Am I Grateful For My Body?

Raleigh NC Boudoir Photographer


At the dinner table on Thanksgiving day, we were answering questions from this game that has conversation prompts specifically for Thanksgiving.  I some how managed to draw one that had to do with photography (of course), and then the next go round I got the question, “What is something that you are grateful for, but take for granted?”  I immediately answered a list of things like running water in my home, electricity whenever I flip a switch, the ability to pay for the basic necessities in my life.  Because those ARE things that I am so grateful for and rarely take the time to recognize my gratitude for them.  But a couple of days later, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep (like a typical extrovert, this is the time when my mind runs wild and free), it dawned on me that the most important thing that I take for granted that I should be most grateful for is my BODY.  My body.  The mass of cells and organs and blood and bones and muscles that carry me around all day long.  I am not always happy with how this body looks, which in the grand scheme of things (and to my feminist mind) is annoying and silly, but the feelings are there.  Eve Ensler put an illustration to my affliction in her book, In the Body of the World.  She talks about how, before she got cancer, she went through times in her life where it was like she was just a balloon head, with no body.  She had experienced things and felt certain ways about her body to where she just wanted to disconnect from it.  I totally get this.

My body has not experienced all that Eve Ensler’s has, but I do understand the concept of going through the world in a way that I give great acknowledgement to my head while I ignore my body.  Any compliments I typically give myself seem to apply from the neck up – “I’m smart”, “I’ve got good hair”, etc.  And this is the biggest shame!  What a waste!  I might be overweight but I am healthy.  My body allows me to do a job I love, to carry me places and experience wonderful things.  I think this is why boudoir can be so terrifying for women – it brings you into your body.  You are made so aware of your body.   Your head is connected to your body and you are a whole human.  But then this is the empowering thing about it – once you have been brought back into your body, you see that it’s not so scary after all.  You appreciate it and you celebrate it.  And you are brought to a place of gratitude because this body, no matter what shape yours is, is part of you.  It is you.  And you are uniquely beautiful.  Let’s work on being grateful for our bodies, deal?


Beauty in Vulnerability

NC Boudoir Photographer


I’ve had lots of awesome boudoir shoots in our home studio lately.  I am THRILLED to get to share one with you.  This lady wants to share about her boudoir experience with you:

To any woman that has ever even considered for a moment doing a boudoir shoot with Ashley, stop whatever you’re doing and make an appointment! I had no idea when I made plans to complete this shot that it would be as much of a growing experience as it was. Vulnerability is somewhat of a “trendy” topic recently and I can’t think of a better way to describe the act of becoming so revealed as getting undressed in front of a camera. I’m so glad I didn’t wait until I lost that extra x number of pounds or got a nice tan or until I magically looked like Rachel McAdams. As a bigger girl, the world doesn’t always come knocking on my door asking me to show off my goodies, but in this case I’m so glad that I did. This started as a surprise gift for my wife in our second anniversary, but it became a much needed gift for myself. So with that said, please do yourself a favor and get in front of Ashley’s camera. She will draw out the pure beauty that is already inside of you. And you’ll be drop dead gorgeous!”



















Boudoir As Wedding Gift

Raleigh North Carolina Boudoir Photographer


Before this woman modeled our new home boudoir studio, she first did a boudoir shoot with us five years ago to give to her husband as a wedding present.  I love how she incorporated her wedding dress into her boudoir shoot.  At the time she gave us this great feedback:

“My boudoir experience was incredibly empowering. I may not have felt like my body was perfect, but when Ashley got me in front of the camera, I felt beautiful. My husband was so surprised by his wedding gift and absolutely loved the photos. I would do this again in a heartbeat for the awesome experience that it was. Don’t be afraid- you’re gorgeous! You won’t regret it. Thank you Ashley for helping me remember what a sexy, powerful woman I am!!”





















Here’s to You, Lady!

Raleigh Boudoir Photographer

It’s me!  Bringing your weekly dose of “you’ve got this!” and “you are awesome and beautiful!” and “high five for being you!”


* As skeptical as I can be about big businesses, I do appreciate this ad from Always.  Have you heard about the #LikeAGirl campaign?


* Sarah Jenks is the founder of “Live More, Weigh Less” movement and conferences.  She is so very brilliant in her approach to helping women love themselves and free themselves from the immense pressure we feel to be and look a certain way.  In this blog post, “The Key to Feeling Sexy“, Sarah talks about how boudoir shoots helped her feel sexy and embrace herself.  She writes about the experience:


“When I first posted these pictures, I was so nervous. Not because you can see my boobs or because my stomach is hanging out, but because I am so connected to that raw, sexy, feminine part of me that I feel naked and very vulnerable. But I am leaning into my edge to show you that there is nothing dangerous, slutty or bad about being sexy. Sexy is in all of us regardless of our age, size, background or relationship status and all we have to is take the time to get to know her.

And expressing and understanding the many layers, flavors and ranges of our sexy is what prevents our sexiness from sneaking up on us and make us feel confused, slutty and in danger.  Intimately knowing our sexy is what keeps us safe, comfortable and in control.”


* United Front: Breasts without the Airbrush

This is so brilliant!  I love that someone did this.  Laura Dodsworth photographed 100 women’s breasts, ranging in age 19 to 101.  Our media gives us such an unrealistic idea of what breasts actually look like, whether it be because of airbrushing or plastic surgery.  It’s amazing how our society likes to hide what we are really like, in an effort to make the world seem less messy or more perfect.  Cheers to you, Laura Dodsworth!  You are doing good work!


 (images above by Laura Dodsworth)

* One 14 year old girl comes up with a petition to ask Seventeen Magazine to chill with their photoshopping – and they do it!  All she asked for was one un-photoshopped spread per issue.  After 80,000 signatures on her petition, Seventeen agreed.  Then the staff at Seventeen took it a step further by offering up a Body Peace Treaty that consists of eight vows that the entire staff signed…



Why Would You Share Your Boudoir Shoot?

Raleigh Boudoir Photographer


It has been such an awesome adventure launching this blogsite.  I have loved sharing my heart for photographing women and empowering them to feel their unique beauty.  Due to the nature of the images I am sharing on this site, I typically get affirmation from people through private messages, texts and emails.  Especially from straight men.  I have loved your reactions, you sweet guys.  You affirm me in the way I am going about this, but don’t want to seem creepy by commenting publicly on anything I am posting.  I have loved all your questions and your genuine interest and cheering from afar.  I have been getting questions about privacy and permission — Does each woman get to make the decision to share her images openly on this website?  What does her partner think about this?  I had the husband of a woman who wants to share her boudoir shoot here on the blog, but can’t because of her job, kindly ask me to explain to him why his wife would want to share her images.  Why do other women want to share their boudoir images on the website.  This was such a good discussion that I had to share it here on the blog.

Here was the question: Hey, I have a possibly stupid question. [My wife] and I were talking about her boudoir shoot and your website the other night. I know this is something you’re really passionate about. I know her shoot was healing and encouraging for her. But, I’m curious about blogging it. Why are you so passionate about blogging these shoots? How does it help the women in them? Honestly, as her husband I’m a bit uncomfortable with her blogging it (I’m not sure this will ever be an option with her profession anyways). I just don’t want some random internet creeper looking at photos of my wife. Maybe I’m being too protective, but I’m jealous for my wife (and I won’t apologize for that).”

I got so energized by this question and taking the time to answer it.  I love talking about the things I am passionate about.  Sharing non-model boudoir shoots publicly is something that I always go back and forth about, and feel like there is a fine line with. I am always very concerned about the women’s privacy and permission. I take GREAT care to over-commincate with women about their options for sharing their images and never pressure or offer incentives to convince women to change their mind. I understand that there are so many really good and valid reasons not to share (or no reason at all) and I don’t question it. It’s very third waver of me – to each their own, ladies!

However….. I am passionate about getting to share what images I can. There is a great need for women to see other non-model women, “normal women just like them” photographed in a way that is flattering but still true to who they are. I know this because I experience it. It is so meaningful to me to see women of all shapes and sizes and styles photographed well. There are tons of images thrown at us daily where women that are severely thin are over-sexualized, sometimes for the sake of selling a cheeseburger.  Our world barely blinks at that any more.  We have this stigma in our society that women should only enjoy being photographed if they are a certain size or height or body shape. Otherwise you should be ashamed.  I have felt that shame. I feel that shame. So I long for images that can cheer me on, and remind me that it doesn’t have to be that way. You can see links on Facebook to every day women owning who they are in photographs go viral all the time — Mom’s and their postpartum bodies, women who have lost breasts to cancer, women born without a limb, etc. We go crazy over these because most women CRAVE feeling that confident about themselves. “We can’t be what we can’t see” — we don’t see everyday women photographed? We don’t see every day women looking happy and confident? That speaks directly and subliminally to us.

Yes, traditionally boudoir photographs are a gift that a woman gives to someone else, but I watched during every shoot how it ended up being a gift to that woman – in the moment and after seeing the images. And those moments, the words women said about themselves, were huge. After listing all their flaws before a shoot I would then see a transformation watching women truly feel beautiful during and after a shoot that would just blow my mind. There is not enough of that in the world. It’s hard to find that moment as a woman.  And I can write words about this on a blog, but when woman are hesitating about doing this shoot, they need to know about someone else’s experience. They need read someone else’s words but to also SEE what they experienced. That’s how they know they can do it themselves. Look, a woman my age did it so I can too. A woman with my body type did it so I can too.

It also goes back to the core of who we are, why we do what we do — “Everyone’s story is important and worth telling”. So I am telling women hey, you are beautiful just how you are and I am so proud of you that I would even share your images with the world if you wanted to. When women have experienced this rare feeling of loving themselves, loving themselves photographed, and loving themselves photographed scantily clad, you better believe they want to tell other people about it. We are story tellers by nature and when we have experienced something like that we want to share it with others. When we are proud of ourselves for overcoming our emotional obstacles we want to celebrate it. A pure, “I am so proud of myself” moment is one you want to share with others. Each time I blog a boudoir shoot, I get messages and texts from those women talking about how scary it was at first but then they felt so amazing and brave. They shared the link with their friends over email or text – they just had to show off how lovely and brave they were. It’s almost a way to relive that positive high of taking this big risk to do the shoot and it paying off in the end.

I know the fine line is that these are intimate photos. I have struggled with that from day one. These are images where women are made vulnerable during their shoot, for themselves and for their partners. It is a risk sharing of one’s self, so openly. There have been many times when a woman has been so proud of her images that she has wanted to share them but her husband has said that he does not feel comfortable about that, and doesn’t want to share them. I get that. He didn’t experience that liberation, that empowerment, those precious moments of unlocking self love. To him that is his wife, just for him, and he is protective of that. I totally understand where the two views are coming from and how they collide. Again, I let that be between the couple and most of the time those images are not shared. I would say 80-90% of the boudoir shoots I have done in the past five years I will not be able to share. And that’s ok. I also know that we live in a more conservative region of the US – not everyone understands boudoir and certainly don’t understand yet where I am coming from on the subject. And related to that, I know there are many women that just can’t post them, even if I don’t use their name, because if the wrong person sees it they will loose their job. I would never want anyone to loose their job over something I posted.  I watch the comments on these links and on Facebook like a hawk.  I don’t have total control of them once I post them on the internet, as far as who sees them, I know. There are many shoots that I have in a gallery that I can share passwords with women that are interested in doing a shoot that the public does not freely see. I could just have something on my site that says if you are interested in a boudoir shoot, ask to see the galleries (like I used to) but it just does not have the same impact as having images visible on the blog.

While I was confident in understanding why women would want to share their boudoir shoots, I wanted to ask a few women that have shared their shoot on this blog to explain why they chose to…

“Choosing to share your boudoir photos is a very personal decision and not one I took lightly. To understand why I decided to share them, I think it’s important to look at why I got them done in the first place. The first time I was introduce to boudoir, I was blow away by the creativity and beauty. It was a photo of a girl dressed up in a 50’s bikini posing on a vintage car. The photog in me fell in love. I didn’t give any thought to me doing it until [my fiancé] and I got engaged, and I saw some post about it on The Knot. The photos were stunning. As a woman who has always been very self conscious about her body and ‘being a girl’, I felt a desire to feel the same way as the woman in the photos and to share that side of me with my husband. I grew up a tomboy. So I’ve never been good at hair and makeup. I’ve never felt comfortable in certain clothing, and it was hard to find the right situation where I could try to be that person without feeling like I would be judged. I know Nathan would never judge, and I know he really loves me for who I am. That made me the more eager to be to do this and share it with him. When I showed him the photos, he was blown away. It was more than just how I looked because he’ll tell you that pretty lady was always there. He knew my insecurities about my body, and I think the fact that I went outside my comfort zone so far and shared it with him was what did it for him.

With that said, that made the decision at first to somewhat hard. It was somewhat like a special little thing we shared. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that maybe it was worth sharing. I know so many woman feel the same way I do. So when you brought up doing the blog, I asked [my husband] for his thoughts. He wasn’t crazy about the idea, but he didn’t say no. He listened to why I thought sharing them was important. He raised his concerns about keeping some of it private between us. There was also his job to consider since he has become somewhat of a public figure. So we came to a compromise with the understanding that certain photos would not be shared and to make sure my name and info were left off them.  I felt that maybe I could be an example of ‘it’s ok to be who you are’. I still deal with a lot of insecurities, even as I get into the best shape of my life. Every once in a while, I’ll grab my boudoir album and remind myself that that’s me, and it makes me feel better. So that was why I wanted to share. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was a little piece of me that was a little vain and thought ‘Damn, I look awesome and want everyone to see.’ Just a little, tiny piece :)”

Another woman shares… “The bottom line for me was I truly felt the photographs were a celebration. And as I thought about sharing that celebration, I wanted to. Most of the people who view them will never know its me, as no name is listed. But, maybe, they’ll join in the celebration. For those I wanted to share them with, it was as convenient way to do so. I would not have wanted an employer to be able to Google me and find them, so I appreciate the manner in which Ashley hosts the blog.

Also, Ashley sent me the photos she wanted to use and allowed me to approve or disapprove. This was important for me. I wanted photos that I felt were authentically me. So, most of them are of me laughing. Not as many traditionally sexy shots. From a self image and body image perspective, it was important to me that Ashley was choosing women with all different body types. I applaud and support that intentionality. So, when it came time for me to possibly share, I consciously said ‘yes’ to photos that my first instinct was ‘aye, I look fat!’ I share this because its such a pervasive struggle. I know I’m not overweight. But, there is still this scared insecure part of me that thinks, ‘Maybe Ashely could photoshop my thighs a bit?’ Then, I realized, ‘Hell no! This is what my body looks like! I’m thankful for it and proud of it!’  For me, it was all about intention. I had the opportunity to support a project that aligned in many ways with my own intentions – Celebrate women, reduce stigma, highlight beauty in all its forms.”