Wednesday, 22 January 2014

My Turn

My, my, my, it has been such a long time since my last post! But I am so excited to share an experience I had a few weeks ago - the other side of the lens!

As you know I am a contemporary glamour portrait and boudoir photographer. My clients, mostly women, come into my studio, their hair and makeup is done and we shoot for a few hours.

It may not seem like it, but for some, this can be quite a daunting experience!

Women who aren't normally comfortable in front of a camera suddenly have one pointing in their face for the better part of two hours. They are asked to do strange things like, "smile with your eyes," and, "do Barbie hands," and, "I want more body language, make me believe it," like what does that even mean? They are suddenly doing things professional models do: working their bodies, finding their best angles, pushing this forward, pushing that back, etc. It can feel quite strange indeed!

The Photographer
So a few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting and photographing a young woman named Jessica Shepherd who also happens to be a local photographer. She was keen to try out some new equipment that she had purchased, so I volunteered to 'model' for her. Thus began my experience as the client in front of the lens, rather than the photographer behind it.

The Location
We decided to shoot in an old, abandoned wreck of a house in outer Geelong. We drove out, chased some sheep away and began the shoot, hoping not to step on any rusty nails or broken glass.. or sheep's poo!

The Experience
I have been photographing women for just over a year now, and I can now say that I sympathise with all my previous clients! Suddenly I was the one with the camera in my face, the stunned mullet who didn't know what to do, who felt completely self conscious and vulnerable and awkward..!

I didn't know how I looked, I couldn't tell if I was showing double chin or stomach bumps (aka flab) or if my pose looked right or if my hair was big enough or if my makeup was still all there. I had to put my complete trust in Jess. I had to trust in her ability to create a beautiful photograph of me.

The Photos
In all honesty, it was tough at first. It can be confronting! I think we all have an idea in our minds of what we look like. Then somebody shows us a photo and we're shown a different version of ourselves and we think, "So this is how other people perceive me. I'm not as [insert adjective] as I thought I was."

When I received the photos from that day, I couldn't stop staring at them. I looked so different! I took a good, long look at myself. I saw a young woman approaching her 30th birthday. A woman who's been around the world. A woman who has touched lives. A woman loved by family and friends. A woman about to get married. A woman with a smile that brightens her whole face.

This is me. This is how the world sees me. This is who I am. 

I am beautiful.

It shows in my eyes, my smile, my face, my hands.

I'd like to thank Jess for giving me this experience, and for the lovely photographs that I will cherish always. And I just hope I can give my clients what she gave to me that day: the realisation that I am truly beautiful.

If you ever get the opportunity to be photographed, take it. You may just get to know yourself a little better.


Thursday, 24 October 2013

What sets you apart?

It's been a while since my last post. I've been busy learning, experimenting, growing, improving and sharing. I can't help but be amazed with how far I've come, and it's not just the technical side of things. Anyone can learn how to shoot better, Photoshop better, manipulate light better, direct clients to pose better. But lately I'm finding myself actually creating. Creating works of art. Creating worlds. Creating moods. I'm really giving the artist in me the freedom it needs to create.

I was saying to Luke the other day, anyone can pick up a camera and take a decent photo and call themselves a photographer. And I will admit, that is probably how I started too. I thought it would be easy, you know, I've got a DSLR and suddenly my photos look amazing and oh my goodness I am going to make soooo much money from this!!!


There is a whole other story to the actual BUSINESS of photography, but I won't get into that now. The reason I mention this conversation is because I said to him, how am I going to set myself apart from every other photographer out there, shooting with cameras and lenses that are way better than mine? And even worse, how am I going to set myself apart when there is a growing consensus that professional photography is a thing of the past - we can take amazing photos on iPhones now! Who wants to spend money on a portrait when we can take selfies for free!?! So I need to be more than that. There needs to be a reason people come to me and not the other 'guy with a camera'.

I remembered that I am an artist. I always have been. This is something that was never taught to me. It's just who I am. And I need to convey that in my work. I need to take my photography to another level, above the standard, and make it mine and make it awesome.

Self portrait: a feather boa, one sheer black piece of fabric, a dead tree, cherry blossom, a wooden fence post, the concrete in the backyard and some further editing in Photoshop and AlienSkin Exposure 5.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

50 and Fabulous!

This past fortnight I have had the privilege of shooting two women aged in their fifties. I've been wanting to do this for some time now, because as you know I am all about shooting ALL women. I don't believe beauty is defined by an age or a shape or a size. But I began to notice that my portfolio was starting to fill with young, pretty, slim women - all beautiful in their own right, don't get me wrong - but I was worried that if, say, an older or fuller-figured woman visited my page and saw that and only that, she would be put off and brush me aside as a photographer who only photographs pretty girls. Or she would feel that looking beautiful in photographs is only possible for a certain type of girl and not for her - and that couldn't be further from the truth.

Sure we all have our imperfections. Winter has been unkind to me. Clothes are a bit tighter and I'm noticing a few more fine lines on my face which weren't there last year! But I wouldn't let that stop me from being photographed (especially with hair and makeup done!). I want to exist in beautiful photographs for my children and their children. When they look at photos of me, do you think they'll say, "Gee granny, you sure were a porker back in the day! And look at all those wrinkles!!" Of course not!

My fiance lost his mother when he was 18 (she was 54). All he has left is a few photographs. He doesn't look at her weight or grey hairs or wrinkles or anything else that might otherwise stop us from being photographed. He looks at her and remembers the beautiful woman who raised him to be the man he is today. The woman who clothed and fed him, who taught him how to say please and thank you, who celebrated birthdays and Christmases with him, who wiped his tears and listened to his stories. That is who she really was. That is the woman he sees in those photographs. The woman he misses everyday.

I have no doubt that when the children and grand children of these women see these photographs they will see the same things and cherish them always.
Click to enlarge

Girls just wanna have fun!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


This post is a little out of the ordinary. As I mentioned in a previous post I recently spent some time up in Sydney. I stayed at my Mum's house and I was more than happy to forage through all our old photos in the hope of finding some good, happy memories to bring back to Melbourne. I found a few of me and my siblings as young children. I found a few of other relatives who are dear to me. 
I also found some that I brought back with me, for no reason other than I just like the look of them. In some of these, I have no idea who the people in the photo are, but the photo just looks good.
So I thought I'd write about them; the unknown subjects and the possible stories behind them. At the same time I thought I'd educate my audience on a place in the world which is relatively unknown: Wallis Island.

My People

The above photo was taken in 1977. I love this photo but have no idea who these ladies are. I think they may have been Sisters (as in nuns) who are/were friends of my aunt, also a nun. 
These women are Wallisian, like my mother. What I like most about this photo is that it offers us a glimpse into the Wallisian culture of yesteryear. They are dressed simply in sarongs. Their hair is simple. The land behind them is virtually untouched. They walk along the shore as the tide comes in. 
This makes me think of the sea in front of my grandfather's house. At low tide, you could walk out towards the reef for miles. As children, my brother and I would spend hours exploring the shallow waters, looking for shells and strange sea creatures.
The last time I was in Wallis Island was 2010 and things have changed a lot. For a start you would not be seen dressed this way, despite the ridiculous heat! And even though the island is tiny, you're more likely to drive than walk, even if you're only going around the corner. 

I wouldn't normally give this photo another thought, but something drew me in. Members of my family (the woman in the centre is another aunt, the man with the machete is my uncle and I just realised the woman beside him in the striped top is my mum!) sitting by the sea, eating fresh food out of weaved coconut baskets and just basking in the goodness of nature and the company of family and friends. Don't you just get the loveliest sense of community when you look at this? I just love the simplicity of life depicted in this picture. There are no phones. No gadgets to keep the kids entertained. Heck, they're not even using utensils.

I chose these photos because they illustrate almost perfectly how I view Wallisian culture, or at least how it used to be. How I wish it still was. Things have changed a lot over time and maybe that's why I liked these photos so much; because they've captured the essence of a place which has changed so drastically from what it used to be - paradise! 
I hope to someday return. I want my children to know this side of their ancestry. But maybe these photos are all I'll have to show them.

Wallis Island (Uvea)

Capital: Mata Utu
Population: Approx 15,200 +
Area: 264 km 2
Languages spoken:
    Primary: Native polynesian dialect
    Secondary: French

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Why I shoot the Before & After

If you've had a photo session with me you will remember that before I started your hair and makeup, I took a 'Before' shot. I am writing this post to explain why I do it. Lately I've been feeling a little guilty for some reason - like I'm invading privacy - and feel I need to explain why it's done.

I shoot women from all walks of life: uni students, travellers, waitresses, teachers, full-time mums, etc. The B&A is a visual tool for me to illustrate that you don't have to be a six foot tall, size 8 glamazon to look and feel beautiful in photos because let's face it: we're not all blessed with those sorts of looks! But that doesn't mean it's out of reach for us everyday women. The B&A shows that, indeed, it's possible. It's accessible to every woman, regardless of her age, shape, size, race, etc. etc. etc. The gallery is there to encourage women who might not feel pretty enough or skinny enough or whatever enough, that IT DOESN'T MATTER. The experience is for everyone.

If you go to the Before & After gallery on my website you will see the first image is a quote from fellow photographer Jessica Lark. The reason I included this was because I felt it perfectly summed up why I do it and why those images are there. The B&A is by NO means a 'drab to fab' gallery. I am not a magician. I don't want people to think "oh, look at these ordinary women, but look at them after they've been with Jowita!" No. I want people to think "wow, Jowita really knows how to bring out and capture the true beauty in every woman." I love what Jessica says - that we use hair, makeup, good lighting and studio space to amplify your beauty. The 'After' is who you really are on your best day. It's the real you, polished and shining for the world to see.

I've met women who think they are covered in flaws and I just wish I could make them see with my eyes. There is beauty in every one of us. People are too busy loving you for who you are to care about your thighs or your nose or your 'bingo arms'. Your photo session is a celebration of you. Kick those insecurities out the door because you will walk away with portraits of yourself that you and your family will love and treasure forever. Your kids see their mum - the most beautiful woman in the universe! Your husband sees the woman he loves. Your parents see their daughter - their pride and joy. Love yourself today.

A B&A of yours truly! Luke's photography skills have improved! I felt so pretty and witty and bright that he took us out to a fancy restaurant after. (This is the red dress I referred to in a previous post. Finally got to shoot it. :)

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Family portrait: history captured on paper

I've been in Sydney for nearly three weeks now. I visit occasionally because my family lives here. This visit was extra special though as my sister had another baby! A beautiful baby boy named Joseph. He is such a precious little bundle and his sisters love him to bits!

I'm staying at my Mum's house and she has bags of old photos and shelves full of albums. Every time I visit I find myself going through them as if seeing them for the first time. Even though I've gone through them a hundred times before, as I get older I see them differently. I understand more of the circumstances behind each photograph. I'm filled with joy at the memories and then a kind of sadness sets in. I can't really explain it. Nostalgia? Maybe I realise how old I'm getting and how far removed I am from my own childhood. I look at photos of my mother and she was such a beauty in her youth (still is!) and realise we are now the same age.
Maybe, more and more I'm seeing things for what they really are/were through the eyes of an adult; gone is the veil of youthful naivete. In some photos where we all look so happy and carefree, little did I know that this person was homeless, that person was sick, this person was abused, etc. I have photos with childhood friends and we're doing the kid thing, you know, jumping on trampolines, riding bikes, swimming at the beach, visiting the zoo. Some are married now with children of their own. Others have been in prison or fallen to substance abuse. Others who are successful and happy, or so I hope. It really gets me thinking and wondering and all sad. I can't really articulate why.
I was going through a few of them this evening with a friend. She was laughing at the gap I used to have between my two front teeth. Then she said that her family had about fifty photos total of her family. Fifty. And here I am with two full bags at my feet while I type. It reminded me how important photographs are. They capture a moment in time that will never happen again. I'll never again be that seven year old girl with a gap between her teeth. I'll probably never see some of those kids I used to play with. I'll never see certain relatives again as they've passed away.

1991 - Me (age 7) and my little brother (age 5)

With the neighbours' kids

So I come back to little baby Joseph. I have been hinting and hinting at my sister to have a family portrait done before I go back to Melbourne because Joseph is already getting bigger! I want to capture him now, with his doting teenage sisters by his side, before it's too late. Before we know it, he'll be the teenager and his sister's will have left home and we'll be saying "gee, if only we'd gotten that family portrait done all those years ago."

Monday, 8 July 2013


(Read Bianca's thoughts on her photoshoot here.)

The last time I saw Bianca was nearly two years ago on the other side of the world. We were having coffee in one of London's largest shopping centres before I was to leave for a new job in Barcelona.

We met in 2009 at a school where we were both teachers, and when things didn't quite go to plan with our jobs, we decided to leave it all behind and give working overseas a try.
We shared a small apartment in a town east of London called Grays - a must see destination if you're ever in the area ;) I loved every minute of life in that quaint little town.

From London to the small seaside town of Portarlington, here we were catching up, in the middle of nowhere really, nearly two years later, having a laugh and reminiscing a life so long past and discussing the endless possibilities for the future (which hopefully involve going back to London!)

Bianca is a stunning young woman. She is of Indian and Irish descent and got the best of both worlds: a year round tan and amazing blue eyes. "I want to look and feel like a woman" she said to me, which confused me at first. How can you not look and feel like a woman? And I realised there was more to it than that. It was about being grown up.

I guess people everywhere, everyday, hide behind a veil of sorts. We create barriers to protect ourselves, or hide our true selves away. We do it for fear of judgement, amongst other things. (I am just as guilty of this, ask anyone!) So when I understood what Bianca was asking for, I thought yes! I am going to take photographs of who you really are, behind the funny faces etc. I'm going to capture the essence of you and who you are: a beautiful, young, grown up woman.

Here is just a small selection of my favourite images from our session. Zero fun was had that day, can you tell? ;)

Click to enlarge