Empowering Women Thru the Lens
Stephanie is my very first Empowered Woman! Stephanie answered a call I had posted in search of a 'model' to create a photo shoot with on the grounds of Old Westbury Gardens in May of 2014. I was booked for my very first wedding and the ceremony was to take place here. I called out for a shoot at 4pm, the exact time of the wedding. Stephanie answered right away and it was during this shoot that we used words like empowering during the shoot. The seeds were planted and the project was about to be born! It was empowering for me to connect with Stephanie and to return to her a year later to see how she felt about the shoot was even more empowering! I am so grateful for Stephanie and for creating this style photo shoot for women on Long Island. Stephanie has chosen to express her feelings about her shoot by choosing several photos and expressing it with stanza. I hope you enjoy meeting Stephanie as much as I did!
Amy. Amy is a registered nurse and we work together on separate units. Let me quote Amy's essay describing her experience with an Empowering shoot,
"I first met Lori when I began my journey as a new-graduate nurse. She was working evenings as a clerk, and I was transitioning into my new role as a night nurse. Both of us eventually found ourselves happily working day shifts on separate units and after some time as Facebook friends, Lori contacted me to do a shoot because a 'selfie' I had posted had inspired her!
I was less than thrilled. I have never really considered myself someone made for photos. I turned Lori down multiple times, because the idea was intimidating to me. I have always been somewhat self-conscious about myself in photos. I can never seem to find the 'right' weight or clothes or angle to feel that I look right in a photo. I will not lie and say I have never loved my body and my self, because that's a life long journey that I take part in everyday. But a photo shoot dedicated to me, focused on me, was like the nightmare where you are naked on stage giving a speech to people who are there to judge your every move and to exploit the parts of you that you have worked to hide. Lori convinced me. She said she needed practice. I am a sucker when it comes to helping people ... I am a nurse for a reason. To help someone achieve their goals and dreams is extraordinary and beautiful. All I had to do was show up and smile.
You see my photos at the beginning of the shoot. I smile simply. I am reserved. My legs are crossed over and hiding bits of me I have learned to dislike. Lori was also practicing giving direction at this time, so we both bumbled around a bit. When Lori gave the idea of playing and interacting with my surroundings, I calmed. I love hiking and seeing beautiful things in nature and otherwise. I usually don't mind making a fool of myself, and after the first awkward public outfit change, I was laughing and relaxed.
The photo shoot was beautiful. The weather actually warmed for the few hours while Lori took my iconic shots. We moved alot. We got dirty. We laughed and chatted. We diverted foot traffic and talked to new people. By the end of the shoot, I was empowered to open my body and my heart. When I look back at the shoot now, over half a year later, I smile. I'm a little different physically. I have brown hair. I have been working on getting into a healthier shape. But that smile is who I am. I am a happy person and I am always in progress and changing.
Who really helped who? Lori ended up helping me empower the joy that I feel everyday to shine through for a snapshot in a time in my life. She gets such joy from taking photos and lights up when everything aligns for a great shot! I try to bring joy where ever I go now. I would love to do a photo shoot with her again one day to feel again the joy of dedicated self-love!"
Gagan. Gagan, is also a registered nurse who I do work with daily on our unit. I watched her go through years of education to become the Nurse Practitioner she is today. Here is Gagan's story,
"When my parents asked me, after I was finished with my high school degree, what were my career plans? The first word that came out of my mouth was "modeling". Then, why didn't I pursue with my goals? hmmmm .... I think it is because I didn't get too much support from my parents and I was pushed back a little by my friends about not being able to find a job and have a respectful career. So, I guess, these were the reasons and I did not take it further.
Let's come to this photo shoot!! After I finished my masters degree, I really felt accomplished in life and I just wanted to be myself! My photo shoot was done in woods where I use to go for walks on my days off from school and work, especially on my stressful days! Going back there for an "Empowering Women" photo shoot, after I had the degree in my hand, I really felt the Empowerment!!! I just didn't let anything come in my way that day! not the sun! the wind! nor the cold weather!
It was an awesome experience and the next photo shoot I am going to have will be with my complete family! Of course, Lori will be shooting it because she made it so easy and wonderful!"
Corinne. Corinne, she is a young woman I have the pleasure of knowing and here is her story!
"I was approached by Lori to do a photo shoot for Empowering Women, I said yes to this opportunity because I wanted random candid shots of myself because all my photos are staged and smiled for the camera. I wanted the freedom to be myself and forget the camera was there. I also asked if my dog could be in the shoot with me! My dog has been in my life since he was first born. The unconditional love I receive from 'Costello' never waivers. He is a constant source of love in my life. He is my baby, my first baby is how I was thinking that day. I remember it so well. I picked the beach at Sunken Meadow where he would also love to run with me.
I learned only a week later that I was to be expecting my first child. I had no idea I was expecting when I had all these feelings of Costello being like my 'first baby' or how much love I receive from him. As I look back on this day it symbolizes my new chapter in my life! It closed the beautiful love between my dog and I, while at the same time opening a new door for my new life.
I plan a photo shoot while I am still pregnant, in between all the preparations!"
Dawn. Dawn, is my daughter! I was most surprised when we planned to meet to walk the labyrinth in Avalon Park in Stony Brook and she then, finally, agreed to a photo shoot!
"I am Dawn, my mother is my photographer. I was looking for some direction in my life when my mom suggested walking a labyrinth. I was unsure what a labyrinth was about so I googled it and became excited to walk one with her. We went to Avalon Park and planned a day to include a walk on The Bluff at Kings Park with my snowboard for photos too.
I started to see the photos my mom was posting of women and thought, I would like to do this someday so today was my day! I enjoyed my mom and watching her photograph me, she even brought a camera for me to use! We walked the labyrinth, we took photos, laughed and talked. I wanted photos of myself doing what I love and being myself.
We had a great day together but the greatest part of this day didn't happen right away for me. The greatest part of this day happened when I saw all my photos come up on facebook! The reactions of my friends and family! Even my own reaction! I loved my photos! I felt like a superstar! I was a model! a rockstar! My mom did what she loves to do and created photos of me at my best self! the real me! I felt empowered and so good about myself after this photo shoot. She even too a photo of me running with my snowboard at the waters edge at the Bluff with all the seagulls flying away and printed it in a 16x20 canvas print as one of my Christmas gifts! Thanks Mom!
The next two women and myself have something in common, we all grew up in East Meadow! We all went to high school together!
Elaine. Here is Elaine's story,
"I am a grandmother of five and I am approaching sixty. When Lori asked me for a photo shoot, I thought .... why not?
I still have plenty of 'ham' left in me!
As we got closer to the photo shoot date, I started to reflect on our location, Salisbury Park, or as it is known today, Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. I have many fond memories of my mother taking me for walks at 'Salisbury Park' and so I scrambled for old photos of settings in the park that I so dearly remember. And on that cold morning, Lori and I restored all those fond memories once more. Through our talking and shooting session, we goofed, chatted, and reminisced about the park, my childhood, and accomplishments.
Suffering a stroke in 2012, I never felt so revitalized since this happened to me. I was so empowered. I was the model! My photos were being taken! The photographs were more than I had hoped for. They showed a calmer, younger, and softer me. They brought me back to the old Salisbury days but also made me realize ... this grandma's still got it!! I learned, everyone is a ham in front of the camera. Everyone enjoys the photographs displayed. That is itself is empowering! Thank you Lori."
Kim. Here is Kim's story,
"I saw Elaine's photos from Lori's photo shoot with her and I loved them! I was so happy for Elaine and I thought I will do this one day.
I posted pictures of my home on facebook after all the Christmas decorations were up. Shortly thereafter I received a call from Lori, she said 'Kim, that's it! your home, you are a homebody and a hostess. Let's do a shoot in your home" I had to say yes!
I had such a battle with my weight. I lost so much of it only to regain it back. After regaining all my weight back I had a gastric bypass. I had 4 years of medical problems after that surgery. I had such trouble getting up from the couch, trouble going out and I was just coming out of this terrible stage of my life. The thought of this photo shoot had me thinking, am I even pretty anymore? Where is the old me? the happy dress up for fun me? I made this a part of my healing and looked for dress up things to wear!
I was so nervous, even thought I was in my own home, so awkward at first, but we started the shoot in front of my fireplace. Lori showed me my first photo, I did see that I was prettier than I had thought I was. Each time Lori took a photo she showed it to me and as we went along I began to relax and started to have fun with it! I felt like I was beautiful! I felt good about myself!
This photo shoot was so liberating and empowering that I see myself differently now. My photos are my screensaver on my computer and I look at them every day, I smile at myself, I like seeing my photos! I am pretty I have come a long way and I am so happy with who I am. I am a homebody I love my friends and I love to be a hostess"
so this is Kim's story, but I want to add this statement that Kim's husband, Jimmy, said to me,
"you know Lori, I have told Kim how beautiful she is during all my years with her. I can tell her over and over again how pretty she is and I do, but until she saw her own image in your photos, she never really believed me. Now she sees how pretty she is and she says I know you told me Jimmy but I had to see it for myself"
then he thanked me! Jimmy thanked me for the empowerment his wife received from this project!
Joan & her daughter, Lenore.
Joan is a registered nurse who I worked with years ago. Here is Joan's story,
"Lenore moved to California 3 years ago to pursue her education and a boyfriend. When the relationship ended Lenore still pursued living in Cali. I miss her terribly. We were always as close as a mother and daughter could be! When it came time for Lenore to tell me she was moving away, I supported her choice but was so sad. Since this move she has come home annually to visit but every time she leaves again it hurts and I am sad.
I really wanted to do this photo shoot with Lenore because I wanted a photographic memories! I wanted our visits to be more memorable and so what better way to keep a memory alive than with photographs? I called Lori to ask her if she would do an Empowering Women shoot with my daughter and myself the next time she comes back to New York. I chose The Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River because of it's beauty and gardens!
I love looking at our photos. I have them in my home and I remember this day so well, it is the day that I made memories with my daughter that we can both look at whenever we want."
Rakhee. this young girl is only 14 years old. I met Rakhee while out pursuing some street photography for my own pleasure. I planned to meet up with a friend, who happens to be Rakhee's Aunt. If you have ever been at Bryant Park on a Thursday you may have seen the tables with a full tea service setup and a wonderful woman collecting people to sit and have a 'Spot of Tea' ... that would be my friend, Liz, who is also Rakhee's Aunt! As we were visiting I felt a kinship with Rakhee and something stirred in me, I offered an impromptu Empowering Women photo shoot ...
Here is Rakhee's story,
"I felt a little uncomfortable when Lori asked if I would like to experience a photo shoot. I had two voices in my head, one saying yes, do it! the other saying no. I wanted the adventure because every time I hear 'photo shoot' it makes me think of famous people and models! So I really wanted to try it!
It felt uncomfortable with my one voice repeating, 'I told you not to do this'. I felt more comfortable toward the end because the other voice in my head just kept repeating 'be yourself'. When I saw my photos I wasn't totally 100% with it yet. I knew I could get better with it but it was that voice that said 'I told you not to' that kept getting in my way.
The reason I said yes is because I wanted to take the opportunity that was offered. I knew if I said no I would regret it later. When I saw those photos I hated my smile, my cleft lip, my unstraightened teeth. I had been adopted. I come from India. I have had much surgery on my lip but I still am bothered by my look. This photo shoot helped me with saying yes to an adventure I never would have had and that is why it is empowering."
Nicole. Nicole is the newest person in my life. We met in December and then met again at her shoot in April.
Here is Nicole's story,
"Lights! Camera! Action! It ain't a Hollywood set nor is it Fashion Week, just an amazing photographer capturing candid shots of a quiet unassuming woman as she continues on her life journey.
I met Lori last Christmas when she came to do a photo shoot of a Christmas party that I host annually for the children of my church and for the Hempstead community at large. I watched as she immersed herself into the party trying to get photos that would tell a story. I didn't see the pictures yet but I was inspired! I knew I wanted Lori to tell one of my stories.
I am not a stranger to the lens as I have done a few professional shoots in the past. All the shoots, however, has been inside of a studio, inside my home, or at some other staged area. I really wanted to be outside, to take pictures that showed me in my natural surroundings.
I tried to find the perfect day, the perfect outfit and even thought I could include a perfect someone! I began searching the internet for the best places on Long Island to take pictures and I scoured my closet for outfits that I wore and received my 'bestest' compliments. I made appointments to have my hair, makeup and nails done. This was gonna be my Cinderella moment!
I got up early and got started on my errands so I could prepare for the shoot, but Murphy's Law ruled the day. One by one I was putting x's on my must have looks for this photo shoot. Feeling frustrated I called Lori, hoping maybe we could reschedule but when she answered the phone with such sheer enthusiasm in her voice, I thought 'bucket' I will just have to do it, just as me!
I was still unsure I could do that so I packed my cosmetics and threw some random outfits in the car.
I didn't know the location. Lori asked me to meet her at an elementary school in Bethpage. I stepped out of the car to say give me a few minutes so I can get made up but before I spoke Lori gleefully blurted, "oh, your outfit is perfect for the place I picked!" I thought, really? I am not feeling so perfect at all!
We started the shoot right away and I quickly got all caught up in the moment and forgetting I wasn't looking my 'best' I took the pictures just being me. I cared less about all the passers-by stopping and staring as Lori set us up inside the tunnel of the Route 135 overpass in Bethpage for an urban look to my shoot. Even though I must admit it was an effervescent feeling to see people craning their necks to see if I was some famous person! It was such an amazing experience.
I waited that night with bated breath to see the final product and when I finally did I was happy with what I saw. I did not just see pictures of a well made up me.
After the shoot I was left with these empowering thoughts. to thine own self be true. to be beautiful simply means to be yourself. that at every given moment in my life I am absolutely perfect for all situations that arise in my life journey.
I was reminded of something that Maya Angelou once said, "seek the fashion that truly fits and befits you. you will never go out of fashion if you are true to yourself and only if you are true to yourself."
Actually, the best part of beauty no picture can express. Beauty is power, only using a smile its' sword. A woman whose smile is open and has an expression that is dear will radiate her beauty, no matter what she wears.
I am happy they screwed up my appointments, for it is not me that would have appeared. I already had the key ingredient, as a smile is the best thing a girl can wear!"
Keywords: Empowering Women Thru the Lens
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