“Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Be true to yourself. How you treat yourself sets the standard for how others will treat you.”
I met Elizabeth George at an event organised by a common friend. She introduced herself to me and once we got talking, she told me she does portrait shoots for women at her studio in Mumbai. The first thought that came to my mind was, in this digital day and age, do people actually go for studio shoots, when our phones these days are competing with each for the best “portrait modes?”
I couldn’t help myself and ask her this. “When you go through your photos, do you find any picture to be the kind that you would want to frame? Are you always the one behind the camera taking nice pictures for others? Then who takes your photos that you would want to look at 30 years from now and feel good?” She made a valid point. I don’t remember ever being the focus of attention and getting good photos clicked of myself, and what was nice always needed someone else’s head to be chopped off! Sigh.
I was curious to know what is so different about her photography style and we chose to stay in Mumbai, so far from her family to pursue this earnestly.
I remember being the kid whose parents were always worried about her appetite and unhealthily thin body; Somehow, it never worried me. Or maybe I was too young to care about that! Cut to the time when I was out of the blue diagnosed with thyroid and that sudden weight gain that followed at the age of 18. Now that is something I wasn’t prepared for, or…no one around me was. I was just thinking about it today and realised that I’ve had an issue with body image since a very early age and it was mostly due to how people perceived me and not because of how I thought of myself. I was either “too thin” or “too fat”, but never enough. As a society, we are very quick to judge and attach labels. It is funny, but till date, no one has ever asked me if I am happy, because the question has always been – “when will you lose weight?” to even comments like, “your weight is an embarrassment!” Not once did they stop to think how it affected my self esteem and the amount of times it made me question if my life was worth it.
With me getting married in six month, I found myself being sucked into that dark hole of body shaming even more, because beauty and body standards for a bride-to-be are ultimate. So now this has opened the doorway for comments and taunts by people who don’t even hold any importance in my life. I am a strong and confident person, but off late, I find myself sobbing in a corner, looking for ways for instant weight loss and just avoiding meeting people. I have joined a renowned fitness centre and killing myself there with their strenuous workouts, so while my body might be changing to fit the societal standards, my mind remains scarred. Certain words said by those who you care about; they just never leave you. And probably never will.
I decided to meet up Elizabeth one day over coffee and asked her, if she would do a shoot for me. You see, while talking to S (my partner, for future references) about Elizabeth, he mentioned that I should approach her for a shoot and it might just help me feel better about myself. Honestly, I’m so happy to have someone like S in my life, who is the source behind most of my crazy ideas and who’s only funda in life is that – “if you think you it will make you happy, then let nothing and no one stop you.”
A date was fixed for the shoot and when I reached her studio, she patiently understood my vision, my issues with body image and made me so comfortable in my own skin and promised to bring out the best in me. “I know how to bring it forth and capture it with my camera. I want you to see her-the woman you will see in your portraits, reconnect with her and be inspired by her again! I want you to have the most beautiful portraits you have seen of yourself and of the relationships you cherish” her bio in her website states, and I was completely banking on that.
Her studio is a part of her apartment in Juhu and is beautiful space lit with natural light. Once you walk in, you know you are in a safe space. As I settled, she helped me decide my outfits and what to pair them with and the kind of make-up that would go best with the look. Her style of photography is influenced by her careers in fashion design & styling, and advertising & design in Brazil and India. Her stints of living and working in different countries across the world has also had a profound effect on her sensibilities and aesthetics, and it shows when you begin interacting with her.
When she began directing and photographing me, she made me extremely comfortable with myself and my body, I don’t remember at which point I completely stopped asking her, “I am not looking too fat na?” There was now a bond of trust and faith in her abilities, that she would bring out the best in me. “Chin forward“, “Hip back“, “top of the head towards me” were her constant instructions as she directed me and in my head I looked nothing less than a turtle and waited for her to say that, “PERFECT. HOLD IT!”
I asked her if I could see the images and she asked me to wait for a few days, as she wants them to be a surprise for me. Control freak that I am, this wasn’t going to be an easy wait, but in Elizabeth I trusted.
I went to her place a few days back for the viewing session of our shoot, and I couldn’t believe what I saw, honestly. I had never seen myself the way she brought it out in her portraits. My love for reading, for food and myself was captured in the most beautifully intimate manner and made me fall in love with what I saw. She delivered on what she had promised. Thank you, E! You made this possible and are a true rockstar. But, what I want to focus on is how this was so different from most shoots, because by the end of it, I realised I overcame many inhibitions and learnt to love myself all over again. Working with her was not just about a shoot, but a therapy session in itself.
Others can’t always define your true identity. They see what they ‘want’ to see but beyond your mess, only you see the beauty you are and still thinks it’s good!
You can know more about Elizabeth here.