One of the most significant experiences of my life

Boudoir photography can be light and fun or significant and deeply moving – if we succeed, both. Our lovely client shared their story.
Photos were taken in Hotel Haawe, Rovaniemi.

a red haired person is lying in a tub, face straigh up to the camera, photo is cropped so that only half of her face is showing

My relationship with my own body has been complicated for most of my life. In recent years, I have worked on the relationship in a variety of ways, and become acquainted with body activism, for example. Little by little, I got the idea of having a photoshoot. I wondered if the pictures could show me my own body from a perspective that feels impossible to see in the mirror. At the same time, the idea of photographing my own body as it is also felt radical and liberating: I can appreciate my body as much as it is that I go and get photographed. The genre didn’t have to be boudoir; it could have been body photography, or another form of photography that refers to the whole body.

The thought of the photoshoot was in my mind for a long time before I took any concrete action to make it happen. I’ve been following the @sonjasphoto account on Instagram for several years, and have admired their style of taking pictures of people. The pictures have been staggeringly stunning. Sonja has also strongly communicated with their account that they photograph a wide variety of bodies and people. This was a threshold question for me when choosing a photographer. Inclusiveness, feminism and respect for diversity are reflected through the line in the published images as well as in texts and other content. I couldn’t have imagined going to be photographed by someone whose portfolio or social media account didn’t truly show a wide variety of bodies and people.

Sonja’s channels tell me they want to photograph people like me.

A woman is sitting on a couch sideways, facing the camera and smiling.

Planning is an important part of the process

From the moment I started actively dreaming about getting photographed by Sonja, it took a long time before the shoot itself. The distance from my own home to the studio is over 800 km. I was wondering how I could get myself to Turku in the middle of a pandemic.

Then there was a huge fortune. In the fall of 2021, Sonja and Tinksu announced that they would be coming to my hometown on a business trip in March 2022, and there would be room for one photoshoot on schedule. I took the opportunity and booked a shoot. The long wait was good for me. Although I had planned the photoshoot for myself, there was also a lot of fear and shame involved. I was able to gather my courage, as well as reflect on my hopes for the shoot with myself. In addition to this, I also collected folder of visual references to send to Sonja and Tinksu before the shoot. I was looking for pictures that I liked for one reason or another, and shared it all with them. Without Sonja’s tips on potential photographer accounts, it would have been very challenging for me to collect a folder. Most of the images I found with the subject tags were the ones that didn’t speak to me at any level. I didn’t want to be portrayed in a way that has marked the portrayal of female bodies throughout history: male gaze. I wanted to be photographed as myself, not an object, not for anyone else’s gaze, or embedded in a mold of a certain norm. However, with the help of Sonja, I found a good number of pictures that allowed me to tell them about my preferences not only in words but also in pictures.

About a week before the shoot, we met remotely at my request, and went through things related to the photoshoot. I was able to share my fears and hopes. I was told about the principles during the shoot. It is important that the principles of a safer space, for example, are clear to all parties before the photoshoot. For me, meeting in advance created an extra sense of security for the shooting situation itself. The encounter was warm and comfortable. With it, waiting for a photoshoot turned into a more exciting tingling than a horror await.

Boudoir photoshoot

The photoshoot became one of the most significant and best experiences of my life. In the shoot, Sonja took pictures, and Tinksu guided me. Everything we did was safe and good for me. Nervousness eased surprisingly soon after we started shooting. I liked that instructions and tips were given, but then I was allowed to do it in my own style and listening to my body. I felt strongly that I am good as I am, and I no one is trying to make me into something else for the sake of the pictures. It is a super important message to a person that society has been trying to put into a certain kind of mold all their life. Often when photographed (even when taking a selfie) one is well aware of certain parts of the body – especially those that one is uncertain of and have been somehow instructed to reduce or hide. It was downright revolutionary that I didn’t have to edit, hide, or minimize myself in any way while I was being photographed. It was not instructed, for example, by body positions, clothing, or head tilt angles. That’s why being in front of the camera also felt surprisingly natural – I got to be me.

Scared about seeing the photos

After the photoshoot, I was in an emotional state for several days. I was so pleased that I had done it despite the fears and nervousness. The experience exceeded all my expectations. I thought in advance that the end result, the pictures, would be the biggest thing. I realized that for me personally, it was the experience. I had also thought that seeing the finished images would be awful. Not because I didn’t trust the expertise of the photographer but because I would see the images through the problematic eyes of my body relationship. So I told Sonja and Tinksu in advance that I was very scared to see the pictures. The great thing was that they also helped to make it easier to view the pictures.

Contrary to all my expectations, I was sold.

A few days after the photoshoot, it was time to see the selection gallery. I put in the background the same playlist I had made for the shoot. I was hoping to find at least those 20 images to meet the minimum amount. Contrary to all my expectations, I was just sold. I had great photos in front of me. For the first time, I was able to look at the pictures of myself so that the dignified and ruthless voices came second to the gentle and encouraging ones. I saw in myself the simultaneous inner strength and sensitivity that have been waiting to be heard and seen. It was also wonderful to see that my desire for more artistic images was reflected in the results in just a suitable way.

Positive experience supports for long

I strongly believe that the photoshoot experience supported me even when I saw the pictures. There was a feeling that working with my body relationship for a long time was finally starting to pay off. It was just the right time for the photoshoot. Eventually, I ended up taking the entire gallery, as different pictures became favorites each time I viewed them. On the other hand, I also wanted to have the pictures that don’t speak to me right now. It may be that after a year, five years or 15 years, they are the ones that feel important then. I feel that the financial investment in this is also an act for well-being for my body and myself. (Fortunately, there is an option to pay in installments, otherwise it would have been a difficult place to choose.)

Going to be photographed may seem like a superficial act, but to me it was everything else. On a personal level, this was a very important and profound experience. Until a few years ago, I wouldn’t have thought I wanted to photograph my body, which I’ve scolded so hard. Now I think it was just the right way to work on my body relationship.

People may have different reasons for wanting a photoshoot. I would hope that people struggling with a wide range of insecurities like me would find ways to see themselves in ways other than dissatisfaction and self-loathing, saturated with narrow beauty standards. If you are considering going to a photoshoot, and might think it as a part of your body relationship research, I warmly recommend Sonja and Tinksu. They’re a duo that does professional, warm, safe and valuable work and who I can thank of making possible this experience that has left such a deep impression on me.

This photoshoot was one of the most significant experiences of my life for me. I didn’t have to strive for anything I wasn’t. I got to be me.

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