body positivity

Not Every Good Deed Needs Done // WV Boudoir Photographer

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WARNING: If you don’t know me that well, this post is going to seem like a humble brag. If you know me, then you know that it’s just an upfront brag. I’M KIDDING.


Anyway, last week I did a last minute session for a friend who was due to have a baby ANY MINUTE. (This is not a photo of her.) We happened to run into each other after not seeing one another for a while, and she mentioned that she had wanted to do a session but time got away from her. So I asked if she had any time that week (the week the baby was due!), and she did! I was SO THRILLED that we were able to make it happen.


The session was magical. I knew it would be. That’s part of the reason I did it. Since I’ve known this woman, I’ve known her to be kind, warm, and full of a really wonderful innate joy. She is a woman who is in touch with her body and soul, and I knew this session would mean a lot to her and her husband. It just felt so right to do it. The universe gently dropped this session into my arms, much like you’d hand off a newborn baby.

My hour or so with her was lovely. She was not only so genuinely grateful, but she was so tightly embracing of the experience. She allowed herself to get a little lost in it. She immersed herself. That was such a joy to witness and photograph. It truly did my heart so much good to photograph her and her baby. It meant a lot to me to be able to document her body with child. I was so happy she’d have these photos forever.

Photography is an incredible gift to give someone. I obviously can’t do every kind thing I want to with my photography. But I think it’s important to listen to yourself and learn when it’s right to give the gift. It doesn’t just have to do with the recipient. It has to do with what this gift will do for your soul as well. I know that sounds selfish. But if it doesn’t sit right in your heart, then what kind of a gift is it anyway?

This is an important distinction for everyone to make, not just photographers. Unpopular opinion alert: Not every good deed needs done. It is only when the good deed feeds both souls: the giver AND the recipient that it does the world the most good. And in order for it to feed your soul, it’s gotta feel right to you. It’s gotta light you up a little. It’s gotta be an honor. It’s gotta make you sparkle, too.

Protect your gifts. They’ll mean even more when you give them if you do.



Low Rise Jeans on a High Rise Body // WV Boudoir Photographer

Between the ages of 13 and 17, I must have spent what added up to hours pulling my shirts down and my jeans up. All of my shirts had little spots of stretched, puckered material at the bottoms where I'd compulsively pull them down to meet my low rise jeans.

I still cringe at the thought of that feeling--sitting down, feeling the cool air on what may or may not be your ass crack. You could never tell for sure, so you always assumed it was out. I walked through the hallways slumped over, even though I was a tiny 5'2". If I scrunched my body, you couldn't see my hips busting out of the top of my jeans. I can still remember the tightness of the "waist" band sinking down my hips as I sat on hard classroom chairs. And sitting on the ground was simply out of the question. So I'd stand and watch the game while my narrower-hipped friends sat criss cross apple sauce in the grass.

Shopping wasn't any fun. Shirts were too short, pants were too long. I remember wishing I could cut off the extra material at the bottoms of my jeans and put it on the top. Every pair of jeans I tried on stopped short of slipping over what I called my muffin top. I'd run the tests: sitting, squatting, bending over to see just how much of my ass crack you could see with each movement. We'd scour the mall searching for a different style in my size while my mother tried to help by saying things like, "honey, you're so thin!"

And I was. I was a size 4 until you got to my hips and ass. I had what all the women in my family referred to as "The Daugherty ASSet." All of the women in my family were curvy, especially in the tush area. Growing up, I'd always assumed that when I hit puberty, I'd start to look like them. At 13, my butt grew, but my stomach didn't. I'd never seen a shape like mine. Shopping trips only reinforced the idea that my body was weird, wrong with every pair of jeans that squeezed into my soft hips.

My whole life people told me I was pretty, but between 13 and 17 I hid behind scraggly hair and wrong-sized clothing because I felt abnormal. 


Fast forward a few years, 2005. I'm shopping in an Old Navy in Pittsburgh, and I see a sign I'd never seen before. Above the wall of denim were signs describing what style of jean was under it. 

boyfriend    cropped    skinny   CURVY

Curvy? Could this be me? Could these pants have been built for people shaped like me? Were there other people shaped like me?

 I snagged every wash, every color they had in my size and ran to the fitting room.

I remember closing my eyes as I pulled them OVER my hips, and fastening the button that hit at my belly button. I ran the tests: sitting, no ass crack. Squatting, NO ass crack! Bending over, NO ASS CRACK. I got brave and tried sitting criss cross apple sauce on the floor--no skin showing at all. 

Sitting on that fitting room floor, I had so many questions.

Where have these jeans been all my life?

Did they exist when I was in high school?

Am I shaped funny, or did low rise jeans lie to me?

My curvy jeans gave me glasses. I started to see that there are as many body shapes as there are women in this world. I felt a sense of relief. No one is weird when everyone is different.

I wore those jeans til my knees tore through. They weren't perfect, but for the first time in my life, I didn't have to reach back to make sure my ass crack wasn't out when I sat down, and that felt good.


I reclaimed my self esteem around age 20, but I was still dressing to downplay my "Daugherty ASSet" until a year or so ago. I was still following rules like

don't wear horizontal stripes on bottom

no skinny jeans

only a line dresses and definitely not pencil dresses

wear loud patterns and bright colors on top to distract the eye

Distract the eye?! From what? The horror that is my backside?!

Then I heard of a brand called Madewell that friends and bloggers said understands women. I looked them up online. I noticed that they have a fit called "high rise skinny." Skinny AND high waisted? This was unprecedented in my world.

The next time we were in Pittsburgh, Madewell was on my to do list. I told Ricky to go to the Apple Store, this might take a while.

I bared my soul to the kind young girl who asked I needed help. She chuckled at the TMI I served her, but loaded a fitting room with more options than I knew I had. 

I blew through them, giggling and doing happy dances behind my fitting room curtain.

"How's it going in there?"

"Oh my god. Oh my god!"

She laughed. "Okay, well let me know if you need another size or anything."


I wear my Madewells multiple times a week, and I just ordered my second pair. 

A well-fitting jean taught me that there are infinite body shapes. A perfect fitting jean taught me how to love mine. So much, that when I'm wearing them, I often tuck my shirts in, just so you can see my tush as I strut across a room.

More importantly, loving my own shape helps me love all the other shapes. Wearing these jeans helps me celebrate ALL the shapes. 

I never want you to feel wrong, weird or abnormal because of the clothes that are available to you. I only want you to feel beautiful and celebrated. Wear what you want; wear what feels good. Wear what makes you want to strut across a room. 

You are beautiful, just as you are my friend.

 

 

 

 

350 Sets Of Stories // WV Boudoir Photographer

I have made boudoir photos for over 350 people.

350 bodies.

350 souls.

350 histories.


As you can imagine, the boudoir experience is a very revealing one. Not just skin, of course. It's a brand new experience for most, and new experiences tend to strip us down to our most vulnerable bones. We are childlike in these moments, hearts open to the newness, minds slightly hesitant of it. 

With every client I book, I am taken aback by the trust my clients place in me from the very start. Before I have written or spoken a word to them, they reveal a little bit about why they want to do a session. Some of them haven't felt beautiful in years. Some are on a wellness journey. Others have stories of abuse, medical issues, bad relationships, suppressive childhoods, struggles with motherhood. 350 unique stories to tell. 

I worked hard to curate the booking process so that my clients can get to know me, and hopefully trust me very early on. I want them to feel welcome, safe, and eventually excited for the experience they're about to have. 9 times out of 10, during the first phone call I can hear the nervousness in their voices fall away. Their language goes from, "I'm nervous," to "I'm excited" in just around 20 minutes. It's really beautiful, and I am honored and flattered every time it happens. 

Every so often I will receive an additional text or email after that first phone call. Having established a relationship, my clients seem to feel urged to share more with me after we speak. This is when I hear the real reasons they want to do a session. 

It's never just about looking and feeling sexy. 

It's about finding yourself again.

It's about healing.

It's about reclaiming something that was taken from you.

It's about celebration.

It's about acceptance.

It's about reconnecting with a part of yourself you thought might be gone.

It's about feeling desired.

It's about a new perspective.

It's about believing you are enough, dare I say, as you are.

I will never take for granted the honor it is to be invited on these journeys. 

To those of you who have shared your story with me, thank you. You fill my heart with love and purpose when you do.


What is your story? What is behind your boudoir session? What would this experience mean to you?

 

An Apology // WV Boudoir Photographer

Dear As You Are Friends & Followers,

I owe you an apology. 

The entire time I’ve been championing body positivity and self love and acceptance, it never once occurred to me that you might not be ready to be positive about your body yet, and I’m sorry.

It isn’t my place to rush you or convince you that you’re perfect as you are. Because I don’t get to decide that. It isn’t my job to define beauty or perfection for you. Only you can do that. 

I listened to a podcast yesterday that flipped my world around a little bit. It was an episode of Dear Sugars (highly recommend it) called Trust Your Body, and it completely rearranged the body positive dictionary in my brain. 

First of all, I truly do believe that all bodies are beautiful, including my own. And that’s where I get blinded. It’s easy for me to love bodies and think they’re beautiful, because it’s the only emotion I’ve ever felt towards a body as an adult. I started loving my body early in my life, and when I started discovering & experiencing other bodies, that love only grew. Which is a gift, and I want you to know that I never ever take it for granted. 

But my body love isn’t really fair to you. Because you might not be there yet. Or maybe you were once in a place of self love, but got away from it. 

While listening to this podcast, I remembered that we have been force fed a definition of beauty that is not only unfair to women (and men, but sit down boys, I’m talking to the girls right now), but it’s just totally fucking false. 

From the time we are CHILDREN, society/media/adults in our lives start teaching us that beauty is this one thing, and they sell it and sell it until we believe it, and we don’t even realize we’ve bought into it. They teach us that a woman’s body needs controlling to fit into the mold that was invented without our consent. And we believe it, because what other message do we have? I’m guilty of it, too. I’m buying into it when I over Photoshop a client. I’m buying into it when I don’t wear a top I love because it makes me look “bigger.” 

It’s this archaic, patriarchal definition that unfairly distorts my message when I say things like, “you are beautiful, as you are,” I need to remember that it gets filtered through what beautiful means to you. 

There is nothing wrong with the pursuit of beauty. I’ve built an entire business around it. But I’d love for you to ask yourself, whose definition of beauty are you pursuing? 

I love it when my clients tell me that they felt beautiful during their session and in their photos, but I love it even more when they tell me that they felt sexy, powerful, and strong in them. 

You are a wonderful being full of magic and passion, interesting thoughts and ideas, who has lived and will endure incredible experiences. THIS is what makes your photos beautiful. Not your body. Not the makeup. Not even the lighting or lingerie. It’s your human experience and existence that makes your pictures beautiful. 

It is important to me to tell you all of this, because I am adjusting the way I move through my process. From my language on social media, to the way I photograph my clients, I will work harder to dig a bit deeper and help you really SEE yourself. Not help you see yourself as beautiful necessarily, but just truly SEE yourself. If even for the couple of hours you are with me, I want us both to be so fully connected to who you are that you can’t HELP but love your photos, because while we made them, you were purely YOU.

You ARE beautiful as you are, and I will never stop believing that or trying to show you that.

But it is more important to me that we honor who you are, and that you walk away from your session feeling important and necessary in this world, even as you change and grow in it.

I'm sorry that I hadn't considered your journey before, but I promise to respect and honor it from here on out. 

Love the shit out of you,

Jodi

Living The Dream: When Sarcasm Becomes Your Truth // WV Boudoir Photographer

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"What are you up to today?" 

I get asked this a lot. I think because the opportunity to be asked this presents itself more often when you make your own work schedule. When I'll be spending my day working, I usually respond with a downcast and sarcastic

"Ohh, living the dream,"

And say I'll be editing or sending emails. Because that's what we do, right? We shrug off the obligatory necessity that is our work because it isn't common to love your job let alone express it.

I'm lucky. Work for me means interacting with interesting, creative people. It means encouraging women to treat themselves to an empowering experience. It means creating a memorable, rich experience that makes these women look and feel beautiful for maybe the first time in years. It means making photos, making art.

I love my job so much I created a business from nothing to be able to do it. I work really fucking hard to keep that business alive. I fight with myself on the reg to convince myself I am good enough to keep doing it. I am tired and hungry a lot. I yearn for Netflix nights instead of Photoshop 2am's. And I love it. 

I love being able to design my day. I love being my own boss. I love the ability to shift my schedule around to be there for friends and family. I love staying at nice hotels. I love getting to know my clients. I love making them sparkle. I love just being able to say, "I MADE THAT!" when I look at my photos and my business. I'm so fucking lucky.

And yet, when people ask what I'm up to, I give them a humdrum, disingenuous

"Living the dream."

The caustic response I curated to fit into the norm of hating your job started to sink into my blood, and eventually it hit my brain. I was dreading editing instead of looking forward to seeing the end result. I delayed sending emails instead of thinking of fun questions to ask my new clients. I hadn't blogged in weeks, because nothing about my business felt worthy of sharing. 

My automatic sarcasm became my truth. 

HOW UNGRATEFUL COULD I POSSIBLY BE?!

How ungracious of me to NOT express my love and passion for what I CHOSE and CREATED a business to do? Neglecting to express my excitement for my job was a total "fuck you" to all of the people who've had a hand in this establishment, including past Jodi who worked her ass off to make it exist. Not to mention the fact that my negative response just wasn't genuine. 

This is a cautionary tale, my friends. Your words have power. Not just over other people; they have power over you, too. Small words you may think are insignificant can have a tremendous influence over your thoughts, perceptions and actions. 

There's good news, though. Positive words have just as much if not more power than negative ones. Pay attention to your words. Make sure they honestly reflect your feelings. Especially if those feelings are positive ones! 

So the next time someone asks you, "what are you up to today," or "how's it going?" take a beat and consider your actual feelings before you give a meaningless stock answer. And who knows, you might get some good, hearty real talk back! How cool would it be to do away with small talk and have more big talk? 

But that's for another post...

Be Beautiful to Yourself,

Jodi

I'm Dating My Vagina

If asked, could you describe your own vagina?

Yeah, me either. That is until a few weeks ago.

I got curious when I saw a video about how a photographer asked to photograph women's vaginas like, REAL close up, but very clearly depicted. She then showed each woman the photos of her own vagina. Most of the women were surprised by the images. They didn't recognize themselves. 

Not only were they surprised, they were disappointed. When asked to describe what they saw, every. single. woman. used negative adjectives to describe her own vagina. 

HER VAGINA. Her life-giver. Her pleasure zone. Her health hub. 

They didn't have any clue how they looked down there, and when they saw it they didn't like it. 

There are a few things about this that made me sad. 

First and foremost, I was saddened by the fact that girls aren't taught that there isn't just one way to be beautiful. If we're lucky, we're told we're pretty by people who love and care about us, but this is rarely accompanied by the explanation that everyone looks different, and everyone is beautiful in different ways. 

This is especially true about more personal areas of the body. No one tells you that everyone's boobs and nipples are different or that butts are shaped differently. And certainly no one tells you that every vagina is unique. 

I come from a pretty encouraging, body-positive household, but there was never talk of this genital diversity. So I can't imagine that it was happening in very many households at all.

And that breaks my heart.

Look, I know it's an uncomfortable thought, talking to your friends and daughters about what your vaginas look like, but this has to change. It might FEEL weird at first, but I assure you it isn't actually a weird thing to talk about. Talking about this stuff with the age-appropriate ladies in your life doesn't make you a weirdo; it makes you a fucking hero! 

But you have to know about yours first.

Maybe if I tell you about my first date with my vagina, you'll feel more inclined to start learning and sharing. 

My fiancé was at work. I was working from home when I came upon the video that started it all. I felt embarrassed that as a 30 year old sex-positive, BOUDOIR photographer and champion of TMI, I wouldn't recognize my vag any more than the women in the video recognized theirs. 

So. I got to work. I grabbed a compact mirror I'd recently been gifted that ironically shouts in red glitter, "BE-YOU-TIFUL!" I took off my sweatpants (don't judge me; i work from home) and Target undies and sat on the floor. 

I'm not going to lie to you; it took a few deeps breaths, lots of giggling, he-be-je-bee-shaking off, and several tries to look into the mirror longer than 3 seconds at a time, and that first date, I think I only reached 5 or so seconds before I got weirded out and clapped the mirror closed. It was when you run into someone and you try to get out of each other's way but go the same way-awkward. We didn't talk much, I was glad when it was over, and I still don't know a lot about her.

But I definitely wanted a second date.

So, here's your challenge for the week, ladies. (Significant others of women, if you're reading this, encourage your lady to give this a shot. Tell her you want her to see what you see.)

Go on your first date with your vagina. It might not even last a full minute, and that's okay. Just introduce yourself. Take a look. Don't be too hard on yourself--or your date. Be forgiving and open minded. See if you want a second date.

The only way to prevent future generations of women hating on what can only be described as their magical genitalia is to start the conversation now.

Next week we'll talk about ways to start that chat. 

xo
Jodi

 

 

Faking It Is Only a Bad Thing Between the Sheets

The moment she assumed her first pose, I could tell something was different about her. She came in a small group of women who wanted to experience their first boudoir sessions together. Even though she was the most reserved of the crew, she was more comfortable in her own skin than any of the women with whom I'd done boudoir sessions. I've photographed some incredibly bold, strong, beautiful women, but her confidence was different. It had very little to do with her physical appearance. It had to do with how she felt.

"He's going to love that one," one of her friends commented. 

"He?" I delicately asked. 

"My husband," my model coyly answered. 

Ah-ha. Not only did I believe it to be influencing her approach to her session, but the knowledge certainly influenced my approach to her session. 

There I was, behind the camera, with the privilege--the honor--of seeing what he sees, all the while discovering the million reasons he chose her. 

She taught me a valuable lesson with her subtle sureness.

The way you feel during your session plays a huge role in the end result.

You have to be open to getting more comfortable and having a great time. Miss S. is lucky. She's got a deeply rooted confidence she exuded during her session. You don't have to be Miss S. to have a successful session. You just have to be willing to let your guard down a little bit and let me in.

I work really hard to help my clients feel comfortable from the get-go. Through information-packed emails to periodic check ins, and even styling and outfit assistance, I develop a rapport with you before we even meet. Then, by the time your session rolls around, we feel like boudoir besties.

"Fake it til you make it," my mother always says. Believe in yourself during your session. Even if you're not 100% comfortable or confident, believe that you are capable of looking amazing in photographs and I bet you'll start to feel it.