BUT...Here it comes....Not an hour after my arrival back to my studio the phone rings. It is a very professional, well spoken Stylist, Maria Stasinopoulos; and the first thing out of her mouth was, "I loved your message, it was very powerful, but your look is not! Are you confused? One part of me believes you have a strong and powerful message to share with all women, and the other believes, by your look, that you are too sweet and uninformed to understand my struggles."
WOW! What a punch! Bad press? No, this was a gift, because she was so clear I knew she was right. In less then a week, the golden locks were gone and a new fresh woman walked out of her salon, understanding the power of presentation and the importance of visual communication.
Emotionally, I believe I left the fearful little girl piece of me behind and very gingerly chose to move forward into becoming a woman. The transition from one phase of our lives to another is not always easy; but there are those moments when you just know, your shorts are just a bit too short for your Now, and maybe that applies to your skirt length as well.
Only you know when it is Time to make those subtle changes, but make them! Holding on to the old you is never as exciting as the Now You!
PART 3 The Camera Never Lies
As a CREATIVE* I have, for better or worse, always navigated through life and its challenges with my sense of "Feeling" rather then Logic or Reasoning.
I chose my relationships, my work space, my wardrobe, etc. all by "How I Felt About It." Rarely did I ask myself if my decision was a wise one. You can only imagine how many wild missteps this approach created, but what a "Hell of a Ride!"
Through my work I discovered most women I worked with had never really asked themselves how they felt about their own lives. Their primary focus was to encourage others to feel good or to introduce a loving feeling to the relationship.
Working as a Boudoir Photographer, my job was to partner with my client in the creation of an image that would evoke a positive feeling from their loved one. Rarely did a woman wish to be photographed for her own personal review.
I can only share with you how surprised I was to learn the impact of a "Single Image" and how these same women discovered new feelings about their own beauty and themselves.
So the question is--how do we see ourselves and how do we feel about what we see?
In the early eighties I was asked, by a popular daytime television show, to participate in an on-camera discussion of Boudoir Photography, sharing examples of my finished work and also bringing with me three or four of my female clients for audience participation, etc. Needless to say, this was a really big professional opportunity on a major stage. Sooooooooooo what would I wear, etc, etc, etc.!
I chose a very chic suede turquoise sheath—--Turquoise being one of the best On-Camera Colors. It cost me a fortune; and of course I had to buy suede pumps to match, along with a great handbag. (For those who know me, the handbag was a MUST! My closest friends have been instructed to include all my handbags, that they are not interested in, into my Cremation Experience!)
My hair at the time was blonde and very long. I had been wearing it in the same style since my teens. By now I had reached my early thirties, with the same long hair. But this time, I drew the sides up with combs, so praise God, you could at least see my face. Actually, today I am horrified to think of it, but true life is not always pretty!
I do the Television Show, all goes really really well, i.e. great audience participation, the ladies were all a delight to work with and I found a whole new really comfortable world for myself...On Camera Talent, who would have guessed!
From the beginning of time, little girls have always always been given mixed messages regarding their own beauty; and I feel confident these messages have not always supported a healthy sense of self.
While we learned very early on the cultural fear that a compliment could lead to conceit, we were not prepared for the diminshing effect this idea has had on many women. Regardless of all the advancements of women in our world today, many women still struggle with their true feelings about the work they do, the image they present, and the relationships they develop.
There is always this little voice asking "who do you think you are" or screaming "you're not smart enough, pretty enough, talented enough, young enough" and the list goes on and on and on. And all the while these messages are strangling your dreams and distorting the truth.
Do I have News for You! In all the forty years I have been photographing women, I have NEVER and I truly mean NEVER photographed an Ugly, Stupid, Untalented, or Too Old of a Woman. Now maybe a few arrogant, self centered ones, JUST KIDDING!
Truly the camera never sees anything but the actual creatures without any of the cultural or self-imposed labels.
If a picture is worth a thousand words and the camera never lies, then our truth and how we feel about ourselves is fluid and changeable.
Take a moment to really ask yourself how you feel about all the aspects of your life. If you don't feel good about what you see, then make a change. We all have the ability to create a new picture of ourselves--our lives, our relationships. A picture that "Feels" good to us, one of confidence, creativity, and excitement.
No one has your feet tied to the dock. They may be a bit tangled up; but, they sure as hell aren't tied down. Keep your eyes on the horizon. What have you always wanted to do? What Changes do you Feel like making? DO IT & DO IT NOW!
Most importantly, forget about "Making a Mistake!" In my experience there is no such thing as a Mistake. A "Mis -Take" is just a simple flashing announcement that an "Adjustment is Required." No inventor created a perfectly functional prototype out of the gate. What fun would that be?
Enjoy the Feeling!
*A CREATIVE is an individual who doesn't quite fit into any box. Many see them as rebels. A creative leads with thought. Some brains are just wired to want to create, invent, explore, and innovate.
PART 4 Defining Chic
One aspect most women find confusing, especially during the aging cycle, is the design of their own personal image— their overall choice of Personal Style.
I have chatted with numerous women concerning that "transition phase" regarding wardrobe selection and/or image. Many fashion magazines will give you a bit of fashion direction based on age—what looks great at 40, 50, and 60+; but I strongly believe there is a set of simple suggestions that will create a Chic Style regardless of age.
I believe the key word here is Chic. What does Chic really mean to most women? I think most women can point out a Chic Look, but they can't really define the elements required to create the image.
The key ingredient for me regarding Chic is the concept of a Simple and Defined Look allowing a woman's visual characteristics to be the most predominant aspect. Because I spent so many years photographing women of all ages, styles, and shapes, it allowed me to really focus on the collection of patterns and textures many chose to create their own style. And in doing so, in many instances, it distracted greatly from their own individual beauty. I am a firm believer in clean lines allowing a woman's beauty to play the leading role and clothing to be the supporting cast.
I think it is important, when creating a strong Personal Style, that one takes into consideration all of the parts and pieces they are working with—height, dress size, coloring, etc. More has to be considered, not just the emotional impulse associated with our likes or dislikes of a particular garment. For example, not all fashion elements translate the same on a woman 5'10" as they do on a woman 5’3”.
It is important for a woman to be honest with her own stats and choose fashions that enhance and work compatibly with her own body structure, coloring and hair style.
Here are a few basic "Fashion Rules" I have found to be essential during the Styling Process:
1. Keep all patterns to a minimum—perhaps weaving texture or pattern into your accessories rather then your body pieces. Patterns are very distracting and have a tendency to draw attention away from a woman's face and figure. When a woman enters a room, what do you see, the Bold Print or the Beautiful Woman?
2. Select body pieces that really pay attention to the width or abundance of fabric. If you are 5'5" or under, really think twice about a palazzo pant or flared leg pant. The width will have a tendency to give you undesired width and make you look shorter. A slim pant structure will always enhance a tiny frame.
3. Give yourself some air space. In other words, allow for a bit of skin. We all know that if we push our sleeves up a bit and allow our wrists and forearms to show we will look thinner. Honest! Well believe it or not, the same goes for shoes! Always allow a bit of Toe-Cleavage. Yes, you heard me Toe-Cleavage! The leg always looks longer and is prettier when the shoe dips closer to the toes rather then rising. Take a peek at the difference in your ankles and subsequently your legs. Also, really pay attention to the width of your shoe heels. Thinner, higher heels are much more flattering to the back of the legs then thick, short squatty heels. Even if you wish to wear only a two-inch heel, keep it thin. Stay away from frumpy, thick and short; or you, too, will appear frumpy, thick and short.
4. Look carefully at how the accessories you have chosen work with your face and body structure. For example, round earrings have a tendency to make the face look thick and round, while V Shape or Pear shape earrings do just the opposite by elongating the face. If you choose a "Big" handbag, make sure you have some heel height or again you are back to thick and short.
Personal Style is just that….personal. And, I believe ALL aspects of a woman's frame and body structure should be considered carefully when creating her own Style.
PART 5 Self Talk
One of the most enjoyable aspects of being a Fashion Photographer was the time spent in collaborating with the Model on our goal or message that we were trying to visually create. Now this may have been for a brand or particular marketing piece, but my job was to make sure every image evoked a feeling, whether that be Confidence and Power, or Sensuality and Sensitivity, or Fresh and Free. My job was to translate the feeling of the Brand through the eyes and body language of the Model I was working with.
Interestingly enough this is not always an easy job, even when working with Professional Models. Many times I found it was very hard for female models to jump outside of themselves into the character we needed them to play; they stubbornly held onto their own private belief of self.
So I learned early on to really paint a clear and detailed picture of the character I needed. During the collaboration process, I would even go as far as describing the type of environment she lived in and the vehicle she drove to the studio, while all along creating a visual experience for my model with which she could learn to identify.
One evening after a long day of shooting, our entire team went out for dinner and drinks. While sitting next to a Pro Model, that I had worked with for years,
I learned that when she was scheduled for a photo shoot she would begin her morning looking in the mirror and describing to herself how beautiful she was and how her body was lean and strong. She would continue this self-talk all the way to the studio and into make-up and wardrobe. She repeated her confident mantra of self-greatness just to get her head into the perspective required for the shoot. Here I was staring into the eyes of this beautiful 5’'11"” woman, with skin of alabaster and, in my world a figure to die for, listening to the effort that was required for her to actually believe these things to be true. I discovered how important self-talk was and how skewed our concepts of self can be.
So what do YOU hear? Do you compliment yourself from time to time or just rely upon an occasional compliment from others? What do you see when you look in the mirror —-- an aging face, or a wise and beautiful face defined by time and experience?
Negative self-talk many times begins in childhood. Usually the self-talk habit is one that has colored our thinking for years and can affect us in many ways.
If you don't like what you hear, maybe now is a good time to flip the script, or if anything try a new line of dialogue.
Here are THREE TIPS that I have learned to eliminate or improve negative self-talk:
1. Notice Your Patterns. The first thing to effect change is recognizing your patterns. When do you hear this negative speak? You probably don't realize how often you speak negatively of yourself and how it can dramatically affect your experience.
2. Journaling. This can be an effective tool for examining your thought process. Write a description of yourself. Just let your self-talk have a field day! Don't just write about the negative aspects of yourself, but the whole package -- —the good and the bad, just let your true thoughts flow. Then, let a couple of days pass and one morning pick up your journal and take a peek. Really ask yourself whether all your self-imposed "Bad Press" is really accurate; or have you been blabbing the same stream of Bad-Mood Nelly, for as long as you could remember? Now, re-write and tell the truth, or the truth from the self that you would like to be.
3. Inclusion not exclusion. I have always been a strong believer in replacing old speak with new speak. Rather then being angry with my negative speak, with purpose I change my dialogue about myself. I begin each morning declaring my body to be fit, strong, and dependable.
Learn to use self-talk as a tool to create a feeling of well-being and allow yourself to move forward with a positive experience.
PART 2 Authentic Personal Style
One of the more illusive features of a woman is the ease in which she adapts to others needs and desires and in turn begins to see herself through the eyes of others--—whether it’s her visual appearance, political nature, or personal lifestyle.
Many times women will avoid buying a particular fashion piece because they believe their husband/partner may disapprove or because their children will find the piece to be too On Trend, and not fit into their belief of a Mom/Mature Women. I believe it is only when a woman observes herself as an individual, and not with the label of, Mom, Wife, Partner, etc., that she will find her true being and her authentic Personal Style.
Having worked with Fashion on both sides of the camera, during the "Set-up" Design Phase and then Through the Lens, I observed the Translation of Fashion and how women tread these uncomfortable waters as they go through the aging process. On many days my schedule would begin with a willowy model in the morning, a real people look mid-day for a professional piece, and then end with a layout of a mature lifestyle or fashion model. My takeaway... learn when to "holdem and when to foldem,” and for goodness sake know when to stop shopping at Forever 21! Because honestly, we are never ever going to be twenty-one again and those days are behind us, not gone. Those beautiful days in the sun still remain in our memories, but they are NOT our Now!
PART 6 Change Is Inevitable
Times are always changing and the real question we must ask ourselves is are we keeping up with the evolution of life and its experiences or are we set in our ways and happy with the way things have always been?
Any time you spend a large part of your life in a given field of endeavor, over time you are afforded a bird’s eye view of change. Interestingly enough, I jumped into the field of photography at the fresh age of twenty-seven and after forty years in the industry I can confirm there has been much CHANGE, but not only change in the Fashion and Photography industries, but great change in myself and what I see through my lens today.
Originally, I believe I've mentioned this, I went to school to become a Nurse. I had wanted to become a Nurse from the beginning of time and can still remember so clearly, when I was seven. I received my first Doctor/Nurse Play Set. It was equipped with even the little cart I could roll through my bedroom dispensing meds to all of my patients (my dolls and stuffed animals,) using my stethoscope with great care and bandaging the wounded if need be—all the while sharing comfort and hope to those in need.
How I ended up in the Fashion and Photography business is a story for
another day; however, my need and desire to help others never waivered, yet keeping up with a trend-based changing industry was not always an easy task.
After years of shooting a film camera the thought of moving into the digital world was daunting, and I must say I dragged my feet right up until 2005. Now it's so hard to believe I waited so long, and why? Now that's the real question!
Because I was scared, really scared! I was really good at what I did, I had worked hard to develop my style and product, I had a system that worked, I knew my camera so well I could actually hear if there was a problem or feel the ever slight difference in a mechanism that would signal an issue...I really DID NOT WANT TO CHANGE. I liked it just THE WAY IT WAS! And most importantly, I was afraid to learn something new. But, I also knew how necessary it was for me to make these changes, to learn these new ways. I knew deep down I had to evolve and change with the times, my livelihood was at stake!
But what if your livelihood is not at risk. What can help you to step out and investigate all the New that is in our world today?
Here are a few ideas based on my own experience:
1. It's okay to be scared.
I was terrified to change something I was so comfortable with—it's okay! Being scared is not always a bad thing. Finally, I realized I couldn't afford to be scared. Maybe your finale will be losing a connection with your kids. Remember everyone has a finale—the last straw, the final push for change.
2. Take baby steps.
Start with investigation and research. This was a really helpful beginning. I actually bought my first digital camera at a pawn shop! No kidding! It was a great way for me to discover and learn without making a huge financial mistake. It also helped with my comfort zone, just baby steps.
3. Take a class.
Hang with others on your same path of discovery. Try an online class. Maybe consider resources at your local community college or even join a blogging group discussing your New interest.
As our IT Director, Courtney Anderson says, “Don't stay in the land of prep." Great advice!
Step out and try the New. If all else fails just "DO IT" be brave; if I can, you can!
PART 7 Aging & Attitude
One interesting aspect of working in a field for a substantial period of time is that I have run into and worked with many of the same women year after year --— for some, even ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years after our original shoot.
I recently attended a Fashion Event at a private residence in Tiburon, California; and much to my surprise, I noticed a large canvas portrait of Mother and Child hanging in the entry. In the next moment, I realized it was a portrait that I had actually shot almost forty years earlier in my Northern California Studio. WOW, how weird was that!
It was wonderful to be greeted by this lovely hostess and meet her beautiful daughter all grown up. Needless to say, we had much to chat about.
Many of the Professional Models I have worked with over the years were originally photographed when they were in their early twenties -- —full of excitement and joy. Now in their early forties and fifties, I find these same women in my view finder. Unfortunately, I don't necessarily see much excitement and joy. Where is the Sparkle, the light I originally was able to capture?
Does our journey through life steal the joy from us or do we allow it to seep away gradually, unknowingly by default?
I learned early on to respect and protect my "Personal Energy/Spirit." That certainly does not mean I have always been successful; but it does mean that I am aware of how others, perhaps people we care deeply about, can unconsciously deplete us of this very important asset.
As I photographed these women throughout the different stages of their lives, there was a very common thread that reflected in their aging process. Those that had held onto their joy of living, and remained curious, had aged beautifully with excitement and ah! Those that became dissatisfied with themselves or others appeared tired, and their skin tones became more ashen rather then expressing a natural glow.
Because my job is so Up-Close and Personal, there is no way anyone can convince me Aging is not directly related to Attitude!
And I believe Attitude is directly related to what we CHOOSE to see! Right back to....is your cup half empty or half full?
What do you see? Do you journey through the aging process with the excitement of a true adventure or are you focused on trying to make time stand still?
Here is a piece, written by Charles Swindoll, I have had hanging in my Studio Office for at least the last forty years….
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of ATTITUDE on life. ATTITUDE to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a school, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the ATTITUDE we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our Attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
I see life as the great adventure. So Buckle-Up Butter Cup and let's go for a good ride!
PART 8 The Modern Woman
Travel always allows one to view life and experience situations from a different perspective. Perhaps due to cultural differences or trends, we are many times afforded a glimpse from a different angle.
Because, my work has allowed me to photograph women in many parts of the world, I have been able to observe a few very subtle differences and many, many similar beliefs.
One thing I learned, early on, is that most young women are never ever satisfied with their own physical characteristics. If I was shooting a women of Latin decent, she would admire the milky white complexion of the Irish born model and vice versa. We are never satisfied, right? However, I did find as the models aged, many learned to embrace their differences and to discover their own personal value and uniqueness. I found that to be thrilling and certainly a game changer in my business!
Working with confident women, who feel comfortable in their own skin, is a joy! Confident women get the "imperfection piece" and work with it, not against it. They enhance all of their positive aspects and downplay those they believe to be negative.
I am curious. Is this new individual insight -- one that evolves as we age? Or is this a new cultural attitude modern women are creating?
In 2014, I photographed a Bridal Editorial that focused on the Mother-of-the-Bride rather then the Bride. The tag line and thrust of the layout was to show the presence of this vibrant, yet subtle sexuality displayed in the fashions and attitude of our very Modern Mother-of-the-Bride. That was my first real visual awareness that we no longer were our Mother's Mother-of the-Bride.
It was a very powerful message and definitely one of those AHA Moments. Our model was 57ish and absolutely stunning! Was she a Beauty? In the modeling world she did not fit the standard characteristics that would identify her as a Top Model. Actually this particular model was not 5'11 and a size 2. She was 5'7"ish and closer to a size 8-10...a Real Woman body, not a 12 year old made-up to portray an adult woman.
Yes, she was a beauty. It was her Spirit....that charming twinkle in her eye with just enough hint of mischief that made it all work. It was this palatable display of confidence, assuredness, and joy that was present from the moment she walked in the door. There was no air of arrogance or sense of competition, which is usually so prevalent in this industry and when broken down is just a sign of insecurity.
This NEW MODERN Woman was aware of her strengths and weaknesses and was completely comfortable with both -- My kinda Gal!
PART 9 The New Bad Ass
I started in the Photographic business in the late 70's as a Boudoir Photographer and over the course of the last forty years I certainly have noticed a subtle, but very interesting change in the populist woman's view of self.
Our culture is introducing a new woman along with a new narrative. "I'm a NAAASTY WOMAN!"
Or . . . 10 Great Books For The Bad Ass Independent Woman In Search Of Inspiration, Wonder, and Wisdom — “"[Turn negatives into positives and be proud to be a woman… . . .]"
With all of the many cultural changes and demands women have embraced, some have come with a bit of a price. I get that. For many, daily life is struggling to keep that competitive edge in the corporate world; and for others, they are having to sadly function as both Mom and Dad within their family unit, but at what price exactly?
Who is this NEW Nasty Bad Ass Woman?
It is not easy to balance all of life's challenges and rewards without losing small pieces of self along the way.
Time seemed to always be the unidentified culprit…. . . . "There is just never enough time in a day to give much attention to self."
For most women, paying attention to self meant an intense focus on ones dress size or the new crows feet she just discovered in the morning mirror.
Today I believe we are seeing a very different culprit slowly creep into the lives of many women stealing their intimate connection to self —-- a very Dark Angry thread of Resentment —-- and tagging along, not far behind, is a nice little neat dose of crass Aggressiveness.
You can even buy a book that teaches you How to Boss Men Around in Style.
I fear many women view themselves today as warriors preparing for life's great battles, looking for the strength to endure, and moment by moment wander further and further from the Knowing of Self and the glorious well of Personal Strength and Intuition.
I don't believe a woman will ever find her perfect stride through anger and resentment.
Do we really have to be a "Nasty Bad Ass Woman" to receive our hearts desire?
Do we have to "Lean into Life" or can we take just a moment to "Re-Connect" to the "Private Intimate Strength" we all possess —-- standing strong, self-assured and confident of our abilities and our place within this glorious thing called life.
PART 10 Your Viewfinder
One of the biggest Influencers in my life has been my camera Viewfinder. I even find the name to be intriguing. From my View, what am I Finding?
As most of you, I am sure already know, the camera viewfinder is the small eyepiece in which you look through to discover the subject or object you wish to photograph. Depending on the size of the lens you are working with, you can take a look at something close-up or from a much more expanded and broad vantage point.
Regardless of my distance from the subject, my job as a Professional Photographer is to sum-up the final image within seconds. My eye has to travel around all the corners of the subject matter, within this very little box, and frame all of the pieces in my mind’s eye. Within seconds I have to notice whether a stop sign is growing out of a model’s head or if a piece of garment is turned incorrectly. Is the garment perfectly pressed, is each hair on the model’s head flowing properly,or do we have hair sticking to lipstick etc., etc., etc? And the list goes on and on! Oh and not to mention hands — what are they doing with their hands? Are they presenting relaxed grace, or do they have a clutch that appears to be desperate? All this must be analyzed within a matter of moments!
After forty years with my Viewfinder, I have found the Joy of Life to be "In the Details." It is in those split second moments of laughter and tears that I have found my most Joy.
Joy is not always found in the big blustering stages of ones life. Often, intimacy is lost on big events. How often in this fast-paced culture are we missing the fine delicate details of our experience, the rise and fall of our babies chest when napping, or the way I love to hear the sound of my husband snoring . . . I know he is at peace, deep in sleep, and I feel safe within the rhythm of this familiar sound.
How we frame our lives and what each one of us finds through our own viewfinder is as varied as a new bag of marbles — all colorful and smooth, with hidden details only noticed by the reflection of light.
In this journey many will find only what they are looking for, while others will overlook all that is laid before them.
I am grateful for my Viewfinder and all that it has taught me. Today . . . I relish in each moment just a little bit longer and frame my world with a bit more care, knowing it's the seconds that count and the memories that matter.
Style can be created on any size form. From size 2 to 22, it is not our dress size that creates our style or lack of style. It is our approach to what works on our frame and what does not. Buying the appropriate size garment for a perfect fit is essential. I have always been stunned by how many women do not actually know their real dress size. Head out to a fine clothing store and determine your actual size. There should be no negative reaction here. Work with what you have Now! Enjoy the gift of this healthy strong body you have been given and dress it grandly with all that it deserves. It has served you well! If you want to make changes to your current frame, do so in a healthy gradual manner with a healthy approach.
How a woman feels about herself is directly related to how she presents herself. As we move through this life experience, many women make constant comparisons to their younger counterparts. That's like comparing apples to oranges. How on earth can a lifetime of experience be compared to the first twenty. Early on I photographed a woman ninety-two years old, naked, in a fetal position; she had had one breast removed due to cancer. She was dying and wanted this image to reflect her passage in time and circle of life. The beauty in the human form was breathtaking; her confidence and perception of self lit up my studio. That original collection still hangs in my office today as a constant reminder of the beauty in all life regardless of size, shape, color, or gender.
There is not a woman on this planet that likes the top of her arms, okay maybe only Helen Mirren; and I still am suspect. My only advice is to be grateful for the strength and form of the body you inhabit right NOW; because honestly, it only gets worse! Actually, I would like to shout "IT ONLY GETS WORSE" at the top of my lungs, to every woman out there! Be grateful for the Now! It always makes me so sad when I see these unhealthy self images. And interestingly enough, age is not a factor. I have worked with all ages of women and found this same overwhelming dissatisfaction of self.
Weight does not and I repeat does not distract from a woman's beauty. It is her feeling about her size that influences her spirit and presence. And please don't play the victim card and blame it all on the fashion magazines or the media. Do you actually know why Fashion Designers use professional models who are 5'11" and a size 2 in their Editorial Layouts and Runway Shows? Because they are artists. They want the most translucent platform in which to create the mood of their brand and to showcase their piece. I always found it so much easier to shoot a fashion sequence on a tall lean subject. Basically, there is just more space to work with and visual clarity. Does this mean we should all feel badly about ourselves? There is no comparison; we are real and a designers story is just that— a story. The two should not be confused.
PART 1 Style From Head to Toe
A current and contemporary hairstyle has always been one of the biggest issues when it comes to Style. For some amazing reason women have a tendency, as they age, to hang on to "length." Your Hair Style is the singularly most important element of your visual impact and presentation. There is nothing that screams Current, Stylish, and Modern as a stunning Do! I truly don't care how stylish and chic your wardrobe may be; without a strong focus on cut and color, there is no style.
And for goodness sakes, don't get me started on color. Your hair color has a direct and strong influence on your skin tone. Tired color makes for tired skin, and tired skin doesn't make for a happy woman. In my Photographic Studio and most that I now work in, we actually have an In-House Salon. I have always enjoyed those consultations and suggestions during the "Model Ready" process. Always remember light is the great illusionist! It is the reflection of color that either enhances a woman's features or distracts from her vitality.
They say your eyes are the path into your soul and I definitely SECOND THAT! It is the sparkle I am always seeking--the truth if you will. I always want to see the feeling of beauty. I want each woman I work with to find that one true moment, even if it is for a second, to connect to her inner spirit and radiate the core of her Being. Only then is she Beautiful!
THROUGH MY LENS
by Penelope Bent-Lippincott
I have been photographing women professionally all of my adult life. This year marks my Fortieth year in this industry; and needless to say, I am so very grateful for all the amazing women that I have shared this exciting experience with, and for all that I have learned.
My camera lens has been a very intimate and private doorway into the lives and the emotions of the women I have photographed; and I thank them all for trusting in this most intimate and creative process.
I began shooting in the late seventies and early eighties as a Boudoir Photographer and then on to Fashion as the years passed. Being one of the very few female shooters at the time allowed for a much more honest narrative and collaboration with my clients.
Through those early years, I learned how to angle and adjust my subject for that "Perfect Picture;" but more then that, I learned "Visual Design." I also learned about a woman's spirit, illusion, and light.
I learned the Art of a Woman's Individual Style and how her Style Transitions with age.
Here is what I learned Through My Lens.
PART 11 A DIY Attitude
I think I developed my "DO IT YOURSELF" nature from my Grandmother. She had that true Forty-Niner Spirit. Born in San Francisco in 1905, she experienced the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, two World Wars, and the Great Depression. She placed her two young daughters temporarily in a Catholic orphanage after the death of her husband and worked as a waitress at the Woolworth’s Soda Fountain to get on her feet. With a handful of husbands under her belt, she taught me one very important lesson . . . No ONE person will ever Save You! Your life, your experiences are all on you. Relationships are the frosting on our cake and maybe even the beautiful cherry, but we as individuals are responsible to Bake Our Own Cake!
I believe I have lived with that basic philosophy my whole life; but in addition, I am convinced Nothing, and I mean Nothing, replaces the gifts and/or surprises Hard Work and a Never Quit attitude can bring you.
When I began as a professional photographer it was not because I had this burning desire to create visual masterpieces. I had only one burning desire and that was to SURVIVE! My daughter’s Father and I had decided to go our separate ways — leaving me with a Photography Studio and no Photographer! Well being the bright woman I was . . . LOL! I hired a great Photographer, Mark Long. We continued on with business as usual; then one day Mark asked me why I wasn't the
Photographer. Considering that I was doing all the Styling and Visual Set-up, it just seemed natural to him that I should be creating the images. Now here is a point to remember . . . at that time Photography was a male-dominated industry . . . but as he said “we are shooting Boudoir Photography and who better then a woman to be behind the camera.” Within 24 hours I was shooting. He taught me basic Strobe Lighting, the posing techniques were all mine to begin with, and with a little bit of "YOU CAN DO IT" I was on my way.
No, I never took a photography class in my life; however, I was blessed with many gifts — one a good eye for design and two I absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt, LOVE PEOPLE! I really looked at each client individually and moved the pieces and parts to enhance their own personal style or image. That was my motivation. I wanted them to see what I saw!
I remember my Studio Manager telling me that I reminded her of a Golden Retriever . . . I wanted to please every one and lick them to death. Well maybe so and for the most part I guess that is just who I am.
I will share this however. Regardless of your dreams or goals, DREAM BIG, Lay it ALL OUT there on the field. And yes, you will definitely get a few bumps and bruises, but you will know YOU WERE IN THE GAME!
PART 12 Events
Having been a Professional Photographer and Producer most of my life, I can really talk Events!
I could share some Wedding horror stories that would terrify any New Bride and definitely convince her parents to give her "The Cash" instead.
All kidding aside, I just love Events! I love Big! Even if I am having a quiet romantic dinner at home, I want it BIG! So let me clarify my BIG . . . I want it Relevant, Significant, Memorable. It's all in the details -- the setting of the stage, the mood, etc.
Events are important to our lives. Many signify a transition in life such as graduations or weddings. Others are events that we can create to fill our lives with grand experiences and cherished memories.
Whether you choose to create Big Events or Small Intimate ones, here are a few Tips & Tricks I have learned along the way.
1. Producing an Event is Always Personal. Remember that producing is a form of expression. It is very important to completely understand your reason for giving the Event. What tone or style feels right for you. Just that simple answer will drive your creative process and guide you along the way.
2. Who are the Players? Are you planning a Wedding Event for your daughter or is this a Graduation Party to launch your last bird out of the nest? If you are planning with others, communication is a MUST!
You may be the hostess; however, and I know this is not an easy one, It's Not Your Party! Your job is to create a Perfect Fit, which is not always easy, but can be achieved flawlessly through great communication and asking the right questions.
3. Find your Perfect Venue. Venue is a real deal breaker for me. Does the venue match "the Feel" of the event? So much of my Production experience has been in the Fashion arena, which for the most part allowed the Dramatic & Daring. I learned very early on to study the work of the Fashion Designer I was featuring and then use my venue to drive home their Vision.
4. Keep it simple. Too many cooks in the kitchen can create havoc. Create your basic outline in your head and move from there. Gather data, ask opinions if necessary; but, when the idea is formulated DO NOT Deviate, stick to the plan. This will not only save you from frustrations but save you money in the long run.
5. Do your Make-up first! How funny is this, right? On the day of my daughter's wedding, professional model and my dear friend Frieda Dow insisted we shower, do our hair and make-up FIRST before we began the set-up and production process. I will tell you it is the best advice I have ever received.
Make it an Event Filled Summer!
PART 13 New Me New You
The NEW Me or The NEW You! Just how many times have we read that title in Fashion Magazines or Newspaper Articles, or in a piece of marketing material we receive in our In Box or our Mail Box? Just how many times are we encouraged to Become the NEW Me or The New You!
Drum Roll Please, you knew this was coming, out of my mouth to your ears . . . What the Hell is wrong with The OLD ME, or The NOW ME?
Don't get me wrong. — I Love Style, I Love Fashion, and I feel blessed to have worked in an industry, my whole life, that I was so passionate about. My real concern is how the Fashion and Entertainment industries are interpreted by their Viewers and their effect on the well-being of the women in our culture.
I think it is very important to understand that Media and Marketing Images are all about SELLING A PRODUCT! They are created to tell a story, capture ones imagination, evoke a feeling, and encourage you to need a specific product so that you too could share in the experience. The important piece here is that these stories, however dramatic, are fantasies, and for the most part are images that in Real Life are unattainable.
I spent years in the Modeling Business as a Talent Agent and one thing I learned, early on, was that the Modeling Industry is built on Stats.
Body measurements dictate your success or failure in this industry. I also learned for one to be 5'9" with a 34 inch hip was very rare in American women. It just is not a major factor in our DNA. And to even consider body of 34-24-34 after the age of fourteen, was almost an impossible task. Now Canadian women or Scandinavian women, on the other hand, are a whole different story. That's why you see these stunning beauties grace our Fashion Runways creating an illusion while communicating the message behind the Designers’ Art. Their job is to Express and share a body of work.
The more Dramatic & Daring the better. Runway shows are just that, they are shows. In reality, very few designs from each Collection are ever created for public consumption. They are created only for the Fashion Designers Public Image within the Marketplace.
Interestingly enough, I worked with Oscar De La Renta on a Fashion Show in California, featuring his NEW Ready to Wear Line. As we were chatting, I asked him why he had decided to create fashions for the mainstream woman and drift so far away from the Couture World where he was so well known. His answer was simple, Economics. The days of Jackie O and the Couture buyer were fading. The Real Woman was making her voice heard and he was listening.
I think it is so very important, as a modern woman, to understand Fashion and create ones own Style based on the NOW You . . . The Real You, the You that is in your mirror Today! Fashion is a Trend, but Style is a Choice!
PART 14 Looking Back
I read recently that the "average person is a resenter, a resister, or a regretter. "WOW the three “R’s!” I really had to think about this! What a BUMMER!
Then I realized I had just recently had a conversation with a dear, longtime friend only to listen to her rant regarding the monies that she believes her ex-husband still owes her. Now keep in mind they have been divorced for over thirty-five years! Or my wonderful Auntie who blamed her husband until her dying day for their losses in the stock market, and then on to our political parties, talk about resistance — no team effort there.
Maybe I am just a crazy fool, but I have such faith and confidence in the Game of Life! I love Living, Creating, Expressing, Enjoying, and Feeling; and if along the way there is pain and heartbreak, so be it. I believe it is all part of the Evolution of One’s own Life.
Do I look back over my life and ask, “What the BLEEP was I thinking?” YOU BET! Do I get angry and ashamed of myself? NO! Why, because all of my experiences have been part of my Expressive Journey, my New Invention, my Own Original Spark of Contribution to Humankind. It's All Mine! The Good, the Great, & the God Awful!
I believe in only one "R," REFUSE! I refuse to Blame others; no one held my hand to the flame. I Refuse to make excuses for my Stupid Choices; without them I would never have Learned Valuable Life Lessons. I Refuse to Stop Loving; because loving encourages me to Take Chances!
I believe this life, this journey, this experience is a Gift — one that I will never ignore or take for granted.
I Refuse to sit on the sidelines of this Amazing Game. I Choose to play in the mud. I Choose to create my masterpieces, enjoying their success or failures; and when I get knocked down, I Choose to get back up and Continue to Move On — On to the next Inning, Quarter, or Volley with Love in My Heart and Excitement for what Might Be.
I think we should focus on Fewer “R’s” in our lives and More “C’s,” Choice, Confidence, and Courage.
My amazing husband and greatest cheerleader, a College Football guy, who has definitely been in the Game, always reminds me of Rule #1, "Never look at the Scoreboard during the Game, Only when it is Over!
WORKS FOR ME!
PART 15 The Great Influencer
Color has always been my Great Influencer.
Because of my work in the Fashion Industry, either as a Fashion Photographer, Producer or Editor, I have used Color to "Tell My Story."
Color and Contrast are two words that never change in the Fashion Industry. These are the Mood Changers; they convey Power and Attitude — two essential qualities required in Fashion Ads or Editorials.
I enjoyed the whole creative process:
- selecting the right photographic location to enhance the color of the design I was shooting,
- the right model with the right coloring,
- the right make-up for balance and not distraction,
- and the right texture and contrast in the background to set apart the Fashions.
Color, Color, Color!
Obviously, this has rolled over into my private life — just ask my amazing husband of twenty-five years. Yes, he is amazing to put up with me all of these years, can you only imagine!
Everything in my environment has to have Color and Balance, everything. I have been known to move a new throw pillow around the room just so I can make sure the color balance in the room works. That's what I get from looking through that camera over the years.
Details, Details, Details.
All kidding aside, color shapes my mood and my experience. Color can make me feel safe or it can help me know it is time to go. For me it is an Energy Thing; I can feel the Warmth or the Emptiness.
Interestingly enough, when it comes to my personal wardrobe, my color choice is always Black. For my main essential pieces, I always work with Black as my base and add a Pop color into my look — perhaps in my handbag, shoes, or accessories.
Black is a color that can send many messages. It can say Professional one minute and Elegant the next. It can create a Powerful Attitude or a Sensual one.
Black is a Great Influencer — it sets the Stage for the Performance.
PART 16 A Magical New Year
The older I get the more obvious it is that my Intentions dramatically Shape My Reality! Surprisingly enough, whatever I am looking for I seem to get.
For years behind the camera, I would ask the Fashion Designer or Client, that I was working with, "What exactly are you looking for?" This information allowed me to Create the Imagery to Enhance or Sell their product.
During the Creative Process, we would scout out locations that fit the mood of the message, have elaborate casting calls to select the perfect model to convey the attitude or feeling desired, prepare the clothing in such a manner that no wrinkle could be found, have a team of tireless hair designers and make-up artists preparing the model for a camera ready moment, staging perfect lighting to enhance the scene visually and lastly, Create the Perfect Picture!
The amount of effort involved in creating this one image was amazing.
Now after all these years of asking that question of others, I have begun to ask that question of myself.
P, "What Exactly Are You looking For?"
It sounds like such a simple question with such a big and diverse answer. Yet I believe so many of us never really take the time to ponder the idea. I believe we live much of our lives on auto pilot doing for others, living our lives based on the norm or desires of others and failing to really ask ourselves — what it is we really want or what are we really looking for?
Once asked I believe we can begin to create exactly what we are looking for. We have a Direction, we have Imagery and now with Effort we have a Picture!
PART 17 The Adventure
Travel has certainly been an exciting element required in a photography business; however, the greatest adventure has been the Job itself.
I remember the very day I informed my Father that I wanted to leave the security of my medical position to go into business for myself. My husband and I wanted to open a Photography Studio. My Father was horrified and proceeded to give me a laundry list as to why this was an absolutely terrible idea. Remember, this was in the 70's and women were just beginning to find their own voice. Needless to say, my timing could not have been any worse — I was pregnant with my only child! My family made it quite clear that there would not be any financial help, and so we were on our own.
But there was such a sense of adventure, of freedom, and of making our own way for better or for worse. Was it the two of us against the world? Or maybe it was the two of us against my Father — who knows. I loved it all! All of the details, location, specialty, name, etc. I remember when we were discussing the name. I thought to myself, I want a name that will sound great 30 years from now. Apparently, I was in for the long haul!
Long it has been, haul NEVER! I don't think there has been a day I did not leap out of bed to go to my job. Every day was exciting, new, and a true adventure.
When I review the last 40+ years, my biggest take away is my decision to always explore new waters and roads I have never traveled — to expand my work and keep it new and exciting and to try new concepts or ideas even with the nay sayers at my heels.
Through my lens I learned of new paths to explore and people to meet.
Even when the times got tough and they did, I learned to re-adjust our offering or our purpose. Never once did I consider throwing in the towel.
Regardless of all the obstacles, I can honestly say becoming a Professional Photographer was the best decision I have ever made and one that allowed me to live an endless life of adventure.