You are here for a divine purpose, and appointment. You are here to hear truth, to be renewed, reminded of your beauty, your worth, that you are loved, and if you’re a photographer that you have an enourmous responsibility as one who calls themselves a “Photographer”.
You see for so so long I lived under the banner that I wasn’t worthy. 31 years of it actually. Until last year when I wrote this post.
God was stirring. He was up to something grand, and I didn’t know, just then, what it was.
He’d just thrust upon me a booming Clothing Boutique that ended one of my life long battles, and contributing reasons to my feelings of unworthiness, with FINALLY being able to afford and source truly trendy, FLATTERING, clothing for my curves.
The struggle then became finding manufacturers who made beautiful, flattering clothing over a size 12/Large. A task still proving so difficult that some weeks I just can’t fight the frustration so I don’t shop for the Boutique at all.
When you research though to find out WHY it’s so hard only to find that while an overwhelming 67% of Americans are a size 14 and higher, but only 30% of the entire WORLD’S manufacturers make anything over a Large/12 it compounds the frustration…and the anger.
I trudge on though because getting messages like this make it all completely worth it.
” I cannot EVEN tell you how thankful I am for you and your boutique !!! Three compliments already, and the day is still young! It was so very nice to dress with confidence this a.m. I actually feel good about my body the way it is. Clothing DOES make a difference! I am wearing the charcoal hanky hem swing shirt with blue jean jeggings and clogs. Although it will look much cuter with my cork sandals, I am actually happy with the way I look today in my clothing. Thank you, and may God continue to bless you AND your business!!” -S.S.
And this: “Here I am shooting a wedding reception in sweltering 95 degree heat, cool as a cucumber in my Buxom Boutique ensemble!” – C.H.
You see I’ve always, ALWAYS, been large. Thick is more like it 😉 Truthfully I’ve always sort of resented it too. “Why can’t I lose weight!?”, “Why do my calves have to be so big? I just want to wear tall boots!”, “I hate my arms! Why do they have to be so big? I can’t even wear most bracelets!”
Until a few weeks ago though it didn’t really click until…
Two of my girlfriends and I, all three very thick and curvy ladies, decided to go raft the Hiawassee River. Now, I’d been down it last year for the first time, and I’ll take the Ocoee over getting stuck on every.single.rock. in that river any day. Nonetheless we went, and of course, got stuck on just about every rock cluster, and grass cluster ;p, that river had…and we went early in the day at the highest point!
Fast forward about half-way through when we slam into a bank, a tree branch swings back and knocks A* right into the freezing rapid, with boulders on both sides, feet over head. Of course at that point there would be absolutely ZERO rocks in that river. None!
Now I don’t know if you’ve ever fallen into a river filled with giant boulders and little rock piles covered in sometimes a lot, but usually only a little, rushing water, but I can say from experience it’s NOT one you really want to put yourself in…especially without a helmut or some sort of means to protect your head.
J* held on to A* by the life jacket as I one paddle paddled us to a nearby “island”. Nope…no rocks there either…just a bank wayyy too steep that A* couldn’t climb up onto. So, frozen, and still a little in shock, I tightened her life jacket as tight as it’d go, and informed her I’d be pulling her up into the raft. J* used the nylon roll of cord I fortuitously brought along “just in case” to wrap around a tree limb and semi-anchor us for the operation.
Now, a little backstory. Beginning with the vessle choice earlier in the day they wanted to opt for the one and two man inflatible kayaks. I just didn’t feel right, and even remember telling them “How would we get back into that if one of us were to fall out?” hahaha! Oh little did I know!
She promptly informed me “Dude, there’s no way you’re going to be able to pull me in!”
She clearly didn’t know what I knew…that God in His infinite wisdom/sense of humor? made me a SHE-HULK…through no training of my own HA! SO, I informed her that I would indeed be able to pull her into the raft. We were still hoping for a rock, anything she could step onto for at least a little leverage, but, alas, no.such.luck.
With her head and shoulders barely out of the water, feet not very steadily, and flatly on the bottom or a shallow rock/root I counted to 3 and she “jumped” what tiny bit she could. I yanked her up onto the side of the raft, she assumed a rather hilarious “Superman” pose between my legs, while I adjusted to bring her on in the boat.
We laughed then once the diar-ness of the situation had passed, and replayed the now funny scene of HOW A* fell off the raft in what seemed “slow motion”. It was in the laughter that I uttered what would be my new revelation…
“I guess THIS is why I’m built like this! Because God knew at some point in my 33rd year I would have to deadlift my friend’s behind out of a river.” We laughed again, but I let that truth sink in. I mean I know there are other reasons, but had I have been as thin and small as *I* want to be it wouldn’t have happened.
I AM “Fearfully and wonderfully made!”
The other ignition point came back in March at WPPI. The world’s largest Professional Photographer’s Convention in Las Vegas.
I looked around at two enourmous ballrooms at the MGM Grand filled to the brim with Photography vendors showcasing everything from albums and prints, to web design, and equipment.
Having a clothing boutique unlike any other around that equally, sometimes more, carries 1XL thru 3XL Clothing I’ve become unusally intune with whether or not other businesses are ignoring the 67% of the population who are the “average” and a size 14 or larger.
I was sort of taken aback that an average sized client or larger never once appeared in any marketing displays, samples, or portfolios. None.
Nowhere did I see MYSELF represented in any of these companies that were vying for my business. It’s a good thing my self-esteem is pretty high 😉 Ha! I just chalked it up to they wouldn’t be able to handle all of the business if they were to put my lovely mug in their marketing 😉
So now, along with knowing there was size bias in the Social Media/Blog/Magazine world, I was grossly aware my industry was perpetuating the notion that if you’re not a certain age range, or size/version of “small” you’re not worthy of showcasing a product or business.
Even more infuriated when I heard one of my, now former, older, female, photography idols talk about “Pretty people sell”, and how she wouldn’t put her own portrait on her website, though her before and after glamour portrait was STUNNING, because “no one wants to see that”.
What?!?! YES! YES THEY DO!
People, women especially, WANT and DESERVE to see themselves represented in media…in photographs! Women NEED to see that no matter their age, their wrinkles, their stretch marks, THEIR STORY, that they are WORTHY of having their legacy captured…WORTHY of an image that makes them feel as beautiful as they truly are…EXACTLY as they are!
We just don’t see “ourselves” represented, if at all, well enough to get the message.
Why do we think it’s so hard to get mother’s to pose with their babies? Why is it so hard to get Boudoir and Glamour clients to walk through our doors? Why is it we always hear the same sad words from client’s mouths?
“Oh I’ll break your camera!”
“Did I break your camera?”
“I’m just not photogenic enough”
“I just don’t feel good about myself.”
“My _______ is too ________.”
“You know it’s been probably 20 years since I had my picture taken! I don’t look good enough anymore for a photo.”
Because THEY DON’T SEE PEOPLE LIKE THEM, BEAUTIFULLY AVERAGE PEOPLE, REPRESENTED…ANYWHERE!
Want to know how bad it really is? Go scroll through the popular Wedding Instagram accounts and blogs. Go check out the Online and Print Magazines devoted to our industry. Tell me how many MONTHS you have to go back to even fine ONE.SINGLE.IMAGE of a bride, family, senior, etc… that would be described as our national average or above of a size 14 or higher…hey, try to even find one over a size 8. I looked through FIVE Instagram accounts, all of the “big” well known Wedding Blogs, I found ONE in only three of them…going back over 25 weeks on each.
One day I want a grand wedding, I’ll certainly have waited long enough for it. I’ve planned, did floral design, and photographed enough of other bride’s days that I know what details and looks get published. The sad truth is though, even if I have Kaitlyn, or Justin and Mary, or Jasmine, Leslee, or Kristyn, or Zach and Jody capture it, I’m fairly certain, given the state of our industry now, that it would never get featured all because the industry, and the American culture we live in, doesn’t see ME and those like me, as worthy.
That makes me angry.
YES it absolutely takes extra time posing, angling, lighting, coaching on clothing, etc… for a curvy client, but if you don’t want to take the time to capture their beautiful spirit in the most beautiful way possible the same as any other client, then send them to me. I’ll be happy to show them what a TRUE Professional Photographer SHOULD be able to do!
I saw and blasted a male Boudoir “photographer” this year in a Photography group who literally admitted he told a size 26 woman who came into his studio asking to “be photographed as beautiful as she feels” that it “wasn’t possible” because of her size. No, I’m NOT even kidding.
Who the hell do we think we are either verbally, or by refusing to showcase them, telling clients that they have to be a certain size or age to be beautiful enough to be photographed?
I get it. I know it’s not easy. I’ve had more than my unfair share of horrible portraits byx photographers over the years, ohhhh don’t get me started on the “Professionals” and the Studio who later did another session from the horrifc mess that were my Senior portraits.
It is our JOB however to look through that lens and see every.single.different body type, every possible *flaw* they may be self-conscious about, and know or be contemplating as soon as we consult with them on how we’re going to capture them.
How we are going to FLATTER and visually slim or hide those imperfections they worry about themselves, that others probably never see but to them it’s the hump on The Hunchback of Notre Dam, to bolster their self-esteem when they step in front of our lens.
We hold such fragile pieces of each precious soul in our hands. A soul with a story, a beautiful, unique story, that deserves to be told and encouraged that they are in fact beautiful and worthy of being seen.
We must be ever so mindful of that, and educate ourselves to the best of our ability to not shoot everyone, every body type, the same. Because honestly you just cannot do it, and make every timid, nervous, aprhensive, delicate, unique being that steps in front of you feel like they are as wonderful and beautiful as they truly are.
So, yes send me your Curvy brides, Boudoir wives or engaged women, Seniors, Families, and Headshots if you feel you can’t do them justice. Or even BETTER hire me to COACH you on how to do what I do. Hell, hire me to come style your Curvy Brides and Grooms during Weddings or Bridals! I’ll teach you in the process!
I can’t do them all though, and honestly I don’t want to because I want YOU to feel that love and gratitude those clients who haven’t ever felt good about a photograph of themselves feel when they see an image YOU captured of them!
So, I introduce you to The Worthy Project. I want to start a movement in the Wedding, Photography, and Videography industries to right the decades of wrong, and make sure every soul leaves our businesses, whatever the medium, feeling valued…feeling seen..feeling WORTHY!
Will you join me?