I don’t believe in doing Before & After photographs. When I first started doing glamour and beauty photography, I did them - and absolutely loved them. In fact, Before & After portraits are a staple amongst the glamour photography community. The more sessions I did though, the more I listened to how the women reacted to themselves “done up,” and therefore the more I didn’t want to do Before & After photographs.
There’s this dialogue that comes out when we put makeup on and have our hair done. It’s even as innocent as “I wish I looked like this all the time!” It doesn’t always come across with the weighted, “now I feel beautiful.” I’ve been through this transition multiple times in my life. I get caught up in the shimmer of “perfection” and start to admire the ideal. At the foundation of who I am though, the touched up, slimmed down, wrinkle-removed “ideal” is not what I see real beauty to be.
Real beauty is raw. It’s an open-armed accepting of flaws and quirks. It’s a love for the stories behind the wrinkles, grey and stretch marks. It’s an embrace of everything that someone is at their core - a naked soul. Beauty is someone who can look at themselves when they have the flu and see the weight of their value, not the sluggish color of their skin and puffy eyes. Beauty is someone who can look at themselves after first stepping out of the shower with raccoon eyes, loving what they see in themselves. Beauty is not in perfection alone, it’s in accepting yourself perfectly.
That’s why I decided to shift my focus (yet again) two years ago. I stopped doing Before & After photographs. I stopped dismissing and accepting women’s requests to take ten pounds off and remove twenty years. I stopped trying to make skin “imperfection”less and, instead, focused on lighting women in the most flattering light for their skin, only editing out the parts that aren’t always there (temporary blemishes) and only lightly finessing how they look. Most importantly, I started informing women who requested to be drastically altered from their beauty that I will do my best to bring out their beauty and that means I’ll be leaving them mostly as they are.
Since shifting back to this foundation of true beauty, I’ve seen the most incredible transformations of all - women who actually see themselves, who can see that same person in the mirror day after day and begin seeing that they are beautiful just as they are. I watch them unfurl, I share in community with them as they become vulnerable, I embrace them as they let theirselves be seen. If there’s any magic in the world, it’s to be found in the transformative beauty of the naked soul.