I first became aware of photographer Ulyana Protassow through her True Beauty project last year. Some of my beloved fellow bloggers took part in the project and I could see how amazing their transformations were and how the photos released the individuality of their spirits. What had been beautiful anyway became sublime. I wanted photos that looked like that.
As someone looking in from the outside, I’ve never been a lover of glamour shoots. To me they’ve always felt too contrived, too posed, too not me. But Ulyana’s photos are remarkable. My friend Louisa (who was involved in the True Beauty project) had warned me that the whole process of the shoot felt a little weird and staged so I was prepared for that.
What I wasn’t prepared for was a 3 hour pilates session.
Ulyana knows what she is doing and I knew the photos would be amazing (we’ll find out in a few weeks as Ulyana only shoots on film, so old-school but oh so brilliant), but the poses felt so strange and unnatural – like being contorted into animatronic Catwoman poses. Man, I got rolls in the way. I exercised muscles in my neck and stomach that I didn’t even think I had (and would prefer not to know about, quite frankly).
Ulyana and her wonderful makeup and hair stylist Jodie, were a perfect duo. They made me feel at ease. Special. The whole afternoon felt like having a laugh with old friends. I have always considered myself attractive, even though I have a black-belt in self-deprecation. Sure there are bits of my body I wished would be chewed up and spat out (fat gut, I’m looking at you), but when I look at myself in the mirror I like most of what I see. Ulyana and Jodie have the knack of tapping into that and making you feel even more beautiful. I think it takes a really special person to work out what it is that makes you come alive and capture that in a photo.
Something I did struggle with though, was the “relax your face and smile through your eyes” thing. I get what it’s meant to look like, but I’m a whole-face smiler. I find lots of sh*t funny, amusing, so I smile readily, but I smile with my lips, my eyes, my eyebrows (particularly my eyebrows). To isolate only your eyes is bloody difficult, particularly when you also have your bum sticking out to the side, elbows back, shoulder forward, chin forward and down and hovering above the ground in a kneeling position using only core stomach muscles that disappeared with the birth of your second child.
I wouldn’t be a professional model for sh*t.
So I laughed and giggled my way through the session. I couldn’t help it. I’m not a serious person. I am a buffoon. If I didn’t hate clowns so much, I’d probably be in the circus. It probably didn’t help that I’d been on steroids for a few days and was bouncing off the walls. Literally at one point. My bum was simply not meant to hover against a studio wall.
I trust Ulyana and her amazing talent implicitly and I can’t wait to see the photos in a couple of weeks (WATCH THIS SPACE!). I just hope she and Jodie have recovered from my irrepressibility.
This photo shoot was sponsored by my wonderful husband, who gave me a glam photo session with Ulyana for Christmas last year.