Lizette Barbour and Carol Swaitkewich, owners and operators of Coco Boudoir Photography, found that their separate child and family photography studios had a lot of women coming through as mothers, sisters and daughters.
A little more than a year ago they decided to capture the beauty they saw in these women in a more explicit way.
“We’re inspired by the moms we photograph to do women-only photography,” says Swaitkewich, who also owns Freckle Face Photography.
“We’re for the everywoman,” says Barbour, who also owns Peekaboo Studio Photography. “It doesn’t matter if you’re plus-size or what nationality you are. We’ve had all kinds of sizes, shapes and colours. We’re really trying to promote that you don’t have to be a model, you don’t have to be a size zero.”
The photos they take now range from playful to sizzling, but they always insist on keeping it classy. The vintage feel recalls an era when this kind of material would have been much more risqué.
“We are very inspired by anything that’s vintage and feminine and pretty and ruffly, I guess,” Barbour says.
Barbour and Swaitkewich say that most women who come through want to give the photos as a gift to a family member or a partner. Wedding gifts from a bride to the groom are popular.
But sometimes it’s also a matter of self-affirmation.
“It’s a gift to her, just to say ‘I did this and it was fun and I look beautiful and I’m perfect just the way I am right now.’”
As for the session itself, Barbour and Swaitkewich always meet with a client over coffee before the big day to answer any questions, calm any fears and build a rapport.
“Meeting them beforehand really helps get them a little bit less nervous,” Swaitkewich says. “They don’t walk into our studio and have to put on a lingerie outfit, lie down on the bed and say, ‘Okay, let’s go.’”
Clients can choose to have the photo shoot at the Coco Boudoir downtown studio on Donald or at their residence or a hotel.
Barbour and Swaitkewich say that their clients rarely have any experience in front of the lens, but that’s no problem.
“I think a lot of women are intimidated about how they’re going to photograph because they’ve obviously never done this before,” Barbour says.
“We pose all the women - we guide them, we tell them where they should be looking, if their chin should be up more. We do all that and it takes the edge off so they know that they don’t necessarily have to perform from not really knowing what to do.”
“We’ve never had a client that hasn’t had fun, they’re usually so ecstatic,” Swaitkewich says.
And the good vibes don’t end there. Ten per cent of all Coco Boudoir session fees go to Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
“We all know someone. We all have been touched by breast cancer,” Swaitkewich says. “We feel it’s a very fitting charity given the work that we do and who we work with.”
Photo sessions range from $125 - $600 depending on what type of experience you’re after. Visit www.cocoboudoir.com.
Published in Volume 66, Number 7 of The Uniter (October 12, 2011)