When I opened the album that she gave to me, my heart sank.
Getting professionalphotos of yourself can be an incredibly intimidating process. With imperfect bodies subject to an exposing flash that magnifies each forehead wrinkle, thigh dimple and tiger-striped stretch mark, its not surprising that many women sink into the comforting mask of the Photoshop “magic wand.”
But this photographers story of one client has become a body-image campaign that is piercing straight through the celluliteof women everywhere. Whats most endearing is that it isnt inspired by imagery, but wordsand the source is not other women, but a man.
One email from a heartbrokenhusband is officially the ode to love handles every girlneeds to hear.
The mans wife went to Victoria Caroline Haltom, a professional boudoir photographer, to get intimate photos taken of herself as a gift to him. She was in her mid-40s with a voluptuous size-18 figure, and she wanted to give her husband the perfect gift. She wanted to feel pretty, if only for a moment in freeze-framed, picturesquetimeso she had a very specific request:
I want you to photoshop all of my cellulite, all of my angry red stretch marks, ALL of my fat, and all of my wrinklesjust make it go away. I want to feel gorgeous just ONCE, she told Haltom.
To her surprise, her husband was not impressed; in fact, he was quite disappointed. He looked at these photos, and decided to reach out to the photographer with an email that has changed the way she looks at her line of work for good.
It wasnt exactly a complaint about her work. He knows Haltom was only doing as instructed, but theres still something he needed her to know:
When I opened the album that she gave to me, my heart sank, he wrote. These pictureswhile they are beautiful and you are clearly a very talented photographerthey are not my wife. You made every one of her flaws disappearand while Im sure this is exactly what she asked you to do, it took away everything that makes up our life. When you took away her stretch marks, you took away the documentation of my children. When you took away her wrinkles, you took away over two decades of our laughter, and our worries. When you took away her cellulite, you took away her love of baking and all the goodies we have eaten over the years.
He wanted to be clear that he wasnt mad at Haltom. It wasn’t her fault. In fact, he was thankful for the powerful reminder her photos gave him about what his wife really needed from him as a husband. Perhaps the one person he forgot to tell all this towas her.
Seeing these images made me realize that I honestly do not tell my wife enough how much I LOVE her and adore her just as she is. She hears it so seldom, that she actually thought these photoshopped images are what I wanted and needed her to look like. I have to do better, and for the rest of my days I am going to celebrate her in all her imperfectness. Thanks for the reminder, he said.
But hes not the only one who needed reminding.
Theres a twisted inverse relationship between waist size and perceived beauty in our culture that needs a serious awakening. Somehow, weve convinced ourselves that the closer we are to a size 0, the closer we are to a 10 on the ever clich hotness scale.
In a society where youth is king (or queen) and waif is the womanly standard, everyone could use a lil’pinch in the love handles about what that little extra cushion really means. We all hear the spiel about loving yourself and loving your body, but its words like those of this brave man that really bring them to life.
Those stretch marks are the proud battle scars marking the birth of your babies.
Those crows feet say you laughed until your eyes brimmed with tears.
And that cellulite may just say that youve blessed your family with the best melt-in-your-mouth blueberry muffins that make them blind to the muffin-top youre so worried about melting off…