Written by Tamara Brown
I’ve struggled to write this, not because I haven’t known what to write, but because I have. What I want to say about my experience with Shannon is something that isn’t exactly easy because I know how it will leave me feeling – open, vulnerable, raw… terrified. Terrified because once I tell you what happened between my two sessions there is no going back for me, and that can be a very scary thing. I can’t undo what I’m about to say, but I finally feel ready to share it. I was so excited for my first session back in February. It didn’t take long for Shannon and a few others to convince me to book a session, even though I could hardly afford to book one. I was (am) on this self-love journey and it seemed like a no brainer for a session to be the next step; cataloguing and documenting different phases in any journey plays a huge part so that you are able to look back and see just how far you’ve come. Once I’d booked my session came the “fun” part of shopping – I say fun because while it was fun, I fretted far too much over it, and I cannot stress this enough, YOU DO NOT NEED TO FRET – getting a manicure and pedicure, having my eyebrows done, and in general just making sure I was ready to look smokin’ hot for my session. But the very best part of getting ready for it? Practicing my “sexy” faces. I caught myself so many times thinking about them, trying faces out (not usually in front of the mirror…) that I was certain I looked super sexy doing; a smouldering expression, a sex-kitten face, a desirable pout. I had them all down. I was ready, I was excited, I was prepared, and the day was here. I didn’t walk in feeling like a nervous wreck, I walked in knowing I was going to kill the shoot and be my sexiest self yet! I was riding this wave of huge confidence that came with realizing I loved myself and realizing that I could love myself as a big girl, and that I didn’t need to change a single part of me in order to do it. I was on fire and nothing could stop me! That confidence just grew when Michelle and Shannon revealed to me what I looked like for my session; I didn’t recognize the woman in the mirror. I’d never seen myself with my makeup done so perfectly and with my hair curled like a movie star. I remember having this feeling like magic was happening around me, and to me; I felt like Cinderella and Shannon and Michelle were my Fairy Godmothers. Then I turned it on. I flipped the switch and turned myself to on. No longer was I just this carefree soul that felt the magic all around me; I transformed myself into (what I thought was) a sexy vixen, ready for the camera, ready to be captured with my best face on, ready to show the world how damn provocative and seductive I could be. I turned my true self off and turned on the image that I wanted the world to see. I put on the face that I thought everyone would want to see, telling myself that it would be what I wanted to see (I’d practiced all those faces, after all!), throwing away everything that I felt. All I can say is thank god for Shannon. I don’t know if anyone realizes how sensitive she is, but Shannon picks up on so much whether you want her to or not. She saw right through the face that I was putting on, though she didn’t come right out and say it (at the time), and she was able to guide me, pulling the true me out. Looking back, I can only think of how patient she was with me, because I’m not sure that I made it easy on her with all my “sexy” looks. Being the professional that she is, she didn’t say anything about it and just kept reminding me to relax, soften my eyes, not to raise my eyebrow… the list goes on. I’m thankful that she did these things, even though in my head (at the time) I was like, “What the actual fuck?! That’s my flirty, come-hither look! She’s telling me not to use my well practiced looks!” I left that day feeling… uncertain. I was still excited, and I’d had a fabulous time, but I knew something was off. I knew I hadn’t killed it the way I was so sure I would. Going into the session, I thought it would be a breeze and that I’d nail it, but I came away thinking I hadn’t done so great, and I definitely wasn’t going to be America’s Next Top Model. It wasn’t that I felt unsexy suddenly, and I knew that I still looked smokin’ hot with that hair and with the makeup, but I definitely didn’t feel confident in my images living up to what I’d made them up to be in my head prior to my session – which had ZERO to do with Shannon and everything to do with me, just so we’re clear. Fast forward a few months and a few conversations with Shannon later, and I was getting ready for my second session. I hadn’t been ready for my reveal, which now I think was fate, so I hadn’t seen my images from February, but Shannon needed a hand with something she wanted to try, and I was definitely game. This time was going to be so different. I’d thought about getting my hair done and my makeup done, but there were a few circumstances that prevented me from doing any of that. In fact, I didn’t even get a manicure or pedicure – I did all that myself in the days prior to the creative shoot. On the day of, I did my own makeup which consisted of mascara and lipstick, blew my hair dry, and looked like I would any day of the week. I looked like myself, I felt like myself, and I hadn’t taken any time during the days leading up to the shoot to practice any faces, sexy or otherwise. Only a couple of weeks before this I was confronted with the fact that I wear a mask to the outside world. That if I had to be happy, I could turn the happy factor on and make it believable; if I had to be charming, I could ooze charisma; if I needed to be upset or sad, I could be somber with the best of them. It was brought to my attention in a way that had never been said to me before, in a way that I couldn’t deny, in a way that I had no choice but to accept it, and I had been dealing with this revelation. I wasn’t just good at wearing the mask – I had mastered it. I didn’t want to hide behind it anymore, though. I didn’t want to have to “turn-on” for anything or anyone anymore. I just wanted to be me, fully, truly, completely. Stepping into the creative shoot with Shannon, I allowed myself to shine. I smiled. I laughed. I danced. I had fun in a way that I hadn’t allowed myself to have fun in the first session. That first session I felt like a star that was bright and lit up but stationary and just there; in my second session I felt like a comet streaking through the night, blazing a trail of glory through the darkness and lighting up everything that I touched. It was glorious. I let loose and lived freely, not worrying about a thing – except if Shannon asked (ahem, demanded, ahem) certain things of me. I felt so good, and afterwards, I felt so different than I had the first time; I felt like I’d nailed this session and I knew this was the feeling I’d been missing the first time around. Funnily enough, that same day we did the Embrace shoot in the meadow, and I was left with the same feeling from my first shoot. I hadn’t done what I wanted to do, and I hadn’t been free like I had been that afternoon. I had turned it on again – and damn it, it pissed me off. Shannon, insightful as she is, knew that I was off, and it was then that she revealed that she knew exactly what was going on. She could see the way I turned it on and I turned it off, the mask I wore, the mask I took off, and a few weeks later when she revealed both of my sessions, she explained how she’d had a tough time editing my first session because she knew that it wasn’t the true me in the photos. One thing that I have always said about Shannon and her photography is how she is able to capture the essence of someone and showcase their personality. I believe that’s the empath in her and how she truly learns about her clients and cares about them. There were moments in our first session together that she was able to bring out the true Tamara. I can see it in certain images, and those are the images I love, but I see so much more of myself in our second session. My favorite images are the ones where I’m smiling, laughing, and sometimes even making a face at the camera, because that is who I am. Now I know that that is when I am at my sexiest. Being real, being authentic, being genuine… that is my sexy. I don’t need to make a duck face or try to put some sensual look on my face to be sexy, because that isn’t who I am. My advice to all you ladies out there who are taking the plunge or thinking of taking the plunge into a boudoir session – actually this is my advice to all of you – just be you. Don’t try to be something that you aren’t because it won’t feel nearly as good as just being yourself will. Accept you and be you, and I promise you that other people, the right people, will too. I can also promise that if you give Shannon a chance, she’ll do her damnedest to capture the truth of who you are, whether you think you’re showing it to her or not.