To nominate a wild woman for this photo project, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org telling us how this woman owns her wild and shares her light with the world.
To nominate a wild woman for this photo project, e-mail email@example.com telling us how this woman owns her wild and shares her light with the world.
WE JUST ARE.
“When we accept our own wild beauty, it is put into perspective, and we are no longer poignantly aware of it anymore, but neither would we forsake it or disclaim it either.
Does a wolf know how beautiful she is when she sleeps? Does a feline know what beautiful shapes she makes when she sits? Is a bird awed by the sound it hears when it snaps open its wings?
Learning from them, we just act in our own true way and do not draw back from or hide our natural beauty. Like the creatures, we just are, and it is right.”
-Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Book Recommendation: Women who run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Note: You have to be ready for it. And by “ready”, I mean you need to be emotionally mature enough to have lived through some heavy stuff, learned from it, and have achieved a developed sense of self awareness. I couldn’t have read this book even 3 years ago. Now that I was ready to receive the lessons, it is the single most powerful piece of literature I’ve ever read and I cannot stop recommending it to my wolf pack of fierce females.
“I brought a playlist”…. she said proudly, as if I were her teacher and she’d been the only one in the class who knew the answer. This 51 year old goddess is quite the student, you see. Not only did she attend one of my workshops and watch another live broadcasted workshop of mine, she also had a full day one-on-one mentorship with me the day after her shoot, and happens to have 3 degrees from Stanford. No big deal, right?
When this professional answer-seeker, photographer, and mother of four told me of her love for empowering herself through movement and dance, I had her hit “play” on her playlist. I picked up my camera and what started as poses quickly turned to movement. I encouraged her to flow, and did she ever. It was so incredibly beautiful and also fairly difficult to stop myself from peeking at every single image as I captured it….but I didn’t want to miss a single movement.
Over the course of a single song, I captured over 300 frames of this powerhouse….
…and she was so free.
It was exquisite.
Video song credit: Gerson Lopes
PHOTOGRAPHERS::: We hold a lot of power in our camera-wielding hands and as such, we need to constantly remind ourselves of how that power can affect the humans in front of our lenses.
I know that while I’m capable of transforming women’s opinions of themselves into one of confidence and worthiness, it’s so important to also recognize that by delivering a subpar experience or by the simple act of NOT LISTENING to our clients, we can cause damage that is hard to undo.
Oftentimes, women come to see me very hesitantly after having a negatively impressionable experience with a past photo shoot. Because of that, it becomes much harder to earn their trust, much harder to get them feeling comfortable, and they are much more resistant to being showered with the support and encouragement they deserve. The negative impact of that one shoot, that one off-putting comment from a photographer, that one wildly unflattering photo that she was shown just because the photographer was more concerned about the good lighting of the image than the client’s feelings.
As Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” and that not only rings true, but needs to be a recurring self reminder as we are given the opportunity to show people how incredible they are through our craft. We should always be evolving both our technical capabilities AND our emotional intelligence...because this is important work that can change lives. 🖤
I didn’t want to write this post. I’ve been conflicted with it for months. I built my business with a heavy helping of “getting personal with Kara Marie” and over the years, I’ve pulled back. I think it’s only natural that I’ve grown more private as business has grown and my privacy became harder and harder to come by…but I don’t want to lose sight entirely of the fact that this IS a very personal business, and that I myself AM the sole presence behind it. So here goes.
Running a successful business is grueling work that requires immense sacrifices of personal life, sleep, ideal schedules, and usually sanity. It’s a rat race that I LIVE for. And, consequently, a rat race that I will inevitably die for….at least, way earlier than if I’d ever been able to keep my cortisol levels at bay.
Last year, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with an autoimmune disease after the scariest, most debilitating flare up I will ever experience, I hope. Since the diagnosis, I’ve been struggling to find the treatment approach that is best for me, but am extremely hopeful and feel as though I’m on the right path.
I am not a pity party kind of woman, nor am I one for excuses. At all. I’m an action taker and I make things work. It’s what I do. So while I am (reluctantly) sharing this with you, I beg of you not to dole out pity, apologies, prayers, or essential oil remedies….because, listen, EVERYBODY HAS SOMETHING. I’m nothing special for suffering from an autoimmune disease and mental illness….in fact I could likely step out into the parking lot of my building and yell “WHO HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS?!” and get a smattering of raised hands attached to people with pain in their eyes.
I don’t speak of this publicly often at all, to avoid all of those things I just asked you not to dole out…but also because I don’t want to admit defeat. I don’t want to say that it makes running a successful business all the more difficult. I don’t want to admit that it’s put a strain on personal relationships. I don’t want to accept that I’m not invincible. I don’t want to be a complainer. It could be worse. It can always be worse.
WHAT HAVING AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE MEANS FOR MY BUSINESS….
*It means using every.single.ounce.of my energy for the time that is forward-facing with my clients, and manifesting artificial energy when I run out of real energy…which happens very quickly.
*It means having to document absolutely EVERYTHING because my memory is no longer reliable.
*It means I have a much deeper level of empathy for all of my clients who are suffering from any disease/illness/ailment….because as empathic as I am, I truly had NO idea what it was like with a chronic illness until I had one.
*It means I cannot take on as much new business as I used to.
*It means I cannot book clients as far in advance as I used to.
*It means I have to take the high road when people are aggressive with me about not being able to fit them in.
*It means wishing I didn’t have to take the high road all.the.time.
*It means having to answer the “where have you been!?” questions on social media far too often.
*It means having to rely on employees more than in the past.
*It means I’ve been naturally forced to get my priorities straight, therefore finding deeper meaning in the service that I provide to women.
*It means always wondering how much further along I could be in my career if I didn’t have this disease.
*It means focusing more on the education side of things and slowing down on the physical aspect.
*It means being way more in-tune with my own personal style and artistic aspect of my work, which I am so so very grateful for.
*It means shooting more intentionally and appreciating every shot I take all-the-more. It’s forced me to level up!
*It means having an EVEN harder time listening to women hate on their bodies instead of loving and appreciating the vessel that carries them around and does miraculous things.
*It means a much deeper level of appreciation for my work and creating visual documentation of legendary women.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR MY PERSONAL LIFE…
*It means I’ve been forced to get my priorities straight, which has actually been a HUGE blessing and massive relief.
*It means having to hear “you’re no fun” when I politely decline cake at a birthday party.
*It means hurt feelings every time someone says “But look how thin you are!! You look great!” in result to the weight loss from having an insanely restricted diet.
*It means having to completely altar my schedule and work habits so that I am able to reserve a little bit of a good mood for my husband and children.
*It means declining practically all social invitations just to avoid the frustration of others trying to accommodate my diet, which even I don’t fully understand.
*It means taking 27 pills a day.
*It means the occasional mental breakdown….usually about food.
*It means distancing myself from people and situations that cause stress and negativity….and I can’t believe it took THIS to finally do that, because damn….life gets so much easier when you cut.them.out.
*It means I’m actually taking better care of myself than I EVER have.
*It means that I’m more emotionally intelligent and intentional than ever.
*It means having to wonder if I come across as whiny or complaining if I mention my disease.
*It means I have no time or desire for small talk. Give me depth or don’t strike up conversation.
*It means getting a plethora of unqualified and uninvited advice on potential treatment options.
*It means fighting the urge to scream “THIS DOESN’T GO AWAYYYYYY” to everyone that says “I hope you feel better soon!”, as well-intentioned as they are.
*It means accepting the suspicious judgement passed because I don’t “look sick”.
*It means unexpected medical bills and a whole slew of new self care expenses.
*It means taking it extra hard when people don’t realize that sometimes the strong friend needs support, too.
*It means trying extra hard not to get offended when people are friendly with me only when they have a favor to ask (i.e. working for free).
*It means being faced with the decision of which approach to take at social gatherings::: Do I try to explain to them that I can’t drink because I’m sick, or do I just carry around a fake cocktail all night to avoid the same conversation over and over?
*It means I cherish my close personal relationships so much more.
*It means I have a better excuse for going to bed at 8:30pm.
*It means I get a little less judgement for being a cannabis advocate ;)
In summary, it means CHANGE. Everything is different, my life has flipped upside down….and while the easy thing to do would be to complain and compile a list of all the ways I’m now inconvenienced (eh hem), I can GENUINELY SAY that the things that have improved are MONUMENTAL and I may NEVER have achieved such pivotal milestones of growth without being affected by chronic illness and being forced to get very serious about REAL self care. I’m not talking bubble baths and meditation, here. For the first time, I am taking proper care of myself. I am understanding my own needs, making radical changes in my life, eliminating my life of toxicity, building deeper relationships with those I love, and prioritizing the RIGHT THINGS.
Having a chronic illness can be extremely isolating…OR….it can be the fuel that you need to get your shit straightened out. For me, it has been both. I don’t know what my future with this super annoying “invisible” disease looks like, but I can tell you that it will most definitely be lived with purpose and a much brighter outlook than I had even before I was diagnosed. Ohhh the irony.
Thank you all for your continued support. I’m not going away anytime soon, but what I can assure you is that what you will see of me will be on purpose.
My own narrative has evolved quite a bit since starting this line of work over a decade ago. The further I got down into the rabbit hole that is women’s empowerment photography, the more I recognized the importance of celebrating yourself, as a woman, through a proper photo shoot experience. It has changed the way I run my business, it has changed the way I talk about my work, it has changed the way I talk to my clients. NOW, I can’t even fathom doing this for any other purpose than to celebrate yourself and to love yourself and to feel liberated and strong and powerful.
In this client’s case, what originally was meant to be a wedding present became not only a gift for herself, but documented herself at a pivotal point in her life as she received a medical diagnoses days after her photo reveal that flipped her world upside down. Read her experience below.
“I have followed Kara on Instagram for years, and always thought "I'm going to do that one day," but every time her sign-up opened, I chickened out. I wasn't in the shape I wanted to be in, felt too uncomfortable in front of the camera, didn't have the right reason for a boudoir shoot, felt like I could use the money on something else. There was always a reason to tell myself no.
“And then one day, I finally said yes. And it was one of the best decisions I've made in a long time.”
“I initially told myself that my session with Kara would be a great wedding gift for my fiancee – something he would never expect to receive from his overly body conscious girlfriend. But as I got closer to shoot day, I realized that it was as much for me as it was for my fiancee.
I've never quite been comfortable with my body – and even with a year to prepare, I still wasn't in what I considered to be "boudoir-ready shape" by the time of my shoot – but after years looking at the beautiful images Kara created, I figured that even just one good image would make the shoot worthwhile. My experience with Kara was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Kara was a total joy to work with. She completely changed the way I felt about my body, and brought out a confidence that I always lacked. I thought that taking pictures in lingerie (and less!) with a relative stranger would make me freeze up, but Kara's friendly demeanor put me at ease from the moment I walked in, and I felt like we were old friends despite only meeting her that morning.”
“Even just taking the photos before I even saw them...I left feeling powerful. I finally saw myself as the sexy, confident woman that my fiancee always saw. Seeing the final images just amplified those feelings. I honestly felt like I could conquer anything, which couldn't have come at a better time for me personally.”
“ The week after my photo reveal, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My entire world flipped upside down. I went from being embarrassed by my body to gaining an unknown confidence in it to wishing that I spent a little more timing loving it. ”
“ Kara did something for me that I wasn't able to do for myself, and now, as I'm about to embark on a very difficult life experience, I'm so grateful that I have these beautiful images to look back on – and to serve as a reminder of the hidden self she helped bring out in me: a confident, self-loving bad-ass boss babe. Working with Kara is a definite investment, but one that I would make a million times over, and I look forward to booking many more experiences with her in the future.”
She. Is. Incredible. I honestly couldn’t even begin to count the number of clients I’ve worked with that were affected by breast cancer, and how inspiring they each are to me....and how grateful I am on their behalf, to have documented this exact place in life they’re in. In the way that my self portrait project serves as my own personal visual diary of my current stage of life, these images will forever be there to serve the woman in them and remind them of that stage in their life.
THANK YOU, G, so much, for sharing with me and with the KMS family. I have every faith that you will kick this cancer’s ass in all the ways, and I will be seeing you again for your celebratory “I KICKED CANCER’S ASS!!!” Photo shoot that I’ve done for so, so, so many other insanely courageous women. YOU ARE AMAZING.
Our photo shoot experiences are amazing and fun as we create and break down barriers, and I watch as women work on their confidence right in front of me. But the photo reveals....the reveals are where it’s at. That’s where alllll of my job satisfaction lies and I will always selfishly want to be present when women see their images for the first time and experience their jaws hitting the floor and their eyes tearing up as they gawk in disbelief that they could look so fierce and powerful and confident and Goddess-y.
Some women are completely silent, even after their slideshow plays...they just sit there, stunned, with their hand over their mouth. Some women are SCREAMING “OHHHH. MYYYY. GODDDDDD” as each image flashes on the screen. Some women are sobbing messes. Some women spill their guts about why they needed this so badly at this stage in their lives. Some women play it cool and casual as they order their full collection but then send me a lengthy e-mail as soon as they get home about what it all meant to them. Regardless of how differently they may process it, they all move me tremendously and marry me to my work.
When they ultimately say “Obviously I can’t choose. I want them all.”, I know that I’ve done my job. Women are notoriously hard on themselves, especially when it comes to their appearance....which is why I maintain that, while obviously all of my experiences will have them looking their best, my primary goal isn’t to make them look smoother or slimmer or more voluptuous than in real life....it’s to make them look strong and capable and cool and CONFIDENT. Because what’s inside matters more, and THAT is the vibe that I want my work to have. Not one of being for someone else’s enjoyment, not one of being overly retouched to the point where it could literally be ANYONE in those photos....but CONFIDENCE.
I am on a mission, one woman at a time, to build CONFIDENCE in all of the women that I come in contact with, because I know the power of confidence as well as I know how crippling insecurity is. And the world NEEDS MORE CONFIDENT WOMEN. Your appearance is the least interesting thing about you, I promise. Let’s work on the inside. Together.
Here at Kara Marie Studios, we’ve got a talented team of hair and makeup magicians on hand for the clients who choose to use them....
….but also, let me be clear, you don’t NEED a makeover.
An interesting discovery, in a world that is constantly telling us to look younger and smoother and slimmer.....is our clients starting their pre-shoot makeup talk with “I don’t usually wear much makeup.” Many feel like they should probably go a little more glamorous for their photo shoot...because it’s a photo shoot and that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
Not necessarily. Even the lightest of full faces of makeup can be intimidating to someone who doesn’t wear much on a regular basis...and I want you to look like YOU for your session. Not what you think you should look like for this experience.
For some women, that may mean a full-blown glamour transformation, and that’s cool too. But if you’re the type to not wear a whole lot more than concealer and mascara, I encourage you to ROCK that bare face for your session. Yes, we’ll still take out any blemishes and do a very very gentle “zzshush” in retouching, but your natural face is YOU, and that’s who I love to photograph and that’s what I want you to love and appreciate.
Because I love it so much, I’ve been photographing women sans makeover for the last year…and did a call for 4 past clients to come in to the studio on Valentine’s Day and be photographed authentically. I went fresh-faced, too, in solidarity. I am absolutely over-the-moon obsessed with the results.
Can you have one? Sure…but you don’t NEED a makeover. I will capture your personality and your beauty regardless of what you choose to put on your face or your bod (or not put on).
And just in case anyone was feeling a little squeamish about it, I rocked a no makeup face that day as well.
So if you have an upcoming session with me and are thinking you might want to go au natural, YOU SHOULD. With the right lighting and the right photographer (eh hem), a natural face can photograph even more beautifully than a fully made-up face.
The point is, you can absolutely wear a full face of makeup if that’s your jam….just know that you don’t need to in order to look beautiful.
P.S. I also love stretch marks. And tan lines. And freckles. And birthmarks. And scars. No need to hide them on my account ;)
It’s an honor everytime anyone entrusts me with their photo shoot experience, but when that someone happens to be a photographer as well, it’s an extra honor. Not only are we, as photographers, inundated with examples of beautiful photography on a daily basis (so we often have much higher standards than the typical non-photographer consumer), but we also know a plethora of other camera-wielders and tend to settles for a couple of nice “play shots” from friends here and there.
What is more rare, though, is the photographer who takes care of themselves, understands the value of a powerful photography experience and the accompanying photos, and then actually financially commits to an actual session...not a play or trade session...with a photographer whose work they identify with.
THIS badass Canadian ‘tog is one of the rare ones (in more ways than one). When Teri booked a shoot with me, I won’t lie, I was: #1: Bursting at the seams to finally meet her as we’ve been “social media” friends for a minute but our paths hadn’t crossed in “real life” yet...and #2: Bursting at the seams with butterflies as she’s talented AF, and you know....pressure and shit ;)
She is better with words than I am, so I’m going to let her take it from here:::
“ As a boudoir photographer and educator, I definitely know the impact that doing a photo session can have on one's self esteem and confidence. So, when I thought about who I would contact for my annual session, I reached out to Kara to see if she'd be able to squeeze me in during my travels to Texas! AND SHE DID! So, then there was no backing out because fate was on my side!
Interestingly enough, as someone who enjoys luxuries to herself, I'm not gonna lie, the thought of spending over $3000 on photos made me hesitate and then I thought "HOLY SHIT. THIS IS WHAT MY CLIENTS GO THROUGH" which made me take the plunge even more. I became curious over that hesitation and I realized it wasn't the COST I was concerned with (because Kara's value is 20X that)....it was the VALUE that I saw in myself, and did I think *I*was WORTH spending that much money to have photos taken. WHAT AN EYE OPENING EXPERIENCE AS SOMEONE THAT DOES THIS FOR A LIVING!!”
“I knew I couldn't just go to anyone for a boudoir session for a few reasons. Personally, I have had the "traditional" boudoir experience and it just wasn't me...I mean, it was FUN and the photos were gorgeous, but not really reflective of the ME I know. As an avid follower of Kara's I was drawn to her editorial style and ability to take women in their "undone-done" look and capture their essence (that sounds so Hallmark, but you know what I mean).
As a woman who tends to defy most societal standards when it comes to body image (no makeup, never "DO" my hair, forget to get eyebrows and other bits waxed, and hate wearing a bra...and pants.), I knew this was the type of session I needed to show myself that the ME I know is just as worthy of having photos taken. I didn't want glam makeup, I didn't want to wear traditional lingerie, and mostly, I didn't want to appear overly sensual and sexual and really just exist in my power.
My favorite images are the ones where I have a derpy face, you can see my crooked teeth, I'm laughing, and of course, my mass of unruly curls. “
“These photos are 100% representative of me.”
Note from Kara: The below screenshot was Teri’s response to seeing her images and I will save it in her file forever.
”As for the EXPERIENCE itself, Kara is the tits. But if you are on her site, you already know this. She's super chill, laid-back, professional, and on top of all the details. Her overall goal is to make sure you feel fucking amazing and leave with that feeling. Every time I look at my images, I feel amazing and I SEE me.”
Ahhhh. Doesn’t she just sound like the kind of woman you want to know? Because she is. And I’m lucky to know her and honored to have been the photographer to capture her as I saw her...and as SHE sees herself. That is so important to me—to make sure that women feel like themselves WITHOUT a complete glamour makeover and elaborate wardrobe that they are uncomfortable in.
Thank you, Teri, for your trust and your incredible testimony! What a great reminder that even photographers struggle with investing in ourselves through photography! So glad you did with me.
If you’re located in our friendly neighboring country, Canada—or even if you aren’t, you should most definitely check out Teri’s website HERE.