Last winter three very talented women and I began offering Boudoir events; day-long shoots with hour-long time slots. We didn’t know if women would come, if they would like it, if we would like it. But the four of us that did these events didn’t only like it, we loved it. And so did the women who came.
The diversity in the women who participated was astounding. I had women who were hot-to-trot twenty-somethings, but I also had hot-to-trot sixty-somethings. I had new moms, moms with grown kids, new brides, bride-to-bes, grandmothers, women who had tumors and cancers and an array of other disabilities. I had women who had plenty of self esteem and women with none. The amazing thing was that it didn’t matter. In every case there was a transformation. And in every case meeting and photographing these women was a powerful experience, not only for them but for me, too. I discovered that not only did I like the boudoir events, but that I believed in them. They weren’t about flattery, they were about empowerment.
We’ve now had three of these events and in every one of them there’s been one or two women who are either in the midst of chemo or are cancer survivors. What they had to say about the experience was not different from what other women said, it was just more powerful.
Here’s an email from Lesley, this green-haired bombshell who was, at the time, in the middle of chemo:
I wanted to let you know that these images I have shared with a lot of folks including many cancer survivor sisters and wow, was the impact and inspiration huge. Thanks again for capturing such an epic moment in my life and for helping me feel so wonderful while doing so. This experience changed my life and has left me feeling more sexy and beautiful (hair or none) than ever before.
And this, from Susan who did a session during chemo, and one afterwards:
After two major surgeries and months of chemo, I did not feel like myself and I definitely was not feeling attractive. I felt like cancer had taken away my sparkle. During chemo, I had a photo session with Claire and the pictures are amazing! I am so thankful that I documented that snapshot in time during treatment. So when I had the opportunity to participate in a boudoir shoot I was apprehensive but excited. It was not something that the “old” me would have done. It definitely fell under my new mantra of “if I can get through cancer, this is CERTAINLY something that I can do”.
When I walked through the door on the day of the Boudoir session, I vowed to leave my nerves at the door and to just have fun. Getting my hair and make-up done, and the comraderie and encouragement of the other participants created a very relaxed and supportive atmosphere. Whenever any of us expressed doubt about an outfit, they were met with encouraging and empowering words.
Claire immediately puts her subjects at ease. She has a gift for capturing the inner and outer beauty that we all possess, but don’t always see in ourselves. Her photo sessions are always fun and you don’t have a chance to get nervous of feel self-conscious because she keeps you moving with new poses and ideas. The photos are beautiful and tasteful and reminded me that cancer, surgeries and chemo cannot take away the essence of who I am. I may have scars and less hair, but I am still ME!
I make it a habit to give back through photography. This year I knew I wanted to do a boudoir event exclusively for cancer patients and survivors, a shoot that would be free for any patient or survivor who wanted to participate. My dear friend Julie is a breast cancer survivor and the woman behind Ready for Recovery. Together, we schemed up this event. The icing on the cake was that the three women with whom I so enthusiastically put on the regular boudoir events were also willing to donate a day to the cause.