This is Amber and she is the first amazing woman from our new series about the thoughts and feelings women go through during their pin up experience. We want you to know that you are not alone. These brave women are sharing their inner thoughts and hope we inspire you to accept yourself. Even if its only for moments at a time. My questions are followed by Amber's answers in italics.
BEFORE YOUR PHOTO SHOOT
Before you met me, what did you see when you looked at yourself in the mirror?
A short, chubby, slightly damaged exterior, thirty something mom of two who needed a "pick me up".
What life experiences affected how you saw yourself?
Having children, battling breast cancer and just the everyday rigmarole of a busy life.
What did you like when you saw your reflection or photos of yourself?
I liked my eyes, my long nose, my dimples.
What parts of your body were you self-conscious about/worried about/insecure about?
My arms, legs, skin, my extra weight and some of my smiles/facial expressions, teeth.
How did the things you disliked affect your self-esteem?
It affected my sex life with the man I had been with for years, it affected an occasional night out with friends, it affected how I shopped for clothes, my diet was up and down, I was never able to take compliments well about those things I disliked. I would always shoot compliments down when they would say something positive in regards to those things. I would get angry at myself and get emotional.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being awesome) where did your self-esteem fall?
Please describe if any of this affected other aspects of your life?
I took the negative thoughts about myself and put them on others as in a way of trying to make myself feel better. I look back wince at that petty, catty, jealous, ridiculousness. It's embarrassing.
What made you want to work with me?
Your Write To Empower project.
Were you nervous? If so, what were you worried about?
Yes, quite nervous. I was worried about unleashing a part of me that has probably always been there waiting to just step out.
DURING YOUR PHOTO SHOOT
How did you feel when you met me?
I was excited. I was put at ease right away by your tone of voice, your smile and your endearing nature.
How did you feel while choosing outfits your getting your hair and makeup done?
The outfit choosing made me really nervous and a little shy. I mean, I enjoy wearing little to no clothing, BUT, in the privacy of my own home. I loved getting my hair and makeup done.
What thoughts went through your mind the first time you saw your reflection as a pin up?
This is is exactly what came out of my mouth, "HAHAHAHAHAHA! Holy S***!".
The first time you saw a photo of yourself in the back of the camera?
I giggled. Shook my head in disbelief.
Did you feel a change come over yourself during the photo shoot?
I let myself go and giggled while wearing my underwear, in front of other people. That's huge for me.
AFTER YOUR PHOTO SHOOT
How did you feel when you left the studio?
I felt happy, free and beautiful.
Did anyone else comment on a change in you?
No, not really, but, my family and friends loved the pictures.
Was it wonderful or difficult seeing yourself at your premiere?
Both. I cried a lot. I was really hard on myself for too long.
After your premiere on a scale of 1-10 (ten being awesome) where was your self esteem?
How has the experience of doing pin up photos impacted your life in a lasting way?
The experience was freeing and allowed me to take that "RAWR" I've always had on the inside and bring it to the surface.
What do you see when you look in the mirror today?
A short, silly, sexy, chubby, full of life thirty something mother of two who smiles a little more at herself when she looks in the mirror.
What was your favorite image?
I liked the Fairy Print. My favorite part of it was my facial expression and my legs. It feels like a part of me was liberated when I look at the picture. A sense of confidence shines through.
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being awesome) where is your self-esteem today?
At this very moment, a solid 8.
What advice would you give someone who is questioning their beauty and self-worth?
My advice would be to stop wasting your time on questioning and just live your beauty and self worth out loud. Be proud of whatever it is that makes you the person you are.
There are trends in photography, as there are in every aspect of life. Beyond the imagery fads and fashions there are movements that seek to make social change.
Ten years ago, I saw a need in myself to feel beautiful. I was 250 pounds and terrified of any photos taken. They showed me a self I could not glimpse in mirrors. I clearly knew I was heavy, but I felt the photos made me look much larger than what I saw in the mirror. I'm now a firm believe that cameras do not work the same as the human eye, brain and heart in unison. I knew I had to find beauty in myself and world to make the weight gain make any sense. And I knew deep in my bones that I had to make peace with myself, as heavy as I was, to lose the weight and keep it off.
So I turned to photography. I started with my baby sister and my sweet dog, Bear. I started with butterflies, European sculptures, fountains, and flowers. I read my Dad’s Olympus 3000 point and shoot manual so many times the pages became worn and weathered. I learned about depth of field, apertures and lighting. I started to force the camera to my will. Progress was slow, but deeply satisfyin. Learning Photoshop became a full time job. I was desperate to get people and scenes to look as beautiful as I remembered them.
During this time, my Mom wanted me to see how beautiful I was to her. She got my baby sister and I photo sessions with Glamour Shots...
And it was one of the single most humiliating things I’ve ever experienced. The staff was not trained in posing, lighting or even hair and makeup. They were trained to corral you through the process like cash cows. They did over the top heavy makeup that made my features look alien, terrible unflattering lighting, and cheesy posing. I still can't bear to look at those photos. For to look is to remember how baffled they were as they tried to make me look thinner. "Contour her nose, it looks too fat!" “Turn this way!” “Don’t smile so big!” “Put your chin down!” The directions came fast and angry as they let me know without words how un-glamorous, unattractive and beyond hope I was. All the while dropping compliments on my (stunningly-gorgeous-could-make-models-weep) teenage sister.
The shame and pain of that day left a mark deep inside my heart. The mark burns when I see someone being teased for what they’re wearing. It itches when I hear a beautiful woman insult herself. The mark seeks to show others that they are beautiful beyond their own belief. Even 81 pounds lighter, I still feel trapped inside that girl who was beyond Glamour Shot’s professional expertise.
My Mom wanted me to see how beautiful I was... While that day was a tragic failure, it helped me discover my life’s work. And so she gave me an even greater gift. I became a seeker. I sought to help other women see their true beauty. I seek to show my clients how they look through the lens of love. As our loved ones see us with beauty in focus and flaws gently out of focus
This is the next trend in photography. It’s our next revolution. Nearly everyone you meet will have a story about feeling less than. It will be a story that has stayed with them no matter how much they have changed. Undoing this damage is our job as photographers.
As a society, we are tired of the shallow, materialistic way we have lived. The recession has taken it’s toll on everyone. We all want desperately to mean something and feel meaning. The photographers who can tap into this need and fill it will find success and feed their souls. Gone are the days of describing photo sessions in dollar and photo amounts. Gone are the days of expecting your reputation alone to bring clients in the door.
The magic is when you can help someone see something they’ve forgotten or have never seen. That’s where the great photographers of the past always were and where the future of photography will be.
This post is a rather long-winded but necessary introduction to a new series for this blog. We’re going to bring in women who have had portraits taken and find out how they felt about themselves before, during and after their photo shoots. I want women everywhere to know they are not alone and that there is hope to be at peace with how we see ourselves. It’s called The Pin Up Experience. Watch our blog over the next two weeks to see our first amazing participant.