I took a little trip to Italy last year. Simply going would have been enough of a dream come true, but it just so happened that the trip gifted me with one of the most profound experiences of my personal and professional life: I was lucky enough to gain some important insights from a very vulnerable Italian boudoir shoot.
For me, there were three main motivators for going. The first was to see Italy for the first time with my mom. The second was to attend a photography workshop, where I learned a great deal. And the third was to have a well-known boudoir photographer shoot me in a very vulnerable and raw style at our gorgeous venue at a castle in the Dolomites.
My mom and I started off in Milan, and I’ve never wanted to buy more things in my entire life. I noticed right away that there seemed to be a high value placed on the aesthetics of everything, from Italy’s beautiful, elaborate architecture down to to the thoughtful way even my smallest purchases were wrapped.
We set off for Tuscany next and ohmygod if there’s a heaven, I think that’s what it looks like. In fact as we drove to our Airbnb I saw a dirt road and gorgeous golden rolling hills that looked just like that beautiful scene at the end of Gladiator. When we arrived we learned, sure enough! That was where they filmed it!
There was history everywhere… a Roman road that was two thousand years old, a church from the 8th century… it was very humbling and awe-inspiring.
Oh, and the wine… the wine! Enough said.
We stayed in Venice for a few days after that and I was once again blown away by the architecture. Human ingenuity is insane! If you’ve never heard about how Venice was founded in the year 421, it’s pretty damn interesting.
After Venice, my mom headed home and I went on to the Dolomite Mountains with about sixty other women for a workshop led by three very established photographers.
Body positivity and boudoir…
I was especially excited to learn from a woman named Teri Hofford, who among many other awesome things is a photographer known for body positivity and a no-editing style.
This woman’s work really challenged me and I was eager to learn from her, because the issue of body positivity often comes up in my line of work as a boudoir photographer (as I’m sure you can imagine). In years past I had a studio rule that I would rattle off to clients if I heard them say anything unkind about themselves, including if they called themselves “fat”.
“No negative talk in the studio,” I would say. “Only positive vibes.” But one time I had a woman call me out for that. “Why not let women express how they’re feeling? Being fat doesn’t have to be a negative thing.”
I was used to having some of my clients worry that they weren’t “skinny” enough to do boudoir or that their body type wasn’t as “sexy” as others. My goal had always been to reassure them that all women are beautiful, you don’t have to change a thing, everyone can do boudoir! But I realized then that I had a lot of room for growth in this area.
Teri was one of the first photographers who helped to expand my horizons. When I found out she was one of the workshop leaders, I reached out ahead of time to ask if she would photograph me.
And so, in a literal castle in the middle of the Dolomites, I had a very vulnerable boudoir shoot of my own.
The reminder I needed, and fresh insights
Despite this gorgeous locale and opportunity, I felt nervous and insecure. I was worried I wouldn’t like my photos, and wondered why I’d signed myself up for this. It was uncomfortable! But I was glad to feel it because it’s a good reminder of some of the discomfort my clients sometimes feel leading up to their own shoots with me. Boudoir can be so empowering, but it’s also a bit intimidating and vulnerable as F.
The photos from my shoot are all unedited, which is actually something that’s pretty radical in the boudoir world. It’s one of the things Teri’s known for. If you’ve got a blemish, a scar, a little tummy roll – all of it stays. My images looked so raw to me that I confess there were some that I had to make a conscious effort to be okay with. And then there were others that I absolutely f-ing LOVED. In these photos I feel like I’m really seeing me, and not some version of me based on how someone else thinks I should look.
I’m pretty lighthanded with my own editing, and I always get my clients’ input on whether or not they want me to smooth out any stretch marks or things like that. But typically I’m removing blemishes, very subtly whitening teeth, and other minor editing tactics any boudoir photographer might use.
Occasionally though, I’ll have a client who requests no edits whatsoever. They want everything left in. And I always really love that. It’s refreshing. And now that I’ve had that experience myself I can’t help but wonder if there’s something kind of special to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the images I have of myself from other shoots where I’m just a little bit touched up and smoothed out. There’s a certain art and aesthetic that’s fun to achieve while still looking like yourself.
But these unedited shots, it’s a thrill to share them with you because there’s a little bit of extra vulnerability here. And it feels good!
So, being intentional with vulnerability, yes. 10 out of 10 would recommend. Thanks so much for letting me share and being part of that vulnerability with me.