Cindy Johnson is a boudoir photographer based in central Indiana whose passion is to “show women how beautiful they truly are.” Through her work, she sees firsthand how “women are so great about seeing only beauty in others,” but as she says, “unfortunately we have a tendency to see only flaws in ourselves.” This is what inspired her to recruit 19 women, mostly strangers, to participate in a unique shoot designed to combat negative self-talk, while showcasing the power of women supporting each other. It was a photo session that changed her life.
The concept behind Cindy’s Empowered Women Shoot came about organically, on impulse. “I was thinking about how grateful I am for the women in my life who help me see the beauty in myself. I wanted to do a project that celebrated having a supportive group of women helping each other overcome years of negative self-talk,” she shared with WYSK. “I have seen other shoots that dealt with negative self-talk, but I really wanted my shoot to have the idea that we don’t have to combat those negative thoughts alone.”
“The strength and honesty of these women, and watching strangers bond over shared life experiences, was truly life-changing.”
To take her project from idea to reality, Cindy needed women who would be willing to participate and knew where she had the best chance of finding them. “I have a private Facebook group of women I’ve photographed. It has become a place where they can share sorrows or joys and know they will have a sympathetic ear.” So on a Sunday night, she posted in her group, “Come for a shoot at my house Wednesday night. Details are secret. Just bring a solid colored bra-panty set or bikini, and I’ll need a release to share these images.”
Cindy told us she hoped that at least 5 women would be available and brave enough to show up. So when 19 women did she was beyond thrilled, and this is what happened next…
Wearing bikinis or bras and underwear, together the women wrote on their bodies using words that represented the negative thoughts each woman has had about herself or the negative things she’s heard from other people.
Then, as a ceremonial release from that negative-talk, which some have struggled with their entire lives, the women helped each other wash off the words.
Starting with a clean slate, the women were then free to inscribe their bodies with positive words of “truth, hope, and love.”
Cindy’s goal was to show each of the participants the power that comes from women helping one another. She also wanted them to see that they are not alone, “that every one of us has body issues, regardless of whether we look ‘perfect’ on the outside.”
In the end, the shoot, which took everyone through a full range of raw emotion, proved to be “one of the most amazing nights” of Cindy’s life. “The strength and honesty of these women, and watching strangers bond over shared life experiences, was truly life-changing.”
While the feedback from each of the women who participated has been overwhelmingly positive, Cindy says she’s also been pleasantly surprised at how much of an impact the project’s video has made on everyone who has seen it. “I’ve received quite a few messages from women who said it brought tears to their eyes and they didn’t even know any of the women. But this experience reminded me how universal the feeling of inadequacy is, and that we can overcome that feeling together.”