Memories have been flooding back to me since I received my new (to me) Canon 550D camera. Getting out my old lenses, cleaning up my filters, refreshing my knowledge of printing, mounting, and matting… It’s like opening a time capsule to find a lot of things that once meant a great deal to me, but somewhere in the course of life, my photography just sort of slipped off the screen. With all of my reminiscence, I remembered a project that I wanted to do when I got married. I wanted to create a portfolio of the woman I would marry, capturing her in every aspect of life, challenging myself to find and emphasize each and every one of her unique beauties of both body and character.
I’ve photographed many subjects over the years, but by far, my favorite subject is women. Years ago when I studied photography in college, I found myself focusing on my models in a different way than did my classmates. Rather than simply taking pictures of models looking certain ways and doing certain things, I concentrated greatly upon discovering the unique beauty of each model and capturing her rather than just taking pictures of her. I discovered I was a fine arts photographer through and through. Over the years of studying photographic fine arts, I’ve learned that some of the greatest figure photographers do the same thing. They have a small number of models that they have photographed for years, in situations from intimate nudes to glamours to everyday journals. Many of these photographers have extensive portfolios, not classified by theme, color, etc., but by model. They create beautiful works of photographic art by creating a combined ’picture’ of the model herself. That’s my passion. That’s always been my passion in photography.
Unfortunately, I’m a rather emotional guy, and while I’m trying to discover my model’s unique beauties and characteristics, I tend to get attached. As I came to learn, that’s actually common among male fine arts photographers who work closely with female models, and in the world of liberal arts, it’s usually expected (or at least tolerated) that the photographer is intimate with his models in more ways than from behind the lens. And, of course, due to my personal principles, I could not let that happen. So I just sort of put my photography on ice until I married. Then, I thought, she would become my model, my subject, and I would be free to explore her without restriction and without concern of falling in love with what I found in her.
I’m much older now. Much more experienced. I’ve learned that many if not most ‘decent’ women would never let me create such a portfolio of art around them. It isn’t because they don’t like the idea. It’s because of fear and low self-image. Stigmas in our modern world surrounding the female body are destroying its beauty. Images of airbrushed models tell them that they’re not beautiful. Pretty, girly clothes that are only available in ultra-small sizes tell them that they’re fat. Photographs of models with $500 makeovers, studio lighting, and digital optimization tell them that their freckles, moles, birthmarks, scars, and stretch marks are hideous. The truth is, while every woman wants to feel beautiful, and while many men try to convince them that they are, women are afraid and ashamed of their bodies. That’s sad.
I would still like to create this project if I ever get married. I realize now, however, that it’ll likely be a challenge just to get a woman to let me photograph her. I recently read an article (link) from a woman who overcame the challenge of allowing her husband photograph her naked. I’m glad to hear this woman’s story and how she overcame that fear, but it’s sad that so many others will not. It’s sad that so many won’t even try.
I don’t know if I’ll ever marry. And if I do, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to create this photographic project with my wife. I hope she allows me to. I hope she allows me to show her just how beautiful and unique she is with my skills that I’ve waited a long time to use. I hope she’s open enough to see herself through my eyes – and my lens.