'Doing this for Myself' - a Client Reflection

As a photographer and an amateur observer of the mind, I find the internal processes of my beautiful clients fascinating. What transformations, if any, have they undergone through their shoot experience? What growth has it led to? What realisations or epiphanies have they received from this?

Sometimes, these powerful womxn are open to sharing their personal thoughts with me, and with you. The following is one such example – a client's reflection on her recent shoot. My gratitude for her words and her courage to share this is immense!

“He thinks my body is sexy.”

My first boyfriend used to tell me often that I was beautiful, that I was sexy. After many years of facing different kinds of rejection, this continual validation of my physical body, which I had always struggled to accept, was a helpful first step in my healing process. Fast-forward six months. We break up. I no longer have him to tell me I’m beautiful or sexy. I realise that I am now responsible for validating myself.

Nearly two years later, having done much personal work towards accepting my body, I see a beautiful photograph of a nude woman, an acquaintance of mine, on Instagram. “Wow, she looks so majestic,” I think when I look at that photo. I wonder who the photographer is. I check the tags – it’s Rudi, from Freeform. I immediately decide I want to be photographed like that one day – nude, showing off my body to... who, exactly?

The answer comes to me a few days later. I need to show off my body, as it really is, to myself. I need to allow myself to take up space, not squeeze my body into society’s rather restricting standard of beauty. So, I eventually begin the process of planning my shoot with Rudi. It goes so smoothly – he’s very easy to work with, and gives me plenty of opportunities to communicate my personal vision for the shoot.

The day of the shoot is a typical rainy Cape Town day. I’m nervous, of course, but I know my reasons for doing this. Everything becomes easier if you are secure in your reasons for doing it. Everything goes so smoothly. Rudi puts me instantly at ease. “It’s okay to be nervous. It’s normal.” He offers me food, water, tea, whatever I need to be comfortable. I relax into the experience, allowing the insecurities to come and gently pass. They do pass when you see the beautiful photos Rudi is taking.

Just over a week later, I meet Rudi to choose my photos from the 111 that he selected from the hundreds he took during the shoot. As we look at the photos, one of the reasons I chose Freeform for my boudoir shoot returns to my mind. My face is in nearly all the photos. These are different from normal nudes because they don’t exist to objectify and sexualise my body, but rather to celebrate it, in all its natural beauty. Seeing my own face looking back at me cements this for me.

My facial expression in so many of the photos seems to say,

“I dare you to look at me, see me, and know that I’m beautiful.”

It’s taken a lot of difficult internal work, but I’ve come far from two and a half years ago when I only thought I was beautiful and sexy because a boy told me so.

Now, I look at myself, and I think my body is sexy.

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