As a boudoir photographer, and speaking for pretty much all of us, something we hear pretty often is “I’ll schedule a session when,” which is usually followed by something like “I lose ten pounds.” Of course, we never hear back from that person. I bet that sometimes it’s a face-saving brush-off, sure, but there are plenty of women who mean it. Who definitely plan to come in “when.”
Brené Brown mentions that shame, for women, is often tied to body image. That’s understandable – most marketing is built on the premise that only those who are young and attractive, with perfect bodies and flawless skin, are important. It’s not too often an ad includes anyone over size 6 (which most of America is) or over 40 (where most of the disposable income is). And on top of that social climate, the political climate is hardly better, with the radical notion of equal pay still being, you know, radical!
Everyone feels that shame, though. I wrote that writing about why I photograph as I do is one of the hardest things. Getting vulnerable enough with myself (and all of you) to really lay bare the soul of my work was so hard and took months. But every woman I photograph has no problem, and neither do I, writing out the long list of what we dislike about ourselves. Sometimes it’s ten pounds (or more), or breasts too small or too big or too saggy, and the same thing with bottoms. For some of us it’s our unruly curly hair, and for others it’s boring straight hair. The only constant in all of this is that everyone does it.
So we put things off until “someday, when….”
Of course, someday rarely arrives, does it? We have the best intentions, we make resolutions, we buy gym memberships, we know how to eat better and exercise, but something comes up. It just ends up easier to buy a pizza than it is to cook. Running gets put off when there’s work to be done, and that ten pounds I need to lose just sits there mocking me. Well, a lot more than ten in my case, but no matter. The problem is: “someday” never comes, because life gets in the way.
I think of John Green’s The Fault In Our Stars, a book which makes me cry, every time, and not the pretty kind of crying. It reminds me how few chances we have for somedays. I feel a lot of the time like I waste them. I’m busy rather than productive. I try to numb all the uncertainty away with television or food or whatever, and that just numbs everything. But, god that uncertainty! The risk – who knows if we took a chance what would happen. If we sit in front of a camera with those ten pounds, won’t we just see how horrible we are? How badly we match against the image in our heads of perfect? All those lies we carry around…
I have a client and friend. I have photographed her a lot. I photographed her wedding, boudoir pictures, three times nudes. She has numerous prints, hanging on her walls, of her looking amazing. But when she comes in, she doesn’t trust it. She sits there and talks about how she needs to lose ten pounds and get back to the gym. And she’s crazy. She’s beautiful. But she’s carrying around the same track in her head with the same message of shame. The only difference is that she does get in front of the camera which is a step in the right direction.
I’m working on it, too. After senior pictures, I’ve had wedding pictures, and whatever cell phone pictures were taken at Christmas. That’s it. I hate looking at myself in pictures – it’s one reason I got behind the camera. So yeah, the idea of standing, as you are, having your picture taken in your underwear, or in nothing… that is a lot of vulnerability.
The good news is that you are enough now. You are beautiful. There is no “ideal” for you to live up to. There is just you, probably already surrounded by people who love you and who don’t believe you need to change. Someday can be today.
So here’s my promise to you: if you make “someday” today, we will make beautiful art together. But if you see the images and you aren’t thrilled, we will do it again in six months. And if you’re not thrilled then, we’ll do it again. We’ll do it until we get it right. We’ll do it until you are thrilled to see yourself in pictures.