Guest Post: L'Amour de soi
A few weeks ago, I got asked to do a boudoir session with an incredible woman named Morgan. I knew this was going to be a blast; having known Morgan for a little while, I had every expectation that we'd have a great time. What I didn't know was the incredibly intricate philosophy she had behind wanting to do her boudoir session. Upon asking her what her inspiration was for wanting to take these photos and hearing her response, I knew I wanted to ask her to write her own blog post for these photos. While I will put a disclaimer here that her views don't necessarily reflect mine, as any business must when sharing the opinions of an individual who is unaffiliated with the brand, my heart flutters at her love for her fellow women and for herself. I purposefully refrain from discussing my religious and political beliefs on this blog and in my business, and this should not be taken as an endorsement of any; rather, it should be seen as an endorsement of humanity and it's many diversities. I hope her words inspire others to think about their own individual motivations for taking photos or having their picture taken, as this is exactly why I love doing it so much: the different people, the different stories, the different beliefs and the different kinds of love you learn about in the process. Photography is the opportunity to unite and learn and empathize, and I hope you'll treat this as such an opportunity, regardless of your own personal beliefs. - Elli
L'Amour de soi
Why do I love boudoir photography?
Because it is the highest form of art I can think of where a woman is both vulnerable and empowered in the very same moment. Because vulnerability and empowerment can be synonymous. And because being a woman should NEVER mean being ashamed of your body.
As a woman, and specifically a Christian, I believe there is a big fat link between a woman’s personal perception of her body and the way in which she is taught and/or not taught to think about that body. I meet so many women and young girls who are self-conscious and even self-loathing of their bodies. And more often than not, it’s because these women are uneducated about self-love. They know nothing else. Their information is derived from toxic and skewed media sources that promote ideals of perfection that are unattainable. Their security and bodily expectations come from a society that is fueled on being “perfectly attractive”. I always try to encourage them to uncover their identity elsewhere.
I believe in, love, and trust the Lord, and am, therefore, serendipitously aware that I have been created in His likeness, His image. To me, that is nothing short of absolutely beautiful. And if I am sitting around judging my own body, then I am essentially dissing the handy work and utter creativity of a God who sought to make me unique and set apart. There is not one hair, one scar, one stretch mark, one wrinkle, or one cell on my body that is exactly the same as anyone else’s. I am quite literally one of a kind, right down to my biology.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:14
It’s disheartening to imagine that more women don’t believe those words, and it’s ludicrous that there is such a social double standard placed on female sexuality. Being a woman doesn’t mean I am forbidden to have a sense of sexuality. And being a follower of Christ certainly doesn’t. In actuality it is just the opposite. Being a human means I have sexual desires, regardless of my gender, age, or race. And being a Christian doesn’t magically seal away those desires. In fact, my faith emphasizes sex as a gift from God; a beautiful reflection of a love that has chosen to be selfless, unconditional, and dedicated. Claiming my faith simply means that I have made the very personal and conscious choice to save that incredibly intimate experience with the man I marry. One day I’m sure I am going to absolutely love sex. Be all over that like donkey kong. Thing is though, sex requires two bodies, one of which will (assumedly I should hope) be mine someday. Now, how do I expect to let another human being fully marvel in the splendor of my body if I don’t know how to marvel in it myself?
It seems to me that there is this horrible habit in our society of equating female sexuality solely to indecency or provocation, and the Christian community is no exception to that observation. Well, I don’t know about you, but I came out of the womb naked as a jay bird, and if it was socially acceptable in all avenues of life that is probably how I would have stayed up until now. I find nothing but beauty, comfort, and freedom in nudity. And on a Biblical level, the only reason we did away with it is because of the introduction of sin into humanity and a self-inflicted, shame-driven need to mask our imperfections and short-comings. Queue the clothes.
But boudoir… it strips away all of that. Not to say that boudoir is an end all be all excuse to start partaking in habitual public streaking. That’s not what this is about. It’s about moments captured that demonstrate the raw, authentic you. And I think people misperceive that definition of boudoir photography. In no way does it have to be immodest, raunchy, or pornographic.
Boudoir photography at its core, for me at least, isn’t necessarily all about the sex appeal, though that is definitely a part of it. Rather it is more so about the beauty found in a woman truly accepting and even admiring her body. Photography bears all, and the double edged sword known as Photoshop can alter our perception of what bodily acceptance looks like. I don’t want the very essence of my physical being to be photo-shopped. My cellulite is texture, my extra rolls of flesh create the curve of my body, and my fair skin is a lasso for excellent light refraction. I am a diamond baby; formed under pressure over years and years of fighting a battle (and the battle is definitely real) to love my body, to view it as a gem rather than a piece of coal. In the words of Christian rap artist Trip Lee: “Pressure creates diamonds and fire refines the gold.” Words have never been truer! And those things aren’t flaws, even though there are countless sources trying to convince me otherwise. They are assets to being unique and self-aware.
Boudoir photography is meant to portray whatever makes a woman feel in tune with not only her sexuality, but her soul. For some, like me, that is curling up by myself in nothing but a giant cozy sweater, hanging out with my dogs, watching Pride and Prejudice twice in a row, or praying with my boyfriend. That is what feeds my spirit. That is what true intimacy looks like for me. For others, sexiness is chips and salsa, long walks, huge mugs of coffee, or getting emotionally invested in a good book.
Boudoir is not at all exclusive, and it consists of something different for everyone. It’s meant to cater to your comfort level, yet bring out the vulnerability and security required to bear your soul in front of a camera.
If I could give one piece of advice to every woman in the world, it would be to have a boudoir photo shoot done at some point in their lives. Granted, there is definitely an age appropriation factor in there, but at some point, whether you’re 20 or 90, it is never too soon or too late to love your body. Boudoir can be done in a T-shirt and jeans, a parka, or nothing but a bed sheet. It does not discriminate based on what you choose to wear, because ultimately for some, bearing your soul doesn’t mean bearing your skin. For me, those happen to be the same thing, but I am not every woman.
And this self-love mindset does start young. Changing our cultural perspective means educating young girls that there is a difference between vanity and confidence, between indecency and the art of self-love. Teaching young girls that their bodies are a temple for something so much greater than just organs and flesh is crucial. Their bodies house a spirit, a being that transcends stereotypes and judgment.
One day, God willing I have a daughter, she will know this. I won’t tell her how “pretty” she looks in that outfit, or how “skinny” she looks today. I will tell her how strong she looks. How happy she looks. How beautifully and gracefully she handled that dispute with another kid. How humbly she carries herself and considers others before her own needs. How capable and kind she is. How confident and independent she is. How much she loves the Lord and how much He loves her. And how all of these things add up to make beauty; how all of these things are what make her “pretty”. And because of that, she will already know she is beautiful, because she will have a completely different definition than what the secular world is feeding her.
Now, this is not to trick anyone into believing that I am kind-hearted to my body 24/7. I am certainly not, and I have days where I don’t even want to look in the mirror. But on those days of self-doubt, it is so important for me to take a step back and remember that I was HAND CRAFTED by God, and as far as He is concerned, I am a work of art. I can’t dispute that. I can’t fight the fact that every single day my body wakes up to perform: to breathe, to walk, to get me through my day, to praise the Lord I love. It allows me to play with my fur babies, to put in a full day’s work, to fight off illness, to hug my family, to kiss my loving boyfriend, to do all the things I enjoy, to one day make love to my husband, and to be a woman.
And that is so beautiful.
Whether the boudoir shoot is for yourself or for a fiancé, husband, whatever, it is never a bad idea. I highly encourage it. I encourage you to bear your soul. Investigate what sexy means to you, and then implement that definition in every area of your life. What builds up your reservoir of kindness towards your body? What stimulates an attitude of joy where your physical being is concerned? What creates your version of self-love?
Sometimes, just maybe, those questions get answered in a boudoir photography shoot. So go get naked (or not).