Announcing: Real Women of Rochester

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.

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The Comment section below is open -click to leave your comments! I'm looking forward to your feedback :)

Katie Carey | Rochester Ceramicist

Katie Carey (katiecareyceramics.com)

Katie Carey (katiecareyceramics.com)

A note from Natalie: Katie is one of those incredible humans that once you meet, you just want to be around all the time. Her laugh is infectious and her outlook on life always unique, interesting and entertaining. Her contemporary ceramic work is very much like Katie herself - a bright spot in your day. Check out her website to see her modern, well-designed and at times hilarious work for your home and life.

Photos by: Natalie Sinisgalli

Photos by: Natalie Sinisgalli

And now! Enjoy this interview with the artist herself, courtesy of our intern Hannah McCarthy.

Natalie and I pulled into an industrial part of the city full of brick buildings with uniform windows lining each sturdy wall. Katie Carey, a local ceramist and good friend of Natalie and Whitney's, came outside to lead us up to her studio. The spacious room with plenty of gorgeous sunshine poured in between the dusty, sun-faded window panes. In preparation for my interview with Katie, I perused her website, a beautifully curated collection of her ceramic works. From mugs to “adult chia pets,” as Katie so accurately deemed them, Katie has brought her business motto to fruition: her pieces are well crafted, functional, and made to enhance the home experience.
In the back of her studio sat all of her equipment while pieces of her work lined one of the walls. With a setup this professional, you’d think this career part of her lifelong plan, but it was quite the opposite: “After I graduated from college, a friend and I wanted to do something before our new professional lives. We decided to go live on a farm through WOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms). This farm had artist studios for pottery, weaving, and woodworking. I was introduced to pottery there. I completely fell in love. I loved the little pottery shards that were around, the different glazes and the way you use your hands. It’s been addicting.”
      Several years later, Katie’s hands are still covered in clay. Her passion got her started, but her dedication and stubbornness have kept her going: “It’s kind of a difficult skill to get at first but I was really determined. It’s interesting to see the progress - In past jobs, I couldn’t really measure my progress. Output was more mental and their were no permanent objects. With ceramics, I have a progression from when I started years ago and it’s captured forever in time. I can see so clearly that I’m getting better at something or that I learned something. It memorializes a piece of time.”
      Opening her own studio was a huge leap of faith for Katie, but her journey to get to that point was what prepared her: “ This has been the first year that I’ve had my own space and equipment. In the past, I've done residencies where I was part of a group so I had their support. You have to be a little crazy and say, “I’m just gonna make it work.”
      What’s next for Katie on this incredible journey? "Ideally I'd like to be more integrated into a community, whether it be through teaching, outreach programs, or administration.  I think being in the studio alone for a lot of hours is not sustainable for me. It's glamorous in theory but artists' solitude is not something I strive for. "Maybe I’ll become a soul singer," she teased with a laugh.
This interview was conducted by our new Marketing/Communications intern, Hannah McCarthy, a rising sophomore at Elon University in North Carolina.

Floral Boudoir Collaboration

Photographer: Natalie Sinisgalli Photography | Floral Designer: Stacy K Floral | Dress Designer: Meki Couture | Hair Stylist: Special Occasion Hair Design | Manicure: Sunless 2 Go | Lingerie: Devil May Care | Models: Jessica Riefer, Hannah Lopa, Jessica SanGiacomo [in order of appearance]. Also featured on Sweet Violet Bride.

Model: Jessica Riefer

Model: Jessica Riefer

The concept for this shoot started as more of a "what if" between Stacy K and myself at Simply Beautiful Events' Holiday High Five Party. We were talking about how rare it is to find floral inspired boudoir images on Pinterest, and started musing about how we would do it ourselves. A few weeks later, we were planning the shoot - creating mood boards, searching for models, and also brainstorming other local vendors whose work we could feature. We brought on Special Occasion Hair Design, knowing Chrissy and Lindsey would be able to style our model's hair seamlessly with Stacy's floral headpieces and individual flowers, as well as provide the clean and fresh flawless makeup that has become the hallmark of our boudoir style. Dena from Sunless 2 Go was the obvious choice for our manicure needs - providing beautifully polished nails for our models. Marleen from Meki Couture had recently told me that she was launching a line of handmade lace robes, perfect for brides getting ready on their wedding day, and even a few for the wedding night, so she was in! And what to wear under the robes? Of course, noneother than Devil May Care was the top (and entirety) of our list for sumptuous lingerie and underpinnings. We collected our lovely models from word of mouth recommendations - Hannah Lopa, Jessica Riefer and Jessica SanGiacomo (yes, having two Jessica's got very confusing) are rising stars in Rochester's modelling scene and were excited to get involved in this shoot!

Fast forward to the day of the shoot, our 1700 sq. foot studio is absolutely brimming with flowers, lingerie, lace robes, takeout Mediterranean food and 12 moving women. The day was a true collaboration, everyone doing their individual parts and bringing it together in front of the lens- tweaking until everything was just perfect. 7 jam-packed hours later, the shoot was over, and we knew we had created something special. Which we would celebrate, right after we all took extended naps.

We all had SO much fun together, we've deciding to keep the magic alive. Our boudoir clients can now easily add floral details such as headpieces and bouquets to their shoot, or go all the way with custom floral set building and styling with Stacy. Full hair and makeup styling by Special Occasion Hair Design is as always included in every boudoir session we do, and Dena's services can be added on for on-location gelish manicure and/or pedicure. Our clients can shop for their shoot from the comfort of their couch and laptop at dmclingerie.com, and Meki Couture's line of handmade robes is coming soon to etsy! For more information on doing your own boudoir shoot, check out our boudoir page :)

Left to right: hannah lopa, Jessica Riefer, Jessica SanGiacomo

Left to right: hannah lopa, Jessica Riefer, Jessica SanGiacomo