It was important to me that, after my Empowerment Photography experience, I wrote you a very practical guide of what to expect from beginning to end as well as getting all my feelings out. If, after these posts you still have questions, hit me up! I’d love to talk more about this.
Oh, and by the way, this is not an ad for Kinzie. She hasn’t paid me or offered me free anything for writing these posts, I just really like Kinzie and the work that she does. There are tons of other photographers out there in the world but, like, I haven’t worked with them, so.
Oh, but I have interviewed a few back in 2016 if you are interested.
First things first, I booked my session in a little bit unorthodox way but here’s what you do. You decide you’re totally down and you head to Kinzie’s website! Read up on pricing and her manifesto. Make sure you vibe! Check out her social media presence and maybe even join her Facebook group! It’s a great way to stay connected to her until you’re 100% ready to book. When you’re ready, send her an email that says, “Hey, Libby really made me want to work with you and so let’s do the damn thing!” Or, you know, something like that.
Next, after you’ve scheduled your session, you’ll get some emails. These emails had details about what to expect throughout the experience. I found that a lot of this information answered questions that I hadn’t thought of yet but knew that they definitely would have come up in time. Through this whole entire experience, I saw this happening time and time again. Kinzie has been doing this long enough and is intuitive enough that she knows what you need before you even do. That gave me a perpetual feeling of safety from start to finish. I never felt like I was left to my own devices and if I did, I know that Kinzie would have totally responded to any email I had where I said “help! I’m scared!”
One of these emails that you’ll receive leads you to a questionnaire that you’ll fill out. It has questions to answer that are easy. Things like, “what size are you?” and “do you have any allergies?” Other questions need a little bit more thought. Things like, “what do you like the most about your body?” (btw, I said that I loved my lips and Kinzie got the most jaw-dropping gorgeous shot of my lips) and “why do you think it’s important for you to be photographed?” I’ll tell you–that last one is a doozy and even if you don’t know the answer, it still gets you into a great headspace where you’re really thinking about why you’re choosing to do this. Why this? Why now? What are you hoping to get out of this experience? It’s not just about standing in your underwear looking pretty. It’s about something different for every person but if you’re choosing the Empowerment Photographer, you probably are looking to feel strong and powerful and stand in your own light and strength. Explore that. Think about it.
The day of, is really fun. Did I mention that my friend Alyssa and I booked our sessions on the same day? It was so great to have my friend with me. As per the emails that answer questions I didn’t know that I had, we started out our day with a high protein breakfast while wearing clothes that wouldn’t leave any marks on our bodies. I got scrambled egg whites with feta cheese and tomatoes which I ate while wearing pajama bottoms, and a t-shirt without a bra. It’s been a long time since I went out in public without at least some kind of a bra on but I didn’t want to have those marks! It was liberating. I tried not to drink too much coffee so that I wouldn’t be jittery.
When we got to Kinzie’s house, which is where her studio is, we were greeted by her and Meridith, her incredible assistant, and a hair and makeup stylist, Alyssa. That’s right, there were two Alyssas. In the previous emails, I’d already talked about how I’d like to have my hair and makeup done but Alyssa double checked anyway, just in case I had a last minute change of heart. I told her that I wanted bright eyes and a fun lip color. And I told her that I wanted my hair to look “the way you feel about 90 seconds after you finish having sex”. She knew exactly what I meant, which was a relief. On my best hair days, my hair is a complete mess. I like it that way.
While I was in hair and makeup, Kinzie and Meredith were in the other room looking through the lingerie that I brought and were planning our session. When I was done, they went through their ideas with me and asked if I was down or if I wanted to switch anything up. I was in a very “let’s do it!” mood so I just said yes to everything. They didn’t know it, but they put me in the outfit that I was most nervous about right off the bat. I put it on and I worked it, though, because if not now, when? You know?
During the actual photo session, it was fun. Kinzie is so good at making sure that you know that you’re killing it. You’re gorgeous and making beautiful work together. She tells you exactly how to pose and if she can’t say it, she’ll just straight up do it for you. It’s fun! You’re working hard but she’s working right along with you. Every now and again she can’t help it and she’ll let you see the back of her camera so that you can see with your own eyes what great work you’re creating. By the time I was done, I felt so completely blissed out and zen. Like I feel after a particularly delicious yoga practice.
After it was all over and finished, I scheduled my viewing session. I talked about it a lot in my last post. It was a skype session where Kinzie shows you all these gorgeous pieces of art that you created together and you get to swoon over yourself. This is also where you’ll place an order for prints (or albums or digital images or other things).
Since I’ve been talking about this experience a lot lately, several of you have asked a lot of questions, so I thought I’d address a few of those!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you manage the anxiety of the experience? I would love to do it, I just feel like my own reservations would hold me back.
In the moment: Like, when we were shooting, there was no anxiety at all. There just wasn’t time for it. It’s like when you need to have a difficult conversation with someone but when it’s all over, you realize that the anticipation was the scariest part and actually doing the thing wasn’t so bad (only better than “not so bad” it was actually so fun).
That being said, though, beforehand I definitely would get nervous. In those times, I reached out to my friends and asked them to tell me what makes me so beautiful. It’s important to have these types of people on your team.
But what worked the most for me was that I tried to focus and remember that I wasn’t doing it for just for me. I was doing it for everyone who has a body similar to mine and never gets to see it in a position of power or strength or loveliness. And when I thought about it from that perspective, I felt like I could do anything. When I’m doing it for you, I can do anything.
Do you view yourself differently now, if so, how? And is there a part of yourself that you learned to embrace through the experience?
I mostly covered this in the post I wrote last week but I want to circle back. Because, yeah; I’m not scared of my whole body anymore. At least I’m not, today. I don’t know if I’m always going to feel this way but I do right now and I have for the past few months.
Did this experience unlock anything about any other obstacle you were facing/have faced/face often.
It softened me to other people—specifically people who don’t have any patience for fat people. Isn’t it amazing the way that true strength makes us softer? Loving me is a treat. Knowing me is a blessing. I’m great! My body is soft and welcoming and it’s home to my soul and my spirit and I want to keep those things soft and welcoming, too.
Last week, I was wearing a sleeveless dress in the grocery store and I caught a person blatantly taking a photo of me while I was reaching for a bag of potato chips. We made eye contact and she knew that I’d seen what she was doing. So, she tried to say that she really liked my dress even though she had this disgusted look on her face. Ordinarily this encounter would fill me with rage and anger–a mask for my hurt. I’d give her a mean look and I’d seethe about it all day long (and probably never go sleeveless in public again).
But that day, I was in a very good zen-space that I wanted to maintain. I thanked her for the compliment (even though it was clearly a lie) and went about my day. I have thought about that encounter a lot but it doesn’t make me feel ashamed like I normally would. I’m just sad for her. I know myself and I know who I am and I love myself. I don’t need her approval. I don’t need anything except for myself in order to feel love and care. I took care of myself by keeping my cortisol levels regulated. So, to answer your question, yeah.
Would it be weird to do this as a non-sexually-active person?
My very quick answer is, no! I mean, yes! I mean, go do it!
My much longer answer is this: a lot of people reached out to me and said that this seemed like the kind of thing they’d like to do but they’re just not a very sexual person. It kind of just left me mind-boggled. I didn’t really know what to say because, like, do you think that I’m, like, a super sexy person and that’s what makes me a good candidate for this? I just want to laugh at that. I hope that’s okay. That ain’t it, friends!
I mean, I did explicitly tell Kinzie that I wanted to work on that in this session. I wanted to be comfortable not impulsively cheezing at the camera. That was a challenge. Any time she tried to get me to touch my body in any kind of way or get serious, it was really hard for me and I didn’t go as all-in as I wish I had (guess we’re gonna have to do another shoot!). But even though that was something I wanted to work on, it still wasn’t the point of the session.
The thing is, my session didn’t feel sexy. It felt like it was about strength and slaying my dragons and working together to create something that will be good for others. Because that’s what I wanted my session to be about.
It can be anything you want it to be. Truly. There’s so much preliminary work that goes into your session, you’re really in charge. It’s not like you’re walking into someone else’s vision and have to bend to fit it—Kinzie and her whole team are here to present you as the you-est you there ever could be. That’s how I feel every time I see this photo. It’s the me-est me I’ve ever seen.
How did you know that Kinzie was the photographer for you?
I’ll tell you one thing. I followed Kinzie for a while and I liked her style of photography. It’s light and airy and strong and different? Nothing built-in for the male gaze. It’s for the self’s gaze.
I joined her FB group (which is a great place to be) but I was still a little dubious because I’ve been burned by thin, white women who claim to be “body positive” in the past.
It wasn’t until she posted about her client closet full of lingerie that I knew she was really here to practice what she preached. I nervously asked her what sizes she had available. I was fully expecting an answer like, “we have something for everyone! Our client closet goes up to size 2x!” I mean that’s what most “inclusive” clothing brands say, so that’s what I’m used to. But that’s not what she said. She told me that she keeps sizes XS-6X on hand for shoots. SIX X, PEOPLE! This is a woman who really, truly, honestly does want to get all kinds people in front of her camera and she’s got systems in place to make sure that we all feel included, safe, and seen. Kinzie is the real deal. “Empowerment Photographer” isn’t just some kitchy, fake feminist marketing ploy. It’s really how she operates. She is here to empower. She’s here to do the work!
If you have any other questions, let me know! Or if you want to book your own Empowerment Session, head over to Kinzie’s website or the Facebook Group (a space for women and gender queer folx). Follow her on Facebook and Instagram. And tell her that I sent you!