Being a boudoir photographer provides me with a unique insight into women's lives. I'm equal parts photographer, psychologist, big-sister-playing-dress-up, and a new found friend. There's something about taking off the daily armor of clothing that breaks down the walls we put up between ourselves and the outside world. What's left is beautiful, honest and most of all - real. Over the years, I've had candid conversations with the many women I've had the privilege of photographing. I let them do most of the talking. These women have experienced many things: the raw beauty and pain of motherhood, infertility, miscarriages and adoption. Some found love after hope was forfeited, or have spent their life feeling overweight or underweight. Some have endured domestic and sexual abuse. The most consistent and disheartening part of these conversations was that at one point, every single woman felt isolated and alone through these struggles. I realized so many women share this common sentiment in navigating through the journey of womanhood. The women’s ages, ethnicity and backgrounds varied but every woman felt isolated, or worse. Some felt harsh judgement or shame about what she was going through. Many felt like their negative experiences were their fault, and that it was a reflection of their lack of womanliness and it affected their sense of sensuality, and self-worth. Many felt that they were less of a woman because of what they had been through.
Hearing so many beautiful, inspiring and courageous women express such similar sentiments felt like a call to action. Reflecting back on these conversations, I realized that not only was it cathartic for these women to feel heard without judgment, it was also an incredible learning experience for me. I felt like I was gaining lessons in womanhood. So many women go through the same things, and I didn’t realize how prevalent and common many of these experiences are. It lead me to believe that other women could benefit from these stories as well.
Not really knowing how to start - I put out a non-model casting call on Facebook for a boudoir shoot in which I would have permission to use the images on my blog, and asked if they would be willing to share a story of their journey through womanhood to go along with it. I hoped I would get a few volunteers. I ended up with 55 responses in 12 hours. The number of incredible stories I received absolutely amazed me. I remember thinking “Wow.... women have been waiting for this”. And that's when Real Women of Rochester was born.
Included in the first chapter of this project are six women ranging from ages 24 to 45 with different careers, upbringings, ethnicities and personalities. Each woman has a compelling story that they were willing to share for the benefit of other women. In the coming months I will be sharing with you the the stories of the women I photographed in hopes of creating a new kind of sisterhood in Rochester. You will see a headshot of each woman as they look on a regular day (sidenote: I dislike the term “Before” shot because it implies there were things that needed to be fixed). You'll get to hear why they wanted to be a part of this project, what their journey through womanhood has brought them, how they felt right before, during and after their boudoir shoot with me, and finally their photo-reveal reactions will be paired with their favorite images.
So, whats the best part? YOU - the women of Rochester get to help shape the direction of this project. The future is unwritten. Your feedback, ideas and comments will shape this project's trajectory! My goal is to discover what's possible when we gather our hearts, minds and bodies as a collective force. Let's find and celebrate our beauty and strength, and empower ourselves to empower those around us. This is a project by women, for women. Remember ladies, we are never alone.
The Comment section below is open -click to leave your comments! I'm looking forward to your feedback :)