A few weeks ago, at the Divas on Deck event, I received a voucher from Michael Rork and his wife, Athena, of Zinfandel Photography, for a complimentary photo shoot. I’ve always wanted to try it, and I thought, “Well, if I’m going to do this… really do this, I may as well try some sexy photos too!” So, I did!
I think every woman has issues with her body, no matter how beautiful everyone else thinks she is.
I know I do. I’m insecure about the weight I’ve put on recently, especially after exercising so much last summer. I could have saved my voucher and waited until a time when I felt more confident in my own skin. But you know what? Even when I was in better shape, last summer, I didn’t see it. I didn’t feel differently. I still had the same insecurities. “So, why wait?” I thought, “I want to feel beautiful now, exactly as I am.”
I emailed Michael and Athena to set up a consultation. They suggested they bring their son, so he and my daughter, Ellie, could play together, but Ellie was not thrilled about that upon arrival. She was having a particularly difficult day and was NOT in the sharing mood. In fact, I will forever remember this as the first moment when my child decided that she would not allow me to have an adult conversation. (The work toward parental freedom continues…) But besides all that, Michael and Athena were nothing but professional, and they proceeded with the consultation patiently as we wrangled the kids and tried different techniques to get Ellie to relax. I remember instantly thinking, “These people are amazing.”
I told them that I wanted to do a pinup style and shared my interests with them — particularly 1950s housewife attire and late-50s Beatles music! It was all becoming more real.
Michael was very upfront about the pricing and was willing to work with me to find a solution to fit my budget for buying the final images. The voucher included a $100 gift card toward a photo package as well.
A few days before the shoot, Athena came over and helped me with my wardrobe. She has her own business, Athena’s Enchantments. She has access to beautiful and affordable lingerie and recommended the perfect outfits for my shoot. She was so professional and didn’t inundate me with comments about “plus size” clothing. I know I need plus-size lingerie, I get it. She didn’t even mention it. We talked about my body type and how to find clothes that would compliment it. It was wonderful, and I wish she could dress me and boost my confidence every morning.
Finally, the day arrived and, as usual, I was totally unprepared. I woke up and thought, “What have I gotten myself into?” Mark and I have spent most summer weekends cleaning out our closets and trying to organize our bedrooms. A lot of my clothes were tucked away, stored for sorting in garbage bags, but Athena had taken care of me!
Hair and makeup were included in the voucher, and Michael had made me an appointment at a salon close to my home, at 9:00am, so I headed there for my pinup hairstyle and left my husband, Michael, Athena, and their assistant and makeup-artist, Meg, to set up in my home. Michael had already met me at the salon for a before-photo.
When I came home, the photo shoot was almost all set up, the makeup was laid out on my dining room table, and Michael greeted me with, “Hey, our guest-of-honor is here!”
“Huh, me? Little, ol’ insecure me who doesn’t like her thighs and hopes that makeup and Photoshop will save her? Me who hasn’t worn makeup for most the summer, who has been searching for freedom from parental responsibilities at the bottom of a bag of sugar donuts? Me who couldn’t find one single pair of pretty, black panties to wear with my outfit… who forgot to get a mani/pedi, who spent the morning sweeping up Cheerios?”
“I’m just an ugly, old, fat, washed-up Cinderella,” I thought, “whose party has been over for about 10 years now.”
But Athena had me covered in the underwear department, and Michael handed me a glass of champagne, as Meg started on my makeup. I hadn’t even had a glass of alcohol in over a year. Suddenly, princess-party Cinderella was making a comeback, if only a tiny one.
I always go into these types of things, new adventures, with optimism, so I had convinced myself that I was 100% comfortable with my body and could do this, but as I walked across the yellow, paper back-drop and tried to find the right position for my first photo moment, I felt clumsy and awkward. The weight of my body made it difficult to even find a comfortable sitting position.
I began writing blog posts in my head with titles like, “How Not to Feel Like a Supermodel” and “When You’re a Mom, Bad-Naked is Really Bad.”
Michael sensed my nervousness. He joked with me, which helped. Then he, very calmly, and very professionally, just told me where to put my awkward limbs. “Put this hand here, put your elbow there.” He laughed when I struggled with the instructions. We laughed together. When a pose didn’t work, he didn’t criticize me, he just said, “Okay, try this! Does that feel more comfortable?”
The click of the camera became white noise. I tuned it out and became more focused on moving my body into poses. It was like yoga.
Amazingly, while I was very, super-aware of my awkwardness and focusing on my body, Michael was finding some beauty in me, capturing photos of my smile, my goofiness, my playfulness. He was finding the me that made me feel confident, funny, happy.
So, when he came by my house a few days later to show me the photos, I had to hold back tears and try to narrow down my choice of prints. It was tough, even for me who is not happy with my body. It was difficult to pick only 8 photos. Some were just artistically beautiful due to how Michael composed the shots. We joked about which ones we would put on the cover of Rolling Stone. Others were just me. I was drawn to the ones that showed my sincere smile or that glint of silliness in my eyes. “That’s me!” I said, as the slideshow played.
And my body looked beautiful! (Can I say that? Yes, I can! I love my body in these photos!) I hesitantly asked Michael what type of Photoshop work he did and was shocked to hear him say, “I didn’t.” What!?
“That’s you,” he said,”though I admit that I did some slight slimming on your arm in this one shot, where your arm was closest to the camera, the rest is all you. I don’t believe in changing women’s bodies too much. I don’t have to. You’re beautiful just like this.”
“Yes, continue…” I said, laughing. I’m still in disbelief that these are photos of me, my body.
And not just my body, not just me being “sexy.” I see my personality, my spirit, what makes me myself. It takes a special person to capture that, and with the help of Michael and his amazing team, they did!
I highly recommend checking out Zinfandel Photography and taking an opportunity to celebrate your beauty. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself.
Michael has kindly offered 10 free vouchers to readers of the Burlington Vermont Moms Blog.
The first 10 people to email us will get the vouchers! Please email us at [email protected] to claim yours!
Thank you all so much. I can’t even begin to tell you how much your words of encouragement mean to me!! 🙂
I recently did a photo shoot with Zinfandel as a wedding present. I felt SOOOO similarly to you when I did the shoot! My first few poses felt like he was just getting me prepped to start, and I felt very awkward and disjointed. I was convinced he and Athena were just being nice when he got excited about a shot, but when I saw the final product, I also had to hold back tears (okay, I was in tears)! As the shoot went on, I got a lot more comfortable, and Michael and Athena were a blast to work with. We even changed locations mid-shoot, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to chat with them on the way to and from the second site.
You were spot on about how it feels like getting your Cinderella on! I felt so nurtured and beautiful throughout; he found images of me that I had no idea were there. I recommend him to everyone I know, and I super duper hope that everyone who took the vouchers takes advantage because man o man is it an incredible experience! I can’t wait to show my album to my future hubby! 😀
p.s. You look fab!!!
p.s. Michael was so excited about my ideas and really prompt and thorough in his leg work to get everything set up, too!!! I really appreciated it, as my shoot was a bit of an undertaking, and he definitely felt as invested in it as I was. He was great, and it was an incredibly empowering experience!
I promise this isn’t a paid advertisement 🙂 This kind of professionalism, enthusiasm, talent, and artistry deserves the accolades!
Sexy mama. You look fabulous and I am in love with these photos. Xoxo
Gretchin…your body is amazing! I love these photos, they did an amazing job.
This is AMAZING!!! I love your honesty, and I love what Michael and Athena did! How awesome!!
Gretchin, you look fabulous! Congratulations for having the courage to love your body and showing it off to everyone. I also think it’s a great lesson for our daughters. To love the body we have and to be proud. You totally rocked it!