Maggie Baumann: A budding boudoir photographer shoots military moms' real beauty -- saying no to nips, tucks and Photoshop -- and the women love the images they see!
In this day and age, both professional and amateur photographers can manipulate their images using photo-editing programs like Photoshop. The goal is usually to create the "perfect" picture, especially when it comes to photographing bodies -- women's bodies in particular. Thighs too wide? No problem: Photoshop can thin those out with a few quick clicks. One too many stomach rolls? They, too, can vanish with the aid of these photo-editing programs.
As a therapist promoting healthy body image, I was fascinated when I came across a professional photographer from San Diego, Calif., who believes women's bodies are perfect just they way they are -- no editing needed. Tatum Clark, 23, of Tatum Kathleen Photography, has a special passion for taking boudoir portraits of military wives and moms. "I do all different kinds of photography, but the one I hold closest to my heart is my boudoir photos," she says. "I love making women feel beautiful."
Whenever possible, Tatum shoots intimate portraits that capture each woman's unique beauty. "The bodies are raw and real, just like these women," she says. "I think the female form is the most beautiful subject. I always want to draw it, paint it or photograph it. My goal is to showcase the bodies just the way they are in the best way possible."
Tatum's first boudoir-photography model was ... herself. She shares her life with an amazing man in the military (he's a Navy Seal), and she wanted to give him something special. "First," she says, "it was self-portraits I was taking to send overseas to him. Then I began to shoot boudoir portraits of lots of other women in the military community who wanted to give the same gift to their loved ones serving our country." (Tatum herself comes from a military family.)
Tatum realized that, through this process, women saw their own beauty -- and that naturally boosted their self-esteem and gave them a more positive body image. "I saw that it wasn't so much about the photo being for someone else -- sorry, boys!" she says. "It was more about showcasing the real beauty that each and every one of these women have."
The boudoir photo featured above, taken by Tatum, is twenty-five-year-old Erika Hansen, the mother of 3-year-old twins and wife to a Navy Seal. Erika was initially hesitant about shooting her intimate photos because of insecurities about her own body. "I felt uncomfortable at first," she admits. "I didn't know how to move or where to put my hands. But after a while, through Tatum's encouragement and compliments, I eased into a more comfortable state." If Erika was "surprised" by the results, her loved ones were more so: "Their jaws dropped," she says.
Some customers do ask Tatum to "edit out" their flaws. But if she had her way, she'd make every woman embrace her natural photos. "If I could do that," she says, "my life's work would be complete. People think that a photo of a naked woman should look like a naked photo in magazine. [But] the magazine image is not real -- and that's why I am not in the business of airbrushing to produce a flawless image."
Tatum modeled in L.A. for a few years when she was in her late teens, so she's familiar with the business of making pictures perfect. "I used to hate it when my pictures would be edited to remove all my moles," she says. "I like my moles! They make me who I am." Recently, she was disturbed to see that a friend of hers had Photoshopped her arms to make them look smaller in a Facebook photo. "I think it's terribly damaging psychologically," says Tatum. "And personally, beauty magazines always me feel ugly. I think there is something wrong with that. The media has a huge role in portraying women unrealistically. It makes women think, 'Why don't I look like that when I get out of bed?' I hear a lot of excuses from women that they want to wait to take the photos when they've lost ten more pounds. I tell them, 'It's not necessary to lose weight. I can take a good picture of you no matter what your size."
When it comes to their own body image, Tatum encourages women to focus on the positive. She says body image is not just a physical sense of your body, but also a mental and emotional set of rules one holds inside. "If I'm having a bad-body-image day where nothing seems to fit me," she says, "I will go put on the most fabulous pair of shoes that I own, and it gives me the confidence boost I need. Then I remind myself, 'I am a beautiful goddess.'" (Tatum repeats that particular affirmation to herself repeatedly on days she struggles with her own body, and she says that it wouldn't hurt to spread this affirmation to others so they can believe in themselves and see their own inner beauty!)
Erika believes that Tatum's boudoir photos mean a lot to husbands who get deployed for months at a time. "These guys are away a lot, meaning: away from their sex life and us," she points out. "Military wives want to make sure their [husbands are] taken care of when away. These intimate photos make an impact on the men, knowing their wives back home are waiting for their return."
For more information on Tatum's work, visit her website at TatumKathleenPhotography.com.