I Shoot Real Women: These 5 and More Have Lived to Tell Their Tales….

28 October 2015 | Photography Tips

In my 18 years as a professional photographer, I have had the great privilege to work closely with a very great number of exceptional women, both behind and in front of my lens. Most are rock stars in their own lives: entrepreneurs, mothers, philanthropers, daughters, wives and change makers. In honor of International Women’s Day, I’ve profiled five favorite divas whose external beauty I have been honored to capture and whose internal beauty has enriched my life. When photographing women, I like to work in the niche that lies between bad selfies and glamour shots, the space where our common experience as humans, as women, and my solidarity with their identity and goals draws out their real self. Self consciousness evaporates, replaced by genuine pleasure in the experience. Happy International Women’s Day!

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Karen Barnes
I met Karen as the mother of my newly transplanted, third grade son’s best friend, 11 years ago. Although we are so incredibly different, we have bonded hard and fast as friends, mothers, travellers and fellow re-inventors of our own lives. On my global journey Karen and her family ‘lapped’ ours twice during our tenure in Singapore, coming and going from this amazing city two times while we remained. The mother of three teenage boys, and soon to be an empty-nester, Karen learned that she had breast cancer in the spring of 2012. As it does, this news catalyzed alot of change for her, and the ‘white calendar space’ that was required enabled the time and reflection she needed to decide she was going to reinvent herself. Completely recovered, she has nearly finished her Master’s of Education M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration and is headed back into the working world as a ‘mature’ candidate with an amazing personal journey behind her, and immense offerings for college students seeking overseas adventures. I photographed her in Singapore’s Chinatown to showcase her global positioning as she embarks on her next chapter. Salut Karen!

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Sue Ten
Sue is the beautiful and intuitive designer behind Singapore-based jewellery brand Firehorse Designs www.firehorsegrp.com A long term resident of Singapore, Sue has made a global name for Firehorse Designs by artfully blending her Asian heritage and international experience into each of her pieces. Her dedication to designing for the modern woman renders pieces for her niche market that are powerful, alluring and free-spirited, as she is herself. Sue approached me several years ago to make sophisticated, personal portraits for her as the model for her creations, that would speak genuinely of her as a person, and powerfully for her brand. Our creative session undulated through professional portraits, as the one here, and expand to include more intimate portraits of meditation and mindfulness. Salut Sue!

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Franca Ciambella
I wish I could locate the photograph I have of my first meeting with Franca in spring of 1996. She was a Managing Partner in Singapore of a top Canadian law firm, and we were both ‘out-to-here’ nine months pregnant with our first sons, who were born a week apart, seeminly moments after this photo was taken. One of the most admirable and accomplished women I know, Franca is now Managing Director of the law firm she founded Consilium Law Corporation, Singapore www.consiliumlaw.com.sg and has been a rock-steady inspiration, counsellor and dear friend to me for nearly 19 years. The mother of three teenage boys, (Boy #1 abovementioned and twins a scant year later) her accolades are far too many to detail here, but most inspirationally for me she was one of the first foreign attorneys to gain full admission to the Singapore Bar, an incredibly, nearly impossible feat. These recently made professional portraits showcase an astonishing weight loss Franca achieved during the past 18 months. It was an absolute pleasure to photograph her transformation, beauty and wisdom. Salut Franca!

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Tracy Heywood
I guess newly arrived and hugely pregnant makes it easy to make friends…or it did in 1996, for I also met Tracy at the end of my first pregnancy, in a Lamaze class, where we agreed on the ridiculous irony of being taught natural birthing by a twenty-something who had never given birth herself, guffawed at the ‘birthing simulation’ of holding ice cubes in our hands to increase pain tolerance, and bonded truly and forever when Tracy raised her hand and asked, to the shock and horror of all, about the relative health merits of eating your own placenta after childbirth. 19 years and many adventures later, we have remained fast friends and confidants, and our families once again reside side-by-side in Singapore. Tracy is a truly accomplished designer and stylist, was co-manager of Amankila in Bali and founded the lifestyle design store Cocoon Home on that island with an exquisite and well-known eye. An inspirational mother of three gorgeous daughters, she has been through some shattering personal times, but has re-emerged as the creative talent behind the residential and retail styling company Tracy Heywood Stylist Facebook, strong and elegant as ever. I photographed her in my family room, where her styling magic recreated our living space. Salut Tracy!

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My Mother: Reliance Kinne Ricketts
And top of the heap to celebrate during International Women’s Week is my mother, whom I was fortunate enough to have visiting me for nearly three weeks from the west coast of the United States last month. My mother is an icon, as perhaps all mothers eventually are, and is my bedrock, biggest champion, my soft place, my true home. At nearly 80 she still trots around with me and is full of energy, lucidity, wisdom and love. I captured her beautiful gaze here in Bukit Brown cemetery where we love to run the dog. We have lived on separate continents for nearly two decades now, and that divide is probably the most painful reality of my own global experience. I love you mom… Salut!

As women sometimes we are conditioned to hide our authentic selves, to cover emotion, ‘defects’ and age. My advice for all readers on International Women’s Day is to get real! In authenticity is power, and it is as important to be authentic in professional imagery as it is to be in life. Professional portraits that are overly slick, or even glamorous, can leave an aftertaste of distrust for the viewer. They can work against you. Please don’t misread me: by authentic I don’t mean non-retouched, or that you should wear no makeup and have bedhead. Grooming, clothing and retouching of portraiture is essential to its success. But if you are considering professional imagery, please pay attention to authenticity. The key to letting yourself shine in front of the camera is to work with a photographer you trust, who takes time to understand you and your goals up front, who immediately puts you at ease, and who is herself willing to be real. Authenticity is vulnerability, and it is a gift that I try to earn, to tease out and then to give back to my clients in their imagery.

This post was first published on Executive Lifestyle Magazine and has been reposted on Executive Lifestyle with the permission of the author.

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