I’m currently cruising through my mid-life crisis. When I was 14, I was discovering Guns ‘N’ Roses and watching Headbangers Ball.
I do visual effects for film and television, so my days are mostly spent staring at pixels on a computer monitor.
My husband had been asking for sexy picture for years, but I could never find a photographer whose work I liked well enough to spend the money. I finally shed a bunch of weight in the past year, though, and I wanted to capture feeling sexy and beautiful again, so I decided to look into it again.
I love creating all sorts of art, and as part of my mid-life self reclamation, I liked the idea of being able to express myself in a new way, showing facets of myself that usually don’t get seen much but that I very much wanted to reclaim, the pieces that are fierce, edgy, beautiful, sensual, goddess-like.
No fears. I had total trust that Sarah would make me look good (or at least make sure I didn’t look bad) and that we shared a similar vision of what I wanted to create.
But I had been wondering if I was delusional for feeling that I still look desirable and attractive. No one except my husband seemed to see me that way; I didn’t get any feedback that told me otherwise. Everyone I know is concerned with being sensitive and socially aware, which means that they’re very careful not to say anything that could be interpreted as inappropriate. I hoped an outside lens would show me whether I was just vainly deluding myself or not, so I did have a little apprehension about that.
I’ve looked at the work of a lot of boudoir photographers, and most of the time, I don’t love all of their work. It often edges into tawdry or generic, which I didn’t want. In contrast, I loved all the photos that I’d seen on OWN’s gallery. I could see that Sarah was interested in creating artistic photos and had a great eye for lighting and framing.
The studio was smaller than I expected. I was impressed with how many different settings Sarah was able to create just by positioning me in a different place and shifting some furniture around.
As an artist, my favorite part is always the creative process. I didn’t expect how creatively satisfying it’d be to think about what vision I had for my photos and then figure out, with Sarah’s expertise, how to make that happen. I loved that Sarah was so open to my ideas and willing to work with them.
But I was also surprised and delighted by how many of the final photos I loved. I hate 90% of all photos taken of me, so I expected that, in order to fill a photo book, I’d have to just live with a lot of photos that were just okay. Instead, I had the much harder job of picking between shots I loved vs. really liked.
I posted links for my friends to see the photos. The most common response has been, “Holy shit! Those are amazing!”
My husband cried. He was so overwhelmed by how beautiful the photos were and how well they express who I am and how he sees me.
When I told my best friend about the shoot, he jokingly asked if I was going to make a calendar. I told him, sure, if he wanted one, but we both fretted about whether I’d have enough good photos to fill a calendar. When I finally got my digital pics, I sent him a link to two dozen and told him to pick enough for his calendar. He replied, “We’re going to need to make two calendars, one each for the next two years.”
We, as women, are constantly comparing ourselves to each other. Am I prettier than her? Skinnier or fatter than her? Always trying to see if we measure up, if we’re enough. It’s very rare that we consider and appreciate ourselves for who we are, apart from that critical gaze. We’re told that it’s selfish and vain to think about ourselves. But that means we go through life never seeing who we really are, especially the aspects of ourselves that we think aren’t socially acceptable. The session, including the prep beforehand and getting the photos afterward, was a valuable experience of self-reflection and self-expression, of looking at who I am, and then, when I got the photos, of being able to look at myself from an outside perspective, and see my strengths and beauty reflected back clearly.
The experience can trigger a lot of insecurities and shame, because we're confronting a lot of critical cultural messaging about body image and sexuality, sluttiness and attention-seeking. So my advice is to be compassionate with yourself when those critical voices arise, and embrace the opportunity for self-reflection and seeing the beauty of just being you.
I’m much more confident about OWNing who I am and how I look, more appreciative of the things that make me uniquely beautiful. So thank you for that!
(We are also totally in favor of you sending the link as a ‘hint’, because why not!?)