pittsburgh

Great Expectations: Holiday Edition // WV Boudoir Photographer

As a kid, I knew my Christmases didn’t look like the ones in the movies. Our house was smaller. Our family was broken and spread out. And our budget was definitely smaller. (Who can afford to fly their entire family across the country a la Home Alone?)

It never bothered me, though. If anything, I thought I had it better than other kids. I effectively got three Christmases. Christmas Eve at my dad’s, Christmas Day at mom’s, and then a few days after Christmas we’d make the trek to my mother’s side of the family and have our third and final Christmas before the New Year came. It was great! So many people, and yeah, plenty of presents. It just didn’t look like a Christmas movie Christmas.

By the time I was nine years old, both of my older brothers were out of the house. They came home for a lot of Christmases after that, but as years went on, their holiday visits became less predictable. I’d also ceased communications with my father, and our extended family visits became less frequent. And then, about 6 years ago, it was just mom and me on Christmas morning.

It was a lovely morning, but it felt like there were several missing pieces.

A few years into the Mommy & Me Christmases, I decided to take matters into my own hands. My mother had put together over 40 Christmases for the boys and me, so the least I could do was cook a couple meals and plan a few crafts.

But that didn’t feel quite right either. I didn’t understand it. I was checking all of the Christmas boxes:

  • Christmas Eve dinner

  • Christmas Eve mass

  • Christmas morning breakfast

  • plenty of packages for mom to open

  • our favorite Christmas album on repeat

I still felt a heavy weight on my heart.

I wish I could say it was a crystal clear Hallmark movie moment when I realized it, but that’s just not how it went. It was more of a slow awakening.

When I took the reigns of the holiday, I was doing everything I could to make ours look like the Christmases in Christmas movies.

But our Christmas has never looked like those! Not even the happiest of our holidays resembled the ones in the movies, so why would I try to force it to?

Our Christmas is quiet and messy. It’s silly and disjointed. It’s unpredictable, different from year to year. It’s relaxed and loose. It’s cozy and comforting. Our traditions might not look like the ones in the movies, but we do have them. And this year, instead of trying to make our Christmas something it’s not, I’m going to enjoy what it IS.

A Tour of Our Living Room // WV Boudoir Photographer

The silver airplane bottle opener is from a delightful, expertly curated antique barware store on Tybee Island. We only got to enjoy that shop for one year before it closed. We knew they wouldn’t be open the next year, though, because we’d made friends with the owners and got a little back story. They moved back to D.C.

The white porcelain horse is from Target, the clearance end cap. I waited for him to be cheap enough to justify the purchase of a white porcelain horse. I’ve had him longer than Ricky and I have had each other. He’s got two chips on his elaborate bridle. I call him Conquistador Horse.

The macrame on the bedroom door is from a craft I attempted at a business owner’s meeting. I’m not very good at macrame.

The fiddle fig tree is from a friend. She thoughtfully brought it as a thank you gift for having her as an overnight guest.

The letterpress prints behind the bar are my brother’s gift for being in our wedding. They will be expensive and inconvenient to ship, so I have put that off. Ricky would like to do it before Christmas. I would like to wait until they drive up here again.

“Girls Named Penelope” is a piece of art by a lady called Leslie. I fell in love with it at Arts Walk, an annual event here in Morgantown. It is often crisp, cool and wet this night. It’s my favorite evening of the year.

The candle beside Alexa is made by a company that is based in Ohio. The candles are too expensive, and I have to go to this one store in the Strip in Pittsburgh to get them, but I always have a really pleasant interaction there. I’m kind of proud to be able to treat myself to these candles, and I enjoy visiting the store where I get them.

The blue velvet pillow is from Salvation Army. I got it at least 7 years ago. It used to have tassels on it, but I cut those off. I like the color a lot. It is luxurious and whimsical.

The other blue pillow in the room was accidentally stolen from the hotel where everyone stayed for our wedding. Our nephew thought it belonged to us and packed it with our things the morning after our wedding. We thought that was a funny story so we kept it.

The brass bar tools set is from a cool vintage shop in Pittsburgh. I was with my friend, and she really liked it too, but it was a lot of money for me to spend on something like that at the time. So I tried to send Ricky a picture, but I didn’t get very good service in the store, so I had to make the choice on my own. I’m really glad I got it.

The statue of a samurai was a gift from Ricky’s host family in Japan. They didn’t speak English, and he didn’t speak Japanese. He had a hell of a time getting in through customs. I think it’s hideous but is cool enough to keep around. I hope someday we have a perfect spot for it in our house. I know it means a lot to Ricky.

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?

 

Hollingshead Was Not My Maiden Name // WV Boudoir Photographer

By next Christmas, I will be a Hussmann. By the Christmas after that, we might have a child I’ll one day tell that Hollingshead was my maiden name. 

Hollingshead was my maiden name?

That doesn’t seem quite right. 

 

I became the woman I am today with that name.

I attended and dropped out of college with that name.

I started a thriving business with $100 in my bank account with that name.

I fell in love, soooo many times, with that name.

I made terrible, life-altering decisions that I then rose from the ashes of with that name.

I introduced myself to the love of my life with that name.

I was surprised by visits from my brothers with that name.

I worked behind counters until I could start my own business with that name.

I made the hardest decision of my life with that name.

I learned how to love and please my body with that name.

I drove so many miles and booked so many trips with that name.

I rejected men that didn’t treat me the way my mother taught me I should be treated with that name.

I created hundreds of thousands of images of beautiful, incredible women, with that name. 

I voted for the first black President of the United States with that name. 

I removed my toxic father from my life with that name.

I giggled at 31 years worth of twinkling Christmas lights with that name. 

I adopted my beloved Astrid kitty with that name.

I got laughed at countless times with that name. 

I discovered what singing does for my soul with that name. 

I held my mother’s hand in the hospital more than once with that name.

I showed my work on gallery walls for the first time with that name.

I said “yes” to a lifetime of happiness with that name. 

 

My dear future child, Hollingshead was not my maiden name. 

Hollingshead was my warrior name.

How Not To Lose Your Shit When You Lose Your Wedding Venue: 9 Easy Steps

"Venues book fast," they said. "Book your venue first," they said. "Once you have your venue, everything will fall into place," they said. 

Okay, great. Done. You got that venue. So you merrily skip through all of your other big wedding decisions like a freaking vendor-booking machine.

Then your venue gets pulled out from under you like the goddamn tablecloth trick five months before your wedding.

And when someone attempts the tablecloth trick, what usually happens? 

ALL THE SHIT ON THE TABLE CRASHES INTO A SHARP, STICKY, WET, TEAR INDUCING MESS.

So what do you do? Panic? Cry? Scream & curse at the heartless soul responsible for this?

Or do you take a deep breath, kiss your fiance, and get to work?

Yes. The answer is yes, you do all of that. 

Because losing your venue is one of the most disruptive things that can happen to wedding planning, I've taken the liberty of designing an easy 9-step process to help get you through it without rashly booking your tickets to elope in Cancun. 


 

HOW NOT TO LOSE YOUR SHIT WHEN YOU

LOSE YOUR WEDDING VENUE

 

1. Cry It Out

It feels like a breakup for a reason. You dated tons of other venues, but this one stole your heart. You moved fast. You started picturing your future together, making plans, finding yourself wanting to see it every day. Then BOOM. Ghosted. It just disappeared with little to no explanation. Allow yourself to grieve that loss.

2. Hold The Phone

You and your fiancé need time just the two of you to feel this together. Resist the urge to call in reinforcements right away. Take the evening, turn off your phones, have a nice dinner and just be together. Take a moment to remember that you still get to marry the wonderful human across from you, so where EVER that happens, it's still great news. Wine helps, which brings me to

3. Get Drunk on a Tuesday

It's totally acceptable to get drunk the night you find out. A little (read: a lot of) booze can really clear your head and empty your heart. Which is just what you need when your wedding gets a shakeup like this. Get tipsy and let loose. Let your emotions run wild. Just make sure your phone is nowhere near you so you don't send any messages you'll regret in the morning. 

4. Once You've Completed Steps 1-3, ABSOLUTELY CALL IN REINFORCEMENTS

Start with those closest to you. It helps if you have a baller fucking fiancé and maid of honor. Then when you're ready, take to the internet.

Facebook is a beautiful beast, full of people who can help you. I know you don't want to talk about it, but it is in your best interest to reach out and ask for help on this one. Not only could they have ideas you wouldn't have thought of, but just seeing all your friends and family rallying and supporting you can get you through this crazy time.

BONUS TIP: Write down the names of people who went above and beyond to help you. Make a note to send them a thank you note once the dust settles.

5. The Dishes Will Get Done...After You Find a Venue

Don't worry about letting a few things slip to the back burner. This is kind of a big deal, and people will understand if you need a few days to get your shit together. 

6. Don't Be Afraid to Use Your "I Lost My Venue" Card

You never know when your sob story will come in handy. You should totally include it in all your emails to new venues. People will pull strings for jilted brides. (If strings are pulled for you, be sure to write that name down for thank you notes, too.)

7. You CAN Put Lipstick on a Pig

As you're shopping for new venues, you're going to get a lot of No's, which might lead you to booking a less than ideal space. This is when you need to channel your inner Joanna Gaines and see the potential in places you might not immediately fall in love with. (You KNOW you wanted a reason to troll Pinterest again anyway!) White lights and candles go A LONG way in transforming a space.

BONUS TIP:  Your guests are going to remember how your wedding made them FEEL, not what color the walls were in the reception hall. 

8. #blessed

At this point, it could really do you some good to take a beat and make a list of all the things you DO still have. Your fiance, for starters. Your amazing wedding party, wonderful vendors, friends and family who are still super stoked for your wedding. Focusing on all that goodness is key.

9. When One Door Closes, Another One Opens to the Whitewashed Warehouse of Your Dreams

There is a solid chance that you will find an even better venue. It might not seem like it right now, but remember how you thought you'd be with your high school boo forever? How'd that work out? Chances are, you found someone way more awesome. If you're open to the possibility of finding something better, you will.


As you research and contact new venues, it's okay if you feel the tears and/or rage well up. Let them. But keep referring to Step #8 as often as you need to, and your wedding day will be even better than you'd imagined with that punk ass venue that cancelled on you.


Check back next week for Part 2: What the 3 Days After Losing Our Venue Actually Looked (and Felt) Like

Why I'm "Sex-Obsessed" and Why You Should Be, Too // WV Boudoir Photographer & Intimacy Advocate

If you're not familiar with my weekly "Frisky Fridays" feature (GO GET FAMILIAR, BB! @asyouareboudoir!), basically every week, I answer a sex question sent to me by a follower that I then take to my panel of "Sexperts" to help me answer. These questions range in sauciness from "How do we keep things interesting," to "I hate oral. Help!"

This feature prompted a comment within the family calling me "sex-obsessed."

As a whole, my family has been surprisingly supportive of my chosen photography genre. They're impressed by the images and proud of the work I've done to build the business.

But apparently, this Frisky Friday stuff crosses a line.

I was informed by my mother that a family member expressed disapproval of the weekly feature. Allow me to preface this by saying

1. My family is comprised of amazing humans, and I love all of them very, very much.

2. that anyone can feel how they want to feel. I am not under the delusion that all of my ideas, opinions and content will be loved by all people everywhere. 

But this struck a chord. 

Because this perspective is EXACTLY WHY SO MANY OF US ARE FUCKED UP SEXUALLY.

Shame.

Guilt.

Secrecy.

Disconnectedness.

We (especially women) are met with SO MUCH emotional opposition to a healthy sex life. Don't even get me started on how far back in history this goes. We're not allowed to surrender to pleasure. We're not allowed to aggressively SEEK pleasure. We're not allowed to talk about sex. We're not allowed to FEEL. We're not allowed to dress a certain way. We're not allowed to ask questions. 

All of this has resulted in a repressed, sex-negative culture that shames us for desiring sexual intimacy. 

Which happens to be something that we are ACTUALLY DESIGNED FOR. 


My emphasis on and advocacy of a healthy sex life is not just about pleasure, though. 

It's about the tools you learn and the power you collect on the way to a thriving intimate life. 

We are so disconnected. From each other, from the life things that matter, and especially from ourselves. And when you set out on the quest for great sex, you learn ways to reconnect with yourself. You learn ways to love yourself and your body.

When you're connected mentally and emotionally, you're able to invite your body to a higher level of existence and experience. 

We are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we're experiencing now. There is SO MUCH LIFE we're missing out on because we've been told not to seek pleasure.

The best part? You can take these lessons outside the bedroom. Breathing techniques, mental and emotional exercises, mindfulness, connectedness. All of this yummy stuff can be put to use at work, within your family and friendships, through particularly stressful times, to maximize your enjoyment of other things!


I also cannot ignore that every session, I watch my clients deeply connect to their sensuality and then walk out of my studio with their heads held higher, smiling wider, FEELING as beautiful as they are. When you're in touch with your body sexually, you're more confident, you show more self love, you invest in self care. There's science behind that, sugar babies, not just my observations. 

I started a business with the sole intent of making women feel beautiful. A healthy intimate life facilitates that.


So yeah, I'm pretty interested in what sex can do for our bodies, minds, relationships and souls. Can you blame me?

I just want to start conversations. I want to be a person who doesn't shy away from important things because it's uncomfortable. I want to facilitate communication between partners.  I want to give people hope. I want to help turn pages and start new chapters. I want to build bridges and create connections. 

I don't know if you were in the camp of people wondering what all this sex talk is about, but I hope this helps shed some light on why it's so important to me. And if any of the sexy sex content has helped you and/or your partner, don't be shy! Let me know! As always, if you have a question that my sexperts and I might be able to help you with, email me! 

XxXOoO,

Jodi

From Barista to Boss // West Virginia Boudoir Photographer

If you'd told me four years ago that I'd be lying in the plush ass bed of a swank ass hotel, blogging for my bad ass business after a fabulous dinner with my fabulous friend, I would have said, 

 "Well, yeah. Of course I will."

Because those were things I wanted. And things I was willing to work for.  

Tomorrow I'm going to wake up in a luxe hotel room to coffee that my fiancè brought upstairs for me from the Starbucks in the lobby. I'm going to drink that coffee while we laugh in our bathrobes and share what we'd like to get done. Then, we're going to take our laptops and sit in the lobby/gorgeous Starbucks and do our jobs. 

I'm able to enjoy all of this because I took one step at a time to change my life. It didn't happen overnight, and it isn't always this glamorous.

This won't be the first time Ricky and I have worked at Starbucks at the same time. But five years ago, when we met, I was on the other side of the counter serving him coffee while he did freelance work from my Starbucks. I was nearing the end of my time there, because I was becoming unhappy with the job. I wanted more. And I knew I was capable of it. So I fucking did it.

I'm telling you to dream bigger. No, bigger. What do you want? What do you want your life to look like? 

Here's some homework for you.

Write down 5 things about the life you want to have, but don't yet. Don't be cynical about this. Of course we'd all like a million dollars and two more days in the week. Dream realistically big. Different job? Different town? More exercise? Better food? More connection? 

Now the hard part. 

Write down 3 things you can DO for each of the 5 ways you'd like your life to be different. Small steps first. You want to make a career change? Polish up that CV. You want to eat better? Hop on Pinterest and make a meal plan and a grocery list.

Now...

Go do it.  

This is National Bosses Day, and you, my friend are the boss of your own life. Go get the life you want, tiger.