by Wendy Kedzierski
photos by Misty Higgins
“That’s just not me,” Julie Gaver recalls thinking when her husband suggested she have professional “boudoir” photos taken. The 57-year-old corporate trainer and author from Frederick County, Md., envisioned those “cheesy” glamour shots that just didn’t match her professional persona and personal style.
But when Gaver saw the photos that Winchester photographer Misty Higgins took of other women, she was intrigued. Some of these women fit the fashion industry’s profile of print-worthy, but many were clearly older and fuller figured than signature Victoria’s Secret. Yet all looked beautiful.
Higgins’ photography business “Moments by Misty” happened to be offering a special “Glitter” Valentine’s package that lined up with the Gavers’ 35th anniversary year. And so Julie Gaver took the plunge – literally in neckline and figuratively in life.
“I was very nervous,” says Gaver. “I hate getting my photo taken. But she (Misty Higgins) is such a pro. You relax; you laugh. I was so happy with the pictures. The gift was for my husband – and he was thrilled. But in the end, it was wonderful for me.” And what about critics who feel that these photos objectify women? “There is nothing wrong with feeling beautiful,” says Gaver. “When you acknowledge that, the feeling is actually empowering. I felt liberated by the experience.”
“The guys love this,” says Higgins, adding that most men are visual beings. “But you definitely don’t need to have a significant other to do this – it’s absolutely ok to do this for yourself! I have had several single women who did this for the experience to give this gift to themselves. And some of the ladies I have done boudoir sessions with have been teachers, a policewoman, a lawyer, nurses, entrepreneurs, moms, women in their late 50s.”
Higgins finds and highlights beauty in every type of woman. “I take pride in my photography for women and believe wholeheartedly that every woman is and deserves to feel beautiful.” The experience she creates for women includes an initial consult, hair and makeup styling, the photography session, and then the final editing and creation of products such as photos on canvas, books and prints.
Higgins does not do any extreme Photoshop edits, but she will enhance and improve the images with basic adjustments. She won’t take pounds off or make women into something they are not. She simply doesn’t think it’s necessary. “I believe the most beautiful and sexy thing we can wear is our smile and our warmth and our love for life,” she says. “Beauty and sensuality do not come from the lingerie. Though it’s pretty to look at, the real component of my images that sets them apart is the essence of each woman’s own individual beauty and her own brand of sexy that I am able to coax out.” Higgins aims to create a “gentle, open and fun environment.”
Shepherdstown resident Tara Sanders Lowe, owner of Tara Sanders Lowe Event Planning and Promotion, recalls the first time she was photographed by Higgins. “On that day, I hadn’t slept much and I was grumpy and puffy. I felt awkward being photographed at all that day, but didn’t want to miss this great opportunity so decided to grin and bare it. From the start, the thing I noticed most was that Misty Higgins was kind and patient.
As she cocked her head to the side, one side of her mouth curled up into an inquisitive grin. She spoke softly and was infinitely encouraging. She took hundreds of photos that day and made us feel beautiful and comfortable the entire time.” Lowe says she was “delighted” by the final product.
“I have had several boudoir sessions taken over the years and as a working mother of two young children with my own business, I can tell you I am normally tired (puffy eyes) and don’t get to devote very much time to looking ‘pretty’ or pampering myself. Although part of the final product is of course enjoyed by my husband and the reason I originally decided to do a session, the experience has so many positive effects.”
Higgins does not shoot nude subjects, but she does try to shed the taboo of boudoir photography. “I try to create art,” she says. “Women all have an inherently beautiful side within them. I know every woman has it; sometimes it’s just about giving them permission to own it. It’s ok to enjoy that side. Feeling beautiful doesn’t make you vain or a narcissist, and it doesn’t change true happiness.”
She recalls one particular client who felt and dressed a bit “frumpy,” but came to Higgins for a session, clearly stepping out of her comfort zone. Higgins immediately saw this client’s beauty, and remembers the great moment during the session when Higgins “saw it click.” She saw this client open up and accept the beautiful side of herself.
“I have photographed older women, women with less than perfect bodies, larger women, women who don’t consider themselves sexy or sensual and even women who have never had a professional photo done before,” says Higgins. She says she has never had a woman who didn’t absolutely love the experience and the resulting images.
She emphasizes that this is not just a photo session, this is an entire experience. “You don’t just leave with photos, you have yourself captured in pieces of art that celebrate the beauty of being a woman and that you will cherish for a lifetime. Women can be as risqué or as modest as they like, for those not comfortable in lingerie, beautiful slips and dresses are an option for more of a glamour session experience.”
Higgins offers exclusive, individual sessions in her private boudoir studio and has a collection of beautiful lingerie and dresses available for clients to borrow if they choose. She also offers funfilled “marathons” several times a year that feature a day of sessions with hair and makeup professionals where as many as ten women enjoy their own individual boudoir session while “loving the camaraderie and nerve-dissolving bonding time with other girls doing the shoot.” Higgins also offers gift certificates.
“Every woman has something extraordinary,” asserts Higgins, “something fantastically beautiful about her and lots of times a sexiness and sensuality they don’t even know they have.” To learn more about Misty Higgins and her “Moments by Misty Photography” as well as her boudoir packages, visit www.mhmoments.com or www.glitterboudoir.com online.