If you know me, you understand my connection to photography. When I studied abroad in Italy, I finally found my footing in the art world. Even though I had been a declared studio arts major for two years, I didn’t consider myself an artist until I found my niche behind the camera. There was just something about the streets of Florence that propelled me towards this form of raw composition.
Ever since my six-month stint as a Florentine, I consider photography to be my art form of choice. I can stare at black and white prints for hours on end, intrigued by the honest subject matter. I’m drawn most to photojournalistic styles since they appear to capture natural moments in time while still telling stories.
Last month I decided to reach out of my comfort zone and step in front of the lens instead of standing behind it. A photographer friend was in town shooting a wedding and I decided to have her pencil me in for an hour-long photo session. She has been aware of my infatuation with her skills for a while now. On multiple occasions I told her she’d be shooting my wedding if anyone ever puts a ring on my left hand. There comes a time when we all say “F@%$ it!” and I had reached that moment. I could stay single indefinitely. Why wait any longer to have professional photographs taken?
I admit I’m not the most photogenic person. Sometimes all I see are the scars and lumps and blemishes that no one else has. I can’t do a smolder. I don’t know how to work the camera. And I definitely, DEFINITELY cannot pretend to be sexy. I do have a bad side. If I give too much of a cheeky grin my left eye closes more than my right. (The imbalance really freaks me out.) When I press my lips together it looks forced rather than natural. And because my jawline is asymmetrical I sometimes appear to have a double chin on one side.
I’m very physically flawed…and obviously not completely self-accepting. This little exercise was a way for me to own my being. What’s the best way to build confidence? Boudoir photography. You know, the kind where you pose in only a little bit of clothing? It’s becoming a widely popular choice with many brides giving these types of photos to their grooms as wedding gifts. Those who choose this style of photography understand it empowers rather than objectifies women. It celebrates the female form in all shapes and sizes.
I chose boudoir because I’m proud of my body. As an athlete, it’s strong and capable. My body is my constant. I have never been ashamed of my curves because I know my thighs are thick with muscle. My legs have carried me through 26.2 mile runs on numerous occasions. My broad shoulders help me hold handstands even in my thirties. My flexibility allows me to do cartwheels and leaps as if I were still a gymnast. I wanted to celebrate everything I love about my body while attempting to find a new level of comfort in my skin.
What did I learn? I’m able to parade around in my bra and undies in front of another person completely unabashed. Yay for owning my body! I still cannot smirk like I’m hiding a secret or fake laugh in a sultry way. I should always smile in photographs, at least a little. I’ll always feel slightly awkward and gawky posing in front of the camera. And I will never, ever be able to trade my girl-next-door status to be a Victoria’s Secret sex symbol. I’m completely OK with that.
As I peruse through these photographs I realize how well Amy captured my essence. These photos represent who I am. I’m not Kate Hudson who can be both sweet and sultry. I will not command the same attention when I walk into a room as when she does. Maybe that kind of attention has nothing to do with how others view me and everything to do with how I view myself. I have a long way to go until I find self-acceptance, but at least Amy helped me realize that I can showcase the assets I do have. While I really have no problem publicly displaying Amy’s amazing talent, I’m going to label these beauties for my eyes only- at least momentarily.
I’m excited to book another appointment with Elizabeth Birdsong Photography in the future. We squeezed a lot into a 60-minute session- boudoir, headshots, and photos for my book announcement. It would be really nice for me to continue to work towards finding the portal to self-confidence. If professional photography is the key to that door, I’m all in. I know I have a long way to go until I feel completely at ease in my skin, but instead of dwelling on what I cannot change, I’m going to aim to reclaim my six-pack abs for the next session.
My body, my rules.
All photos by Elizabeth Birdsong Photography.