photo by Robert Cooper
Shortly after leaving her boudoir photo session, Keri Hladik was overcome with emotion. She had never done anything like that before, and she never knew she was capable of doing anything like that. The photos were supposed to be a birthday gift for her husband, but it ended up helping her in ways she did not imagine. During her 40-minute ride home she had time to reflect on what just took place.
“I shed many tears, I called my husband and told him it was the most wonderful experience of my life, and I wanted to do it again immediately and I hadn’t even seen any of the photos yet,” said Hladik, who is a mother of one and has been married for seven years. “It made me feel this empowering, self-love that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I cried happy tears, I was like ‘holy crap Keri you just did that. You are strong, you are confident, you are beautiful,’ and it was over overwhelming.”
Reactions like that are all too common from the clients of Lindsay Rae D’Ottavio, the photographer and owner of Lindsay Rae Photography who is using her photos to change the way many women are seeing themselves.
“What I tell my clients is let me be your mirror for the day, let me show you that through the eyes of someone else you don’t necessarily look the way you see yourself,” said D’Ottavio. “As women we look in the mirror and see our acne, we see our stretch marks, but we never see the whole picture. So I think giving these women the opportunity to see themselves in full pictures, through the eyes of someone who knows how to use the camera and camera angles that works with them instead of against them gives them the opportunity to say ‘oh wow maybe I am more than my stretch marks, maybe I am more than my pants size,’ and I think it really does change them.”
D’Ottavio is relatively new to photography as she has only been a photographer for three years. Even though photography runs in her family–her grandparents opened one of the first photography studios in Miami which is now owned and operated by her uncle–D’Ottavio originally set out to be an actress.
She got her start in photography when wedding photographer friends of hers asked her to help them shoot a wedding after another photographer bailed on them. D’Ottavio did not take classes for photography; she got some advice from those friends as well as from watching technical videos from different photographers on YouTube.
Her desire to improve the way women feel about themselves is what led her to take boudoir photos. Her clientele includes women aged 21-75, some are single, many are married, some are housewives, others are professionals, and many are not the thin women that TV and movies try their hardest to make everyone think is the norm.
“I fell in love with the concept of being able to show women that they are beautiful, especially women who are not your typical model types, and who are plus sized,” she said. “I’m plus sized myself and everyone always says to me ‘oh you don’t have to say that,’ and I say that no it’s not a bad thing. Teaching women to love their size is important.”
At first glance people may think that boudoir photography is just photos of women in lingerie, or women who are half to all the way naked, but it’s more than that. Boudoir photography is art. It involves a connection between the subject and the photographer, the right amount of lighting, special locations that set the mood, and lingerie and makeup that compliments the women being photographed. All of which D’Ottavio is involved in.
“When women come in they are so nervous and they think they are going to walk into this uptight situation,” she said. “They walk in and [my makeup artist and I] are laughing, we’re having coffee cocktails, and we’re just hanging out like friends. So it kind of loosens them up right off the bat.”
That laid back environment is what helps to produce the stunning portraits that Lindsay Rae Photography is known for. Once the shoot is over, D’Ottavio edits the photos herself for color and toning, for smoothing the skin and other finishing touches. After one or two weeks, her clients come back for their “reveal,” where they see themselves in large portraits, a moment that is often filled with tears of joy, big smiles, and renewed confidence for the women.
“Throughout the process we learn so much about these women and their stories, where they’ve come from, where they are, and where they are going,” she says. “When we see them finally see the final product, it’s very overwhelming because we know them at this point. So it feels very personal, not just as an artist, but as a friend.”
Aside from improving how women view themselves and creating beautiful art, can boudoir photography be an act of feminism? D’Ottavio believes that it definitely is.
“There’s such a stigma that you have to be covered or you have to do this,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful thing when someone makes the choice to be covered, but it’s just as beautiful when someone makes the choice to not be covered. What we are doing is giving women the opportunity to say this is my body, this is my choice and you no longer get to tell me what to do with it.”
To learn more about Lindsay Rae Photography visit photographybylindsayrae.com.