My idea for Photo Therapy started over a decade ago when I was 250 pounds.
I tried in vain to take self-portraits that flattered and spent hours teaching myself posing, lighting and composition using a FILM camera with a self-timer. As my results improved and better matched what I saw in the mirror, I vowed to share my knowledge with every other woman who struggled to see their beauty.
Pinup Therapy was my first foray into self-esteem photography. I discovered that becoming a pinup was one way for women to embrace their beauty.
But I wanted to push that boundary.
I wanted to grow as an artist and find a way to reach more women. The idea for photo therapy has been percolating in my head for years with a substantial roadblock.
My friend and client Amy was the final puzzle piece. We have similar body types and discuss body image and beauty all the time. We knew we wanted to do a photo therapy shoot but I wanted to wait until I had the PERFECT idea or theme to make her feel gorgeous.
Days, weeks and months passed.
Until a week ago, I got tired of trying to guess what would be the best experience for her. But I was going in the wrong direction! She is the best person to describe her ideal experience. We are all much less self-conscious as children, so I asked her what her child self loved unabashedly.
And this life-changing photo therapy shoot was born.
I call this style of photo therapy simply, “Dream.” It’s a blend of the things we are confident about as children combine with photo therapy to embody those confident feelings as adults.
This is our interview. I’m humbled and honored to share her photo therapy experience and stunning Dream collage.
Iman: What parts of your appearance are you most nervous about? Can you describe why? If those were gone, would you be able to love yourself better?
Amy: The parts of my appearance I am usually most worried about are my arms, thighs and my belly. I have always felt very large and oafish. I can remember being very young and thinking about my size very critically.
If I didn’t feel so large I believe I would be happier in many aspects of my life and that I could love myself more. I have been working really hard to try to get into better shape, while trying to love myself for who I am in this moment. This photo shoot was another enormous step toward self acceptance for me.
Iman: I can honestly say that I don’t notice those things when we talk. I notice your eyes and sense of humor. Tell me about what balloons meant to you as a child.
Amy: When I was young I didn’t have balloons very often, because I ended very sad about losing them or popping them by accident. But I really love balloons now, they are just so whimsical.
Iman: Tell me about what clouds and being barefoot meant to you as a child.
Amy: I have always felt a connection to the open sky and outdoors. I spent a lot of time playing outside as a child and I loved it.
I could spend ages on the grass staring up at the clouds. My husband and I were married outside because we both feel very connected to nature and the earth.
I love the feeling of standing barefoot outside, it makes me feel at home and at ease. When I was a child I would go barefoot everywhere I could. It’s one of my favorite feelings and even as an adult I don’t tend to wear shoes unless I have to.
Iman: How did it feel to be in front of the camera for this shoot?
Amy: I was nervous at first in front of the camera, but it was also a lot of fun. Pretty soon I felt totally at ease and we were just laughing and talking. It was really easy to just be myself and let you capture it on camera.
Iman: I thought you got comfortable quite fast! You certainly carried yourself like you were at home in your body. How did you feel driving home?
Amy: In the car I just kept thinking about how the pictures turned out and how I felt like I was seeing myself through someone else’s eyes. I really felt beautiful and exquisite, and exuberant. It was amazing to see myself in a completely new light.
Iman: Because you really ARE beautiful and exquisite! How does seeing this image make you feel about yourself?
Amy: The picture is epic! It’s so whimsical and carefree and I LOVE it. I look so beautiful and stunning! It makes me feel like I am really more gorgeous than I give myself credit for. You are magic Iman! The photo really brings to mind what I hoped I would look like when I was a little girl.
Iman: That makes me so very happy! I’m thrilled you can see what I can see. Think back to the first question about your insecurities: Do you see any of those things when you look at this photo?
Amy: When I look at this photo I can’t see any of the negative things that I usually see in myself, it’s amazing. It’s like when I’m in your photos I’m some sort of Bohemian princess or something; nothing like how I usually see myself.
Iman, thank you so much! This has been so incredible and I can’t wait to see the other photos! You are phenomenal, and I have no idea how you work such magic with that camera, but you do!
And there it is…photo therapy in action.
Iman Woods is an American artist who specializes in pin-up photography. Through a unique and therapeutic process, she’s spent over a decade in perfecting, Iman helps women undo the damage from a negative self-image and unrealistic beauty industry expectations. She helps women embrace their own style of beauty and see themselves in a new light. You can find her on her website, ImanWoods[dot]com.
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