I am thrilled to show you my 8-page feature in Lemonade & Lenses; a magazine of photography inspiration. It's beyond an honor to be selected by the photographer-publishers and be sharing pages amongst such stellar talent! I am especially smitten with it's subject matter for August, boudoir. There was a time that I wrestled with the topic: Should I shoot it? What do I call it? Do I share it? Read on if you want to know more about the FRESH philosophy behind Beauty School. I would love to know what you think.
Beauty School; Class in Session
- Carmen Adams, FRESH Photography
My little girl has long, sandy hair, with wisps that escape her braids and frame her delicate face. She has her aunt’s button nose, her great-grandmother’s deep-set eyes, and a joy that is all her own. She freely sticks her head out car windows to let the breeze kiss her face and dances as though everybody is watching and applauding. And when I tell her she is beautiful, she believes me. Although I sometimes fail to recognize myself in her, my daughter is my best teacher. And what woman couldn't use a little education, especially on her own beauty?
Beauty can be a difficult subject for girls of all ages. While little girls may feel pretty – perhaps because we more freely tell them so – the impressionable teen years can strip a young woman of this part of her identity. As a photographer of women, I embrace what I coined Beauty School for such portraits to highlight the importance that every woman recognize her beauty inside and out. By seeing her for – and capturing her at - her best, I can help a woman harness her power to filter out negative images, unrealistic expectations, and define “beautiful” on her own terms.
Our time together in Beauty School, including pampering by professional make-up artist, a lovely landscape and a photography session can become a process of learning, connection and shift in perspective for both of us. The first shift being away from negative images.
An article was previously trending online, instructing us not to tell little girls that they are beautiful. To which I respond: You mean I shouldn't tell my little girl that I can see the whole world in her beautiful blue eyes? Her uncle shouldn't gush that she's the prettiest thing he's ever seen? While I agree that beauty is not the only praise we should be lavishing, I do believe our girls –and women, for that matter - need to be showered with you're beautiful, how lovely and hello gorgeous! And we should deliver these positive messages every day.
Girls of every age – from little to big - are absorbing powerful images to the contrary. The media that we are consuming in mass quantities contain messages that tie a girl’s worth to her appearance. We need to counteract the negative portrayals and unrealistic expectations. We need to be purveyors of truth - that every girl possesses her own beauty.
Girls and women also receive powerful, image-rich messages connecting her worth to her sexuality. I avoid the term “boudoir” for this very reason. Beauty School clients are encouraged to choose whatever garments make them feel most feminine, from lacy lingerie to a pretty dress. I believe a woman also needs to feel beautiful outside of the bedroom to be authentic. And it should not be dependent upon others.
If beauty is not self-evident, it is unlikely that anyone will persuade a woman of this reality. She needs to feel and to embrace and celebrate her beauty for herself. While others may help a woman see herself in a positive light, it is up to the individual to accept herself as she is, flaws included.
Intricately tied to negative images are the pervading unrealistic expectations women place –and have placed – upon themselves.
There has been much debate whether magazine images should be so heavily altered, especially in teen magazines. Because overexposure has a tendency to normalize its subject, I think it does us a disservice for photographic artists to re-sculpt and digitally enhance bodies, making them appear unreal. The unreal distorts us all to what is authentic, what is real, what is beautiful.
For Beauty School post production, I opt for subtle color adjustments, and slight skin smoothening over heavy alterations. I know women struggle. We let our minds bully our bodies and we don't always recognize our own beauty. I want only to be part of building women up and invite other photographers to do so as well. Sometimes that means showing imperfections because there is both vulnerability and strength in imperfection. And there is beauty.
A lovely, long and lean client passed me a hand-written note the morning of her Beauty School shoot, impressing upon me the importance of what we photographers do:
I ... consider[ed] cancelling last minute... Yes there are days when I feel pretty, but there are days when beauty is not even an option ... when I look in the mirror. I [focus on] the blemish on my face, bruise on my arm, stretch marks on my body ... Then I remind myself that I have been in front of your lens before and the result ... gave me a different confidence in myself.
I discovered [what] will be my mantra for today:
I discovered [what] will be my mantra for today:
“My body is not ruined. I am simply a tiger that has earned her stripes!”
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful;
for beauty is God's handwriting – a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower,
and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Jennifer, a pretty intellectual, shares her thoughts on the Beauty School experience:
We sometimes have a dysfunctional relationship with beauty. In one way, our culture is
obsessed with it and in other ways, we disdain it and formulate negative stereotypes of
beautiful women. But beauty is not just in a perfect line, or lash or lip. Beauty is all around, in
creation and in everyone, if we just allow ourselves to see it and work as a culture to redefine
My grandmother was a great beauty. You would never know this at ninety-four... But when I
was ten, I found an old picture of her [that] changed everything... I had never thought about
her life as anyone other than my grandmother. But she had been beautiful. She had known
what it was like to turn heads and win admiring glances. There was a wistful fragility to her
beauty that I found captivating. In that moment, a whole new window into who my
grandmother … opened up for me.
In our rush to embrace feminism we often want to distance ourselves from the notion of female
beauty. While I [oppose] the rampant commercialization of women’s looks, photographs that
show a woman at her most beautiful and capture a hint of her inner beauty are to be
celebrated. …All of us have a breathtaking feature or angle or expression … when we
somehow shine more brightly than usual. For me, Beauty School is about capturing those
angles and expressions. Partly so I can share with my grandchildren that component of who I
was … but more importantly so I can carry a beautiful image of myself through my life and
wear it in my mind when I most need it. – Jennifer Ellis
Like Jennifer, I have found inspiration close to my heart and within my own lineage. My little girl has taught me that it is more than acceptable to be pretty. We should enjoy our beauty; thereby growing even more beautiful in our self-acceptance. She, along with the many beautiful women I have worked with, have schooled me in beauty!
If you are interested in this subject matter, there is a great read, Captivating by Stacey and John Eldredge, written on beauty from a spiritual perspective. It will leave you tipping female barista's with praises and telling store clerks they are lovely.
August 2013 issue of Lemonade & Lenses HERE
FB link - currently sporting FRESH header image - HERE
People who made me look good:
My clients! Ms K & Ms L
Jennifer Ellis - editor
Make-up artists - Emily Kjelshus, Brianna Errelat
Hair - Leah Lindgren - Aria, Lori Bodner
Accessories - Carmen West Creative
Wardrobe - L'Boutique [formerly Lonnie's], Nelson, BC
Venue - Sweet Dreams Heritage B&B, Rowena's Inn on the River
Models - Leah Lindgren, Rachel Red, Alyssa H, Lisa Frisk, Kara Hannigan
Event Coordinator - Kailey Michelle Events