What Happens in the Studio, Stays in the Studio

Bella Femme means “Beautiful Woman”. I use the term for a reason – this isn’t about hurling yourself in your skivvies onto my down comforter and playing “flirt” with my camera in some odd attempt at something neither of us can really relate to. It also isn’t about putting on too much make up, looking like you never, ever look and flashing around in front of some hideous, shiny background with long gloves on. THIS is about being a beautiful woman – the beautiful woman that you are, but maybe don’t always see in yourself. Its expression, its moments, its failings and successes; dressed, undressed, scared, emotional or joyous - whatever – this is about who you are, right here, right now as a woman.

It’s my “job” to capture that but there is a lot more to it than that. This is about trust and understanding between two women- you and me. I can only shoot what I see, and therefore it is very important that I see you and you are comfortable enough to show yourself to me – inside out, not outside in. If you show me who you are as a person, I will see the beauty in you and then, ultimately, you will see what I see in the photographs. Think of this as a different kind of mirror.

Now, this isn’t meant to put any sort of extra pressure on. Heaven knows it is difficult enough to make a decision to be photographed and subject yourself to that kind of "scrutiny”. So, here is my part of it –Sharon 101 - if you will.

I’m 50 years old. I’m very tall and so I slouch (despite years of my mother’s fingernail jabbed into my spine, hissing “stand up straight!” A valiant effort, but sadly it failed). I’ve been very heavy at one point in my life and I’ve also been too skinny complete with eating disorders. This has been a blessing which taught me perspective from an internal and, thusly compassionate, point of view. Now I’m ridiculously lazy about my own appearance. I only go see my stylist when I finally look in the mirror once in a while and shockingly see a Middle Aged David Cassidy looking back at me. I figure it’s my job to make other people look beautiful, I guess, so I seldom worry about the other way around (much to the dismay of my boyfriend!). I’m a terrible housekeeper. I try, but largely fail. The way I see it (this may just be a well honed excuse, btw) is that I was put on the planet to create art, not put away the ever-present laundry. Subsequently if a past client tells you to remember that it is the quality of my work, not the state of my desk, that you need to focus on, I would appreciate it if you would bear that in mind. (Yes, it has happened, happens a lot, actually!) I know my failings, and they are plentiful, but to me, they are also the key to knowing other people and truly understanding them. And that is critical to the success of this work. So, maybe, we have no real failings? Maybe we are just people?

I love my work. I laugh a lot. (And loudly). I enjoy people tremendously and am blessed to have many, many, many people I call good friends, quite a few I first met when I shot them. I am an honest person and this is honest work. We will both have grown at the end of the day. It is bonding in it's own way.

I’m philosophical about this work; truth be known. Aside from being able to see ourselves in a more positive and beautiful light, I believe that self-discovery process also leads to seeing each other in a more beautiful light. We have systematically been alienated from one another. Sadly, I think that as women, from a very early age, we are overly subjected to some sort of media and “social” standard of feminine "perfection" that is, frankly, unobtainable. Even the women we idolize in magazines will list for you their physical shortcomings and, if you met them on the street, you probably wouldn’t even recognize them. As a result of this, most women I have met fail to see themselves at all; all they see is where they do not measure up to this socially impregneted ideal. We are taught to measure ourselves against other women from an early age. I hear it from the get go – too fat, too skinny, bumpy legs, saggy arms, big ears, pointy elbows, short legs, blah, blah, blah. I always sit with my client in the beginning and we talk about these issues. There is a two-fold reason for this – one is obvious – I need to light you right, and help you to minimize the things that you see as less than perfect. The other reason is that I usually won’t see it unless you tell me. I don’t get it on my own. I’m looking for the beauty when I meet my clients, so I may skip it unless you beat me over the head with it. And once it’s out there, it’s out there – then you won’t be trotting around with your hands on your butt in some lame attempt to hide it and we can get down to the business of having a good time.

This isn’t vanity, this is therapy. It’s about healing you. Most of my clientele are aged 38 up, and the average client is 50. Years of mothering, partnering, dealing with the bills, the laundry, the kids, the job, et al have made so many women simply forget that they are still gorgeous, viable, loveable people. That ship hasn’t sailed, ladies. That ship never, ever sails. Only the harbor changes. Beauty is an inherent right for women. I’m here to give it back to you.

There is an important sign above my door, it reads “What Happens in the Studio, Stays in the Studio”. This is a private session between us. What you tell me, what you do, all of it, is yours unless you choose to let me share. The work you see here was allowed by permission and I am grateful to these Bella Femmes for letting me use it.
Please do not hesitate to call me if you have questions about me, about this process, and/or about how you feel. I can be reached at 707-888-0882. I don’t pick up when I have a session going on, so leave me a message with your number and I will call you back as soon as I can.

Care about yourself.


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