to drop my feet off the desk, and sit forward to reread the screen—to make sure I’d read it correctly. He said:
“I’ve seen your work, and you do a beautiful job. But I’d like to request that when you finish with the pictures, that my wife still look like my wife. I don’t want her to be Photoshopped to death. She is not a young woman anymore. And when I was a young man, I was attracted to her as a young woman—but I am not a young man anymore.
So I would like to see my wife. I want to see her freckles. I want to see every hard-won laugh line. I want to see the marks on her tummy from her carrying our children inside of her. I want to see the scar on her leg from our skiing trip. I want to see the extra ‘junk in her trunk.’
If I wanted to see a perfect model, I would buy a magazine. But I don’t find that sexy. I find my wife sexy, exactly as she is. So dress her up, do her hair, make her feel beautiful—but please, when you are finished, if this is truly for my birthday—I would like pictures of my beautiful wife.”
I sat there, stunned.
He took my silence to mean that he had offended me. He said, “I hope you are not offended, I do not intend to tell you how to do your job, I simply wanted you to know that I love my wife exactly as she is. So if this is for my birthday, this is my birthday wish.”
When I finally got my bearings, my reply was simple: “Every woman in the world wishes to have a significant other that would say such a thing about them, John. I will, of course, make sure that Nancy still looks like Nancy when I’m done.”
Society has created unrealistic expectations for women’s bodies. I myself have had a tummy tuck, but that was more about me and not public perception—though I did almost opt against it, because of pressure from family and friends. That said, if I could do nothing but focus on my fitness and body, rather than working full-time or being a mom, maybe I wouldn’t have wanted the surgery.
It makes me sad when I ask a woman, “When are you going to let me take photos of you?”—and the response is, “Let me lose like 10 pounds first…”
Why? Why do you need to lose 10 pounds? If I—as an artist—find you, as a subject, beautiful, or photo-worthy? Why not just go with that?
So often, I have countered these statements with, “Why don’t you let me take photos of you as you are now, and if you hate them, they will never see the light of day, and I’ll redo them for free when you do lose your 10 pounds?”
Separate from Nancy and John, another lady I know—and one of my dearest friends—is pictured below. She is 52 years old. She has three adult children and two grandbabies she adores. She is also a total baller. Fearless. (As evidenced by the fact that she is allowing me to use this picture in my article.)
I’m so proud to be a part of her life. But even though she is this kickass wife/mother/grandma—and is absolutely stunning exactly how she is—she was showing signs of being self-conscious.
When we were doing this photo session, she was making joking comments about hiding this or that. And I was struck by the fact that this gorgeous woman, who normally has zero fear about anything, was still self conscious about bits and pieces of her body. She was so nervous this first time I took photos of her, I had to stop shooting periodically to allow her flush to dissipate.
There are a variety of poses that will hide a person’s most hated flaws, but still capture that person’s essence—their beauty. My favorite photos are the ones that show flaws and all, but the woman in the photo still looks absolutely stunning.
Other favorites include the women who say they hate having their photo taken or claim they aren’t photogenic. I love showing these women that I can capture their beauty—and then display it for them and everyone else to see.
But now, my conversation with John has changed how I view my photography in general—and it’s changed how I edit my photos.
The most editing I’ll do now, on anyone, within one of my photographs are these minor tweaks.
- Adjust brightness and contrast
- Saturate the colors to brighten them up a bit
- Soften the photo
- Adjust the depth of field when it is not up to my satisfaction from straight out of the camera
And on days I am feeling particularly froggy, if someone looks tired that day, I may adjust the color under their eyes to remove signs of bags or puffiness. But that’s it.
Now, when I take photos of someone, I want them to still look like themselves. Their beautiful selves. I want them to look at the picture and say, “Damn, I’m sexy as hell.”
You—yes, you. Every single ounce of you. Every stretch mark. Every clumsy bruise. Every single freckle. Regardless of your eye color or hair color—curly or straight, big breasted, little breasted—with or without that junk in your trunk…
You are beautiful.
Author: Julie Livingston
Images: Moonsketcher Photography
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina