Culture 15 February 2018
After conducting my first ever boudoir photography shoot, I knew I had discovered a medium I was truly passionate about. Boudoir allows women to step outside of their comfort zones through self-expression and embrace their unique beauty.
When I picked up my camera a few years ago, I sought out to explore the art of emotive portraiture. I wanted to tell women's stories through photography while at the same time providing them with an unforgettable experience. I'll never forget my first client because our session was full of laughter, self-discovery, and a feeling of empowerment. Since then, I knew I wanted to spread the message of self-love and encourage women everywhere to feel confident and radiant in their own skin.
That initial experience with boudoir led me to develop my portfolio, set up a studio space, spread the message of self-love, and launch VS Photography. VS Photography is a beauty and boudoir studio based in Boston. Whether commemorating a wedding, an anniversary, or a special milestone in your life, an intimate portrait shoot is the perfect way to celebrate yourself and create a memory that will last forever.
Boudoir Photography For Women
Boudoir photography is a rising movement, as it enables women of all backgrounds and body types to embrace their unique figure and feel confident in their own skin, let their guard down, and capture a moment in their lives that they can remember forever.
Portrait photography is art through storytelling. Every image captures an individual at a specific place in time and is a testament to the subject's experience in that moment. A more intimate interpretation of traditional portrait photography, boudoir photography celebrates the art of being a woman through honoring the different stages of her life. More than a trend and more than just pictures of women in lingerie, boudoir is an uplifting, empowering experience.
An Empowering Experience
Why is boudoir empowering for women? It's a medium that confronts the issue of body image in relation to beauty head on.
Unsurprisingly, body image issues affect a large pool of women. The kind of imagery that surrounds women each day--whether it be through various media channels, social networks, or pop culture and its references--can make us question our own beauty and self-worth. Comparing ourselves to others or wishing to change our bodies in order to live up to impossible beauty standards does not lead to happiness. Rather, this kind of negative thinking discourages self-love.
A healthy relationship with our bodies comes from accepting and loving all of our imperfections. Imperfections, after all, are beautiful. As a photographer, and more importantly, as a woman, I aim to conquer insecurity and self-esteem issues through art. That's precisely why boudoir photography has the power to uplift. It's more than a photo-shoot, it's an experience.
The most rewarding part of being a boudoir photographer is the opportunity to reverse body issue rhetoric and encourage women to feel confident, sexy, and comfortable in their own skin. Whether the women who walk through my doors are shy, nervous, or believe they're not ready or in the ideal shape to pull off a boudoir photography shoot, I'm there to reassure them that the present moment is the perfect time to embrace their beauty in a bold way.
Therefore boudoir photography isn't empowering simply because it requires someone to step outside of their comfort zone and in front of the camera--in lingerie no less! It's an empowering experience because of the journey required to reach a place a self-love and body positivity.
Body Positive Media
Because boudoir photography is all about empowerment and self-confidence, it challenges the stigma of traditional media's portrayal of women, women in lingerie, and yes, female nudity.
Advertisements and popular media outlets contribute to the superficial standards of what women should or should not look like through imagery that objectifies the individual. Overly photoshopped imagery, a lack of body diversity, and highly sexualized advertising campaigns are all key factors here. Therefore, it's easy to feel discouraged or misrepresented by the media.
How do we challenge such objectification? We embrace body-positive media. And I see boudoir photography as an extension of the movement.
I aim to support body-positive media through boudoir photography in a number of ways. First, though I edit my photos for consistency and style, I don't alter my client's body shape. Flattering angles and lighting? Yes. But photoshopping my client into something they're not? That practice goes against what I preach, which is to embrace what makes you uniquely beautiful.
Second, I encourage my clients to give boudoir photography a try no matter what stage of life they currently find themselves in. Brides-to-be, mothers, those commemorating a milestone event, or those who simply want to celebrate themselves for no reason at all are welcome.
Third, I also similarly encourage my clients to give boudoir photography a try no matter what stage their body is in physically. So many clients tell me how much they would love to do a session, but that they have to wait until they lose weight, get in shape, gain more confidence, etc. I want my clients (and women everywhere) to see themselves as beautiful in the present moment.
Wishing we looked a certain way or striving to live up to some unattainable ideal won't lead to happiness. We should love and respect all the parts of ourselves at all times in order to truly be happy.
This is precisely why I'm pleased to see that body-positive media is starting to become more and more relevant. Laws against photoshopping models in advertising campaigns, a call for more diversity in the fashion world, influencers posting more authentic versions of themselves onto popular social network channels, body-positive communities, and yes boudoir photography, are all significant strides towards more authentic media. As women of all backgrounds, shapes, and sizes see themselves more prevalently featured in the media, the more we inch closer towards a more all-inclusive media experience.
Self-Expression And The Individual
Women's empowerment in relation to the image projected of women in the media has always been a highly publicized and deeply discussed topic. Of course, self-empowerment is a very personal experience and everyone interprets its definition according to their own standards and beliefs. Some women feel empowered through keeping certain parts of themselves private, while others feel liberated through self-expression. There's no wrong choice! Moreover, women should support other women and their own choices--different as they may be--on this matter.
Therefore, a boudoir photography session isn't necessarily for everyone--we as women are of course empowered by different things. But, for a lot of women, boudoir photography is certainly one way to embrace body confidence, inner-beauty, sexuality, and uniquely defined femininity. Boudoir photography is a choice. It's an experience women decide to do completely by and for themselves. The resulting images are a token of that experience and can be shared with the world to spread the word of body-confidence, or kept as part of a private experience.
Boudoir Best Practices
For women interested in trying boudoir for the first time, there are some best practices to keep in mind. First, be confident. Of course, this is easier said than done. Confidence comes from within, and more important, it comes from a place of self-love. Embrace all of the unique qualities that make you, you. Second, let go of your insecurities. Ignore negative self-talk and accept the fact that you are perfectly beautiful as you are now. Third, have fun! Yes, I'm stating the obvious here, but boudoir is all about pampering yourself and indulging in an experience that celebrates who you are--enjoy it.
As a boudoir photographer, I'm not only there to capture your true beauty on camera, I'm there to take the journey of self-discovery, body confidence, and realizing inner-beauty with you.
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.