For most women, the pressure to be thin and beautiful is a daily reality we experience from the time we’re children. The constant reminders come at us from every magazine cover, billboard ad and bus shelter. Tabloid covers in the checkout line remind us that a saggy beach bod is the most cardinal of sins and that any bit of pudge, flab or evidence that a body has been lived in rather than just used as ornamentation is unacceptable. At our best, we’ve kept up appearances. At our worst, we’ve let ourselves go.
Which is why the newfound popularity of boudoir photography can seem, on the surface at least, like just another medium holding women to that perfect ideal. But as Bri Anderson-Jackson, owner of Voulez-Vous Boudoir Photography, explains, with the right photographer and an open mind it can be an empowering experience that encourages women to feel sexy in their own skin and realize that their bodies are beautiful just as they are. “I find that sometimes what you see as what a woman should be is really not what it is. That distorted sense of, you know, you have to be this size, you have to look like this to be accepted in society,” she says. “What I [like] about boudoir is that it’s really for all women, and it really is to feel beautiful.”
A mother of seven, Anderson-Jackson had grown disenchanted with wedding photography. She decided to rebrand herself and do boudoir shoots instead, approaching them from a body-positive viewpoint. “I take a lot of pleasure in being able to show all types of women, whether you’re a size two or you’re a size 24,” she says, asserting that boudoir really is for everyone, regardless of size, age, background or orientation. “As long as you identify as a woman, you’re more than welcome to come to my studio, and I’m confident in my abilities that I will make you look good.” Anderson-Jackson has experience photographing queer women and in March will begin offering couples’ sessions, as well, for women and their partners.
Part of the Voulez-Vous process does include retouching, but this is limited to colour-correction and the removal of blemishes. “I don’t change body shapes, so if you come in and you’re a size 10, you’re not going to see pictures where you look like a size four. I don’t believe in that.” Anderson-Jackson points to the lives women lead, particularly if they are mothers, which leave very little room to focus on themselves. “We almost feel selfish if we do it,” she says.
In recent years, Anderson-Jackson has taken her belief in pampering one step further, arranging and hosting Blush in celebration of International Women’s Day. Despite her fears that nobody would attend, the inaugural 2013 event sold out in six days. This year Blush is back (and sold out again) at the Marriott Hotel, on March 8, featuring makeup stations by Bisou and Dior as well as spa stations; hair, nail and eyebrow treatments; swag bags full of upscale goodies; and decadent hors d’oeuvres and desserts. Guests will also get to try out some boudoir photography, and Anderson-Jackson is already planning for 2015, hoping to give even more women the chance to experience themselves as beautiful. “You’re really doing it for yourself, and that’s the message I try and promote.”