I've recently been pulled in this direction of boudoir photography, which has been a bit of a surprise to me; but I go with the flow and with my gut. I see boudoir as not just "sexy" photography but as a celebration of the female by a female (me!). My goal is not to objectify the body but to create art and in the process, an experience for the client that is liberating: Liberation from hesitance, self hate or judgement and insecurity. I believe the feminine holds so much power. And believe me, as I've done these sessions, I have felt the raw power of the female energy- it's sensual and magnetic, it's joyful and intense, a bit scary, I'll be honest! For a woman to feel comfortable baring a lot of herself, not just physically, but emotionally to me as she learns to forget the lens and tap into the essence of herself, is an honor.
About a month ago I put out a model call in search of women who might be interested in the experience of being my model for a day. I got quite a few responses for the model call which was very exciting. As I weeded through the applications, I chose carefully, looking for those that fit my "mission" if you could call it that. I want to photograph real people, moms, teachers, insecure librarians, doctors, you get the picture. Not real models that would treat this like a job. I wanted women who looked at this as an opportunity to tap into themselves, go out of a comfort zone, explore a new possibility.
Just after my model call ended, I got an application from a woman named Krysteen. She'd found me through Instagram, my call had shown up on her feed, and though it was past the deadline, she felt compelled to reach out.
I always play things straight and fair, so I couldn't include her in the model call, but I was intrigued enough by the little bit she told me of herself, that I extended a special offer boudoir session, which she happily agreed to.
Over the course of our session together I got more and more of her story, and it truly floored me. I wanted to share her story and asked if she might write a bit in her own words. I didn't want to leave out the details.
"The best way that I can describe my story is that it's raw, it's real. My life has been made up of chapters of transformation. And only up until recently have those transformations manifested into a physical form as well."
She had her first son at the age of 16, got married at 18 and then had three more boys. She considered motherhood the greatest most singular accomplishment of her life.
"I quickly jumped into the nurturer for everybody else forgetting myself along the way. As much as I pride myself on the title of being a mother, I almost got lost in it. I struggled with my weight like most women do through multiple pregnancies. Finally after the birth of my fourth son and at the heaviest weight that I could have been I decided enough was enough.
Krysteen made the difficult choice to take care of herself, to do something for her and to know deeply that it wasn't selfishness on her part, by taking care of herself she was not taking away from her boys, but actually giving them the gift of a healthy mother.
" After a year of making choices to not just change my physical appearance but to try to get my spiritual and mind aligned I decided to undergo gastric sleeve weight loss surgery. I really struggled with taking this route because the stigma of weight loss surgery is 'taking the easy way out'.
And absolutely having the surgery is an easier alternative to helping lose the weight but for the last five years I have put in the hard work of keeping the weight off. By not only changing eating habits but changing my mindset as well. Any weight loss surgery is only meant to be used as a tool. Just like gym equipment it is a tool to help you become a healthier you if you just stand there on the equipment it does no good you have to put in the work.
My hard work paid off within about a year and a half. Getting rid of 175 lbs. Notice I didn't say LOSING 175 lb because typically when you lose something the intent is to find it again and I have no intentions of ever finding that weight again!!!!
So after all this hard work and determination, you are left with the aftermath of what your body looks like.
As proud as I am of my amazing transformation, there is a sad reality most weight loss people are left with: the loose skin. It robs you a bit of all the hard work. I share this not to take anything away from the weight that is gone or minimize the accomplishment, but I share because I have chosen to be raw and transparent and share the Before and After transformations not usually shared ! But this is my truth and reality."
And it's the willingness to share her "raw truth" that lead to the opportunity to be part of a reality show, Beauty and the Beach, where Krysteen was flown to Thailand for 21 days to have major surgeries to remove the loose skin from her arms and legs and reconstruct her breasts which she says were left completely deflated. All of this, while being filmed, interviewed and documented.
" During the course of the show The Producers asked me, after my surgeries were performed, if I felt more confident about my new body.
I had to stop and really think about it.
Because these surgeries meant more to me than just the cosmetic aspect; they really were a transformation of Mind, Body and Soul. My confidence came in the form of freedom! Freedom not to hide behind one single identity, to know that I was made up of so much more.
But my story doesn't end there or my transformations. Transformations are more than just physical.
In July of 2017 myself and the Band of Brothers (her sons) relocated to Sonoma County. I had lived in Merced County for 30 years and all my boys were born and practically raised there. So this was a huge transition for us all.
Within a few months after arriving we experienced with all of what Sonoma County had to experience the devastating fires. Although we were fortunate not to lose are home it was a very scary time.
In November of 2017 I survived a stroke that was caused by a dissected carotid artery, which created a clot that caused the stroke.
Though the size of the stroke was fairly big I was left with virtually no adverse visible side effects.
Come to find out later I have recently been diagnosed with Fibromuscular dysplasia. Which is a disease of the arteries that causes thinning or abnormalities in your major arteries. This leads to being more susceptible to dissection and tears of your arteries.
Apparently this is a very rare condition. I have always been a rare individual but now it's been medically proven that I am! lol. The great news with a diagnosis is that now I know how to manage it to help prevent any future strokes."
Krysteen sees all these obstacles and chapters in her life as having made her who she is today and going forward into the future. I love her description of herself:
"I am a Wonder Woman, I am a survivor, I am a mother, I'm fearfully and wonderfully made. I'm a transformation , I'm hope to not give up, inspiration to share your raw, your truth, your real. I am a story that is still being written. I am Wonder Woman!!!
So thank you for giving me an opportunity to take these photos as a reflection of my journey."
It was an honor to capture her and help her see her transformation through my lens.