Anna Smart, Author at Smart Photography

All Posts by Anna Smart

My Body Acceptance Portrait Session, by Anna Smart

I spout on about body confidence all of the time, and my job is pretty much dedicated to helping women appreciate their own bodies.
But, could I really ‘walk the walk’ when it came to it? I had a body acceptance portrait session, to find out.

I decided to have a portrait session with a difference, and have some images taken that weren’t perfectly posed to present me at my best – but that were challenging me to accept me, and my body, just as I am.

I have to say, Robin wasn’t keen. I’ve talked before about being Robin’s worst client ever, but, more than that, he didn’t want to create images of me that I wouldn’t absolutely love.
 
Robin and I have been together for a long time – he’s been with me through the shopping trips where I asked ‘Does this make me look fat?’ (over and over). And he’s seen me look at photos of myself in horror, and throw away whatever I was wearing in them, that I deemed to be too awful to ever be seen in public in again.

I’ve moved on a lot…but he’s not inside my head, and doesn’t know the level of comfort I have achieved in how I look.
He also wondered what I was trying to achieve – did I want to actively look my worst? No thanks!
I just didn’t want to hide or minimise myself. I didn’t want to shy away from my body’s shape.

Needless to say, we both approached my portrait session with some trepidation. I don’t traditionally love having my photograph taken, any more than the next client. And Robin was still unsure. I, at least, had the benefit of the calming time, whilst the fabulous Holly Andersen skilfully did my hair and make up.

As I don’t personally own any make up, I didn’t want to go overboard with a specific ‘look’ – I just left it to Holly to interpret my, rather vague, ‘natural, but, you know, not how I actually look right now’ instructions. She did so beautifully.

And then, my portrait session itself. This was a mix of our traditional posing, accompanied by me saying things like “how about how I usually sit, when I’m reading in bed?” and “can you photograph that from another angle, to show my belly”. I expected it to push me out of my comfort zone far more than it did. Maybe my constant affirming that all bodies are good bodies had sunk in?
Robin took a range of images, from ‘unposed me’ to tweaking what I was doing, to create a more flattering image.

But…would I like them? Or would I prefer only the posed images?

body acceptance image 1

And here’s the thing. I love my body, for everything it enables me to do, but I am perfectly aware that it’s not meeting society’s standards of beauty. How would I feel?

As it turns out, I feel incredibly proud. I love all of my images. I love that some of them show my body, my stomach, just as it is.

I wouldn’t recommend a body acceptance portrait session to everyone. If you are low in confidence to start with, I’d say start with a body-confidence session, and take it from there.
But, for me, I found it very freeing to know that I have liberated how I feel about myself, and my body, from trying to achieve some ridiculous ‘standard’, to being comfortable with who, and how I am.

Me, just standing, waiting for Robin to pose and style the image.

body acceptance image 2

The final image. Have to admit, I am stretching so tall, I thought I'd pull the curtains down!

body acceptance image 3
body acceptance image 5

By far the most challenging image for me, turned out to be this portrait, in profile, because I have never liked my nose. However, my longstanding childhood hang-up turns out to have been left behind. 

body acceptance image 6

What a difference a pose makes!

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body acceptance image 8

Ready to take the first step, with a body-confidence portrait session? Or maybe you're ready to celebrate, and accept, your body for exactly what it is, with a body acceptance session, like mine?

We're looking for women to take part in our WomenVisible Project - culminating in producing a magazine, at the end of 2022, for, and featuring, all of the women who take part.
Click here for more info.

Much love,
Anna
xx

A round-up of some cheesy Christmas films

Because...I had Christmas early.

Why?
My Christmas self-care looks like this - I can't, for Christmas , disappear off on holiday and do what I want. So, instead, I have another, pre-Christmas Christmas.
Think log cabin, hot tub, forest and LOTS of Christmas films.

Over the course of the week, we watched what I consider to be an impressive 12 Christmas films. Now, for the most part, I am not talking your big budget, Hollywood releases. I'm talking terrible, cheesy Hallmark-style, you know the plot because they're all the same films. I have to say, Netflix is putting in an impressive effort to out-Hallmark Hallmark by now too. 

Christmas socks

Animation

There's only one animated film on the list, and it's a short, Netflix one, called 'Robin, Robin'.
It's cute, musical and, best of all, stop motion (does that count as animation? I'm not a real film critic).
If Aardman-created stop motion felted animals might be your thing, I recommend it for a quick leap into the Christmas spirit.

Surprisingly catchy songs, plus, it has the voice of Gillian Anderson - win!

The Worst of the Bunch

Oh dear.
Netflix may have decided that they can Christmas film with the best of the cheesy film companies, but they really should not have offered out 'A Castle for Christmas'.
They particularly shouldn't have put Cary Elwes in it, because what self-respecting woman of a certain age isn't going to be lured in by Westley?

On the face of it, this film ticks many boxes:

  • Woman needs to escape somewhere remote
  • Castle
  • Did I mention Cary Elwes?
  • Clash of personalities between the main protagonists

But, it is all just so...clunky. It really does feel like a film written by AI, rather than a person. Seriously, just watch The Princess Bride again and forget this movie exists.

The Ones That Are Exactly What You Wanted

If you're a lover of cheesy Christmas films, these will all have that ring of familiarity you're craving.
Across these films there's a mix of finally achieving potential, love, breaking into song for no real reason, a LOT of carol singing, over the top Christmas decorations, more cookie eating than could ever be reasonable, and a ton of other familiar tropes from the slightly naff films that get shown all year round, just with Christmas trees.

Please don't think I am saying any of these are actually good films.I'm pretty sure none of them are getting any Oscars their way.

I'm going to give an honourable mention to the Netflix offering 'Love Hard', just for referencing 'Die Hard' (and also 'Love, Actually' a bit). It's about cat-fishing. So, what could be more festive than that? I probably enjoyed this one the most, out of this group.

Also from Netflix is 'The Holiday Calendar', which adds a mystical element to, well, the same story.

Then, the following all have the familiar, feel-good format:

A Wish For Christmas (Hallmark)
Santa Girl (most exciting thing here is Brad from Rocky Horror as Santa!)
A Cinderella Story - Christmas Wish  (apparently, there's a whole series of these - who knew? Anyway, this one's best for a bit of 'randomly breaking into song without actually being a musical').
A Christmas Prince (Netflix - plus, they helpfully made 2 more!).

Christmas Action Films

Obviously, the crown here goes to 'Die Hard' - we watch this every year. It simply is the best Christmas film, no exceptions.

This year, we also watched 'Fatman'. Probably not one to sit down and watch with the kids, as an assassin is after Santa. There is blood, violence and also, elves. A strange mix and, to be honest, if you're looking for a Christmas action or horror film, I'd find 'A Christmas Horror Story' instead, which at least has William Shatner to amuse you. (Actually, genuinely a pretty good film).

Best Christmas Zombie Musical

Whilst I admit this is a small category, I can't believe I'd never heard of this one before - I give you 'Anna and the Apocalypse'.
'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' meets, well, 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' if you happen to love the 'Once More with Feeling' episode.
There's singing, dancing, a terrible headmaster, and lots of fighting off zombies. It's all a bit 'Ice Cream Trilogy' with songs. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas,
Anna
xx

(ps - I said we watched 12, I listed 11. One of them was 'Last Christmas'. I can't remember a single second of it - too much champagne, I'm afraid, so someone will just have to let me know if it's any good xx).

Embrace Your Body Project – Anonymous

Anyone who comes to us for a session is asked if they are happy for us to share their images. This client has chosen to share anonymous images only, but would like to share her 'Embrace Your Body' experience with you.

What prompted you to want to take part in our ‘Embrace Your Body’ project?

"I'm reaching the 50 year-milestone this year and have spent most of life being critical of and unhappy with my body. Even though I understand this is mostly due to societal expectations and how I was raised, it's hard to shake off the deep conditioning of feeling ugly and inadequate.

Although I did dance and performed when I was younger and have always been physically active, developing various chronic health issues over the past 15+ years has further knocked my self-confidence. Unfortunately, people often judge mental and physical health based on what they see. For example, no one sees me when I'm feeling my worst (at home) so people usually only see the "well (enough)" me; as people also tend to have specific ideas about what sick people should look like, having "invisible" illnesses means I'm often disbelieved or dismissed - which makes things worse.

As a survivor of complex trauma, I learned to hide my inner self by trying to fit into people's expectations of me.

As a minority woman in this country, I'm also frequently treated as a stereotype where I'm either exoticised or ignored - making me feel even more unattractive as myself.

Growing older and becoming increasingly ill, it felt like my own body was betraying me. But over the past few years, I've been discovering how much my body has actually helped me survive. I've learned how powerful and resilient my body has been, and how it's continuing to teach me about my long-neglected needs and desires, about my authentic self. It's been a tough, painful road - which is far from over - but I decided to apply to the "Embrace Your Body" project as a way to honour and connect with my body, in whatever form or state it's in today."

How did you feel about the session itself on the day?

"I was both anxious and excited. I enjoy fashion so knew I had some nice jackets and jewellery to try, but no one has seen me in underwear for longer than I can remember!

I had strong ideas about the look I wanted but was also nervous I would look ridiculous or too chunky to pull it off.

Unfortunately, experiencing lots of new health symptoms recently didn't help my frustration and insecurity that I wasn't physically at my best that day. But Robin and Kristina were professional and supportive and made me feel it was ok to try new/different outfits and poses - including the (arty) nude shots!

The photo shoot itself was quite fast-paced so felt a bit like a whirlwind - but a fun and affirming one."

How did you feel about coming back to see your photos? 

"Doing something out of my comfort zone like this, I felt mentally and emotionally drained afterwards - not to mention the aches and pains from all that stretching and arching!

It was less than a week after the photo session so I was still processing the experience and all my self-doubts.

Robin had shown me some images during the session so I was hopeful there was at least one photo I would like, but I was nevertheless apprehensive, with all the "should"s swirling around in my head (I should've worn something else, I should've toned up better, I should've waited until I'd lost more weight, etc. etc. etc.)"

How are you feeling about yourself now that you've seen your photos?

"It's still sinking in that these rather fabulous photos are of me and that I was actually brave enough to do the nudes. In fact, I've ended up liking more of the ones of me in the buff!

I've got a couple of the photos propped up in my bedroom so I can keep glancing at them - and hopefully the critical voice will quieten over time so I can be proud of and enjoy my achievement more fully!"

Is there anything else you could say to someone who's feeling apprehensive coming along for their own session?

"Our bodies are so incredible and we often only pay attention to them when something hurts or doesn't seem to work "properly" or look "right". But actually our bodies do so much automatically to protect us, to signal when we need to take better care of ourselves, to help us understand how valuable and precious and deserving we are of care and compassion.

Whatever your relationship is with your body, I'd encourage you to consider signing up for a session. Anna, Robin, and Kristina are such a great team and will do everything to help you feel comfortable and ready to take on the challenge!

It might feel strange or surreal, but it will be fun and respectful, celebratory and affirming - and unforgettable, for all the right reasons!"


The Embrace Your Body Project is all about empowering women to love themselves and their bodies, as they are, right now.

It's about embracing our bodies, whatever flaws we may think we have, and accepting ourselves.

It's about showing that nobody is perfect, but that we are all beautiful in our imperfections.

And it's about sharing that experience with other women, to help them on their journey to body confidence.

Embrace Your Body Project – Anonymous

Anyone who comes to us for a session is asked if they are happy for us to share their images. This client has chosen to keep her images private, but would like to share her experience with you.

When she first got in contact with us, she had been working on her confidence, self esteem and self belief, and saw the 'Embrace Your Body' project as the perfect opportunity to embrace how far she had come. 

What prompted you to want to take part in our ‘Embrace Your Body’ project?

"I was prompted to take part from your advert on Facebook. Having gone through a recent programme of CBT, and working very much on getting to know myself, managing my feelings, and building my own confidence and self-esteem, one of those aspects was my feelings towards my body.

I look back over the years at the time spent worrying and being self-conscious about certain parts of my body, right from about the age of 8 or 9 years old. And now I hear my 10 year old daughter doing the same. As the years have passed and my body has changed, aged, and got more imperfections, I look back and wished I hadn't worried, it was certainly better then that it is now!

I hate that my daughter finds fault in her perfectly healthy body. Which got me thinking, rather than focusing on what I would love to change about my body, why not celebrate and appreciate what I do have. After all, as the years continue I will look back at this time, as I have my younger self, and wished I hadn't worried. So .... this year I have been embracing my body, feeling more comfortable with it, wearing shorts for the first time in about 25 years, and feeling grateful for my health and strength.

When I saw your advert it just hit me, I should do this, celebrate my body for how it is now, and be able to look back and appreciate it for what it is. I actually felt quite excited about it all when you called me (your enthusiasm helped) I knew this was something that has interested me in the past, as friends of mine have done it, but I didn't think I would have the confidence to actually do it myself. I have also learnt recently, that pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone usually has positive mental effects."

How did you feel about the session itself on the day?

"On the day, I felt mainly excited. I definitely had a wobble, whilst having my hair done! I become a bit nervous and thought I would feel very uncomfortable being in my underwear. However, Robin and Holly very much put me at ease, and made me feel quite relaxed very quickly.

A big part of this was Robin telling me how to pose and keeping the whole experience relaxed - I was quite comfortable just following his instructions, and Robin kept it light hearted and fun. I was surprised how much I was enjoying it, but even more so, how I wasn't at all self-conscious about my body — it was just a body, my body, and it is what it is."

How did you feel about coming back to see your photos? 

"I was actually much more nervous about coming back to view the photos. Having come away from the shoot feeling very empowered, during the time in between I had convinced myself I wouldn't like the pictures, my make-up will look too heavy, I won't like my body and it will emphasise all those areas I don't like etc etc.

I was worried I would end up with an even bigger hang up about my body - I am a catastrophic thinker after all!!"

How are you feeling about yourself now that you've seen your photos?

"I can honestly say when I walked into the studio and saw all my pictures up, it took my breath away and brought a tear to my eye. For starters, I had to look harder to believe it was actually me! Then I was stunned at how beautiful they were, not me being beautiful, but the photos were so beautifully done, real art! I loved them all.

The photos were exactly what I hoped for, to see my body in a positive way, appreciate it for what it is and celebrate its beauty. I have actually always thought the female body (all shapes and sizes) is very beautiful, and Robin has a magnificent talent of capturing it.

I have come away feeling embowered, confident, proud, and extremely grateful towards my body but also to Anna, Robin and Holly for helping me appreciate it."

Is there anything else you could say to someone who's feeling apprehensive coming along for their own session?

"I can't put into words how highly I would recommend this experience. I hear so many people (as I did) say 'I couldn't do it' but I know you can and you won't regret it!"


The Embrace Your Body Project is all about empowering women to love themselves and their bodies, as they are, right now.

It's about embracing our bodies, whatever flaws we may think we have, and accepting ourselves.

It's about showing that nobody is perfect, but that we are all beautiful in our imperfections.

And it's about sharing that experience with other women, to help them on their journey to body confidence.

Embrace Your Body Project – Barbara M

Barbara took part in our 'Embrace Your Body' after telling us she needs to believe in herself.

Here, she talks about her experience, and how she's feeling about herself now.

Click to play

The Embrace Your Body Project is all about empowering women to love themselves and their bodies, as they are, right now.

It's about embracing our bodies, whatever flaws we may think we have, and accepting ourselves.

It's about showing that nobody is perfect, but that we are all beautiful in our imperfections.

And it's about sharing that experience with other women, to help them on their journey to body confidence.

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