If you are reading this, you are either a woman (or know a woman) who would never EVER truthfully say, “I am perfectly content with my appearance.” At least you wouldn’t say that and not question it five seconds later.
This post is not an advertisement. It’s not a marketing ploy. It’s not written for a “cause” or even to increase blog traffic.This is written from the heart of a girl who was ashamed of her body the moment she became aware of it, who talked down to herself in front of the mirror and was consumed by hatred for what she saw, who, meanwhile, believed every other woman had her own distinct qualities that made her exquisite, who this morning decided to share thoughts and feelings that have been bottled up inside for years– not for her sake but for the sake of all the other girls (especially younger ones) who might possibly benefit from it.
This post is not a pity party. I will not act like I am the only girl who endured whispers and physical contact from male coworkers throughout high school and college, who has been belittled by men who still think certain interests and career paths are reserved only for them, who has heard a rape joke and felt like vomiting, who’s been called a b**** when in the same situation a man would have been praised for “taking charge.” I know I’m not. I know many who have endured worse. It’s not about “man bashing” or doing hateful things to people who have been hateful to us. It’s about repairing the damage.
This was going to be titled “Why I’m a Boudoir Photographer.” I was going to say that each woman is beautiful in her own way, and marriage is a gift from God, and no it’s not porn, and everything else that’s been said a million times. I had also planned to defend it from a Christian standpoint. You know, give it a misleading title on Facebook so people are sure to click it and then be like “Ohhh that’s what that meant… clever.” No. There’s too much pithy, clever “Christianity” floating around on the internet and frankly not enough hard truth. Here’s the truth: sex is not bad. Sex is not evil. You should not feel ashamed of your body (whether it gets too much or too little attention). I follow Jesus and I really like the Bible. I am an artist. And I am not afraid to talk about sex. In fact, girls I mentor from church feel free to ask me anything about the subject. Yes, anything. Sometimes I still giggle before I answer, but at least they’re getting an answer from me and not an article or website that’s just trying to sell them something.
Have you ever been to an art museum? There are lots of butts. Yes, butts. There is an abundance of beautifully painted, photographed, and sculpted naked butts. Other parts too. There is passion, long flowing hair, eyelashes, embraces, thighs… Because they’re all beautiful. Whether you think God is to thank for that or not, no one can deny the beauty of the bare human (especially female) form. And that’s why we don’t blush when we see those. We sigh and stare in awe.
Did your heart just start pounding faster? It’s okay, Jesus isn’t mad. Since when did our Creator get upset that His beautiful creation stirred in and resonated with the hearts of men?
And I am not talking about magazine covers and I am definitely not talking about pornography. There’s a difference–Don’t act like there isn’t. I roll my eyes at the former topic and feel positively sick about the latter. And I think it’s sad that someone could hear about photography that celebrates the beauty of a woman and automatically assume that it’s dirty or shameful. I myself was one of those Christian girls who was told time and again that her “purity” was her greatest asset and I felt I was expected to guard my “fingertip length” shorts standards with my life. I do not resent that I was encouraged to wait until marriage to have sex–I know now it’s good advice–but I think we often forget to celebrate it within marriage… or talk about the fact that it’s important and something you have to work at. Like everything else God created, anything beautiful can be twisted and made evil. It can, and it has been.
Three years ago I did my first boudoir shoot. Since then, I’ve wrestled with how to launch this passion of mine to the public–it was always the fear of how I’d be perceived that got in the way. Then I realized that the fear of being vulnerable and of not being ashamed of what is beautiful is, in essence, the same fear I have personally always struggled with, and for too long have I allowed it to cripple so many aspects of my life. But anyway, here’s what that first client told me:
“Boudoir photography is a very sensitive type of photography. Women tend to feel that their bodies aren’t thin enough, tan enough, or simply good enough to be the subject in this type of photograph. I had thoughts similar to this and never imagined that I would choose to have boudoir photos taken of myself. Mitzi explained how the entire process would work and answered any questions I had. I was getting ready to marry my sweet man and thought it would be a great gift for him on our honeymoon. I still can’t believe how comfortable Mitzi made me feel during the photo shoot. She is incredibly professional, yet so personable. I would only choose Mitzi Starkweather Photography for this type of photo shoot. Not only did my husband adore these photographs, but it completely changed the way I viewed myself. I am a more self-confident woman because of this experience. I would truly encourage any married or soon-to-be-married woman to give this a try; it is a gift that is unlike any other! Mitzi is the best!” -S.W.
And the client whose images are featured on this page? You’re probably thinking, “She’s stunning. I bet she’s totally comfortable with herself.” But here’s what she said:
“Throughout the shoot I learned how much more demeanor matters than having the same physique as a swimsuit model. I eventually let go of what I thought I should look like and allowed myself to be myself, and I am surprised by how that freed me to believe in my own womanhood and appreciate myself like never before.” -N.T.
All portraiture requires vulnerability on the part of the subject. Whether you’re wearing a snowsuit or you look like Gisele, you will feel insecure about some aspect of your appearance. So here’s my advice: embrace who you are and if you lack confidence, fake it! You’ll start to believe yourself. It doesn’t matter what you wear or if you loose “5 more pounds.” My best friend told me this several years ago and you know what? It works. You can either focus on the good or the bad, so focus on the good. I guarantee that when the people who love you recall your face, they only think about the good.
I do boudoir photography for brides and brides-to-be because I refuse to be satisfied with the idea that every photograph of a woman in pretty dress (or less than that) has to exist to make other woman feel ashamed about themselves so they’ll buy a product. I know sex sells. It works, so it’s everywhere. But you’re not vain if accept your appearance, focus on the good, and then celebrate it. You’re certainly not the norm, but who cares? Getting your portrait taken does not have to include your kids, or your favorite turtleneck, and you don’t have to put the images on Facebook!
I wish so badly I could go back to the 15 year old me and say, “It’s okay that you’re not a 5’10” size 2. Go live your life. Stop missing out!” So that’s why I’m saying it to you.