Photographer Jen Goldberg found herself having a mother-daughter talk about boudoir photos, when she started fielding questions from her 68-year-old mom about her evolving style of portraits.
“I said ‘I think it’s boudoir, mom, but I’m not sure because the boudoir I knew before was very red and glossy,'” she recalls, while they reviewed her sophisticated black and white photos together.
Her mother responded with a simple but powerful question.
“Can I do this?”
When Jen reassured her it’s for anybody and everybody, the cowboy boot-wearing art teacher she calls “mom” had one condition: no high heels or lingerie.
“I think you’re the most beautiful when you’re wrapped in a towel and you’ve just come out of the shower,” Jen suggested, an ode to the style of Mario Testino — which some of us may remember from his portraits of Cindy Crawford in the 80s.
Together, Jen and her mom created the stunning image that headlines this story.
Conjuring each subject’s personal definition of style, comfort and confidence is how Jen draws mothers of all ages out of their shells to reveal their most radiant selves.
“I want to feel that I am capturing the essence that is you, and you recognize–in the image–the beauty that you create, and we create together,” she says. “We talk about who you are in this moment of your life and why we’re capturing these images at this time.”
“Some people come for reasons that are quite hard for them, or they’re marking the end of a moment, or something has happened and they feel that these pictures will add positivity in their life,” says Jen. “Some people cry.”
She says that more often than not, it’s an emotional release that she describes as exhilarating, “freeing and liberating,” and even surprising, to see themselves “in such a beautiful way.”
Jen often meets clients earlier in the journey of motherhood, starting with maternity shoots and continuing through newborn portraits. By becoming familiar with her and the process after those initial sessions, if and when they decide to return to be photographed by themselves, she notices an immediate level of comfort.
Either way, she believes “it’s never too late and never not the right time to do it,” she says. “You’re different now than you were 10 years ago, you’d have made a different picture.”
In fact, it was the return of one of her maternity clients two years later asking for Jen “to photograph me with that same feeling of empowerment and beauty and delicacy that those pictures represented for me,” that inspired this new direction.
Not all moms immediately grasp the power of being in front of the camera–even during family photo shoots with their kids, when she’ll reassure them, “they want you in the picture.”
From Jen’s point of view, it’s not only family portraits that can create powerful memories for our children — it’s how we see and treat ourselves during these selfless seasons of motherhood.
A new mom 3-4 months postpartum and mothers of kids in their twenties have had identical reactions to seeing themselves photographed by Jen, “I can’t wait to show my daughter how beautiful this picture is.”
“They want to know what you look like, and having these kind of photographs becomes a legacy of things that you pass on to your kids as something that you did for you that was really beautiful,” she says.
When Jen did what many people do with boudoir, and gifted a portrait of herself to her husband–holding a guitar for the music-lover’s 40th birthday–she learned the biggest lesson of all.
“Living with it changed the way I felt as I started my day,” she says, about her striking silhouette hanging in her bathroom.
“This feeling is real,” she observed. “It feels tangible that I have inspired myself in the morning, getting up, in those two minutes while brushing your teeth.”
Jen’s reaction to seeing herself was, and always will be, completely different from her husband’s or her two daughters.
Her image is uniquely hers.
“I always say love it for you first.”
Photos courtesy of Jen Goldberg Photography.