The More You Believe in Yourself—Your Badass, Incredible, Awesome Self—That is When the Magic Starts
Words and Photos by Shannon Gage
Flashback to the summer of 2022: if you ask me what I was doing the moment when my phone stole my attention, I honestly couldn’t tell you, but what was born from that initial *ping! * is pure MAGIC. Now, to tell this story properly, I must share someone else’s story first.
Kathryn had been engaged to her partner of five years and had recently ended that engagement before reaching out to me, but the wedding dress in her closet was a constant reminder.
“When my engagement ended, I felt so defeated,” Kathryn told me. “Defeated because a chapter I always was looking forward to in my story was not going to be fulfilled…I felt like I was starting all over and my life was no longer on track.”
An amicable breakup thankfully left the two on good terms, but despite this, it was still difficult for Kathryn to accept such a massive redirection of her life.
“I was feeling low, and I needed to pull myself up. So many things were changing, and I was not ready for them, they were not planned…I decided to do this photoshoot once the dust had settled, and I was ready to end that chapter in my life.”
Flash-forward to November: We arrived at the summit of Bristol Mountain: a popular ski resort nestled in the quiet Finger Lakes town of South Bristol. Peak fall had quickly come and gone, but the views at the summit still could not be beat. After some long overdue hugs, and a quick outfit change, we made our way to our first location on the mountain: a clearing just at the start of a black diamond ski trail.
I guided Kathryn into some soft poses first before we moved into some movement-based prompting, where Kathryn absolutely slayed, giving me a sexy “smize” so fierce that would make even Tyra Banks weak in the knees. With each walk she did, she became more and more confident, truly beginning to feel as beautiful as I saw her.
As our session continued, with each new prompt or pose, Kathryn’s confidence shone brighter. She walked taller, responded more willingly, and embraced each new idea I threw at her wholeheartedly; I loved being able to witness this evolution!
“I didn’t think [the photoshoot] was something…I’d have the confidence to do myself,” Kathryn said, reflecting on how she felt before her session.
When asked how she felt after the experience, she said, “I remember…how motivating Shannon was behind the camera, hearing her gasp, telling me how good I looked with a smile in her voice, and cheering me on the whole way. I was floored by the photos; I couldn’t believe that was me!”
There was something, however, that kept looming over her as we continued our way around the summit: the dress. This dress was symbolic; it represented a chapter in her life that now needed to be re-written, and that was okay!
“I felt beautiful, and I haven’t felt that way in a long time. So, I needed to give [the dress] a new purpose. I needed to do something to encourage myself to move on with my story…”
And that is exactly what we did. Kathryn deserved itt; she deserved a moment where she was in control, and she was the badass boss that she knows she truly is deep down.
“I looked regal. I looked strong. I looked brave and powerful. I had a fear that if I looked at these photos, I would think to myself ‘that’s how I would have looked on my wedding day.’ Instead, I look at these photos and see a young woman who has grown into her own.”Everyone deserves to feel empowered, to feel confident in themselves, to love themselves as they are because, dang it, you deserve it and you’re beautiful! Self-deprecation sucks. Low self-esteem sucks. The feeling that you do not deserve to experience, feel, or have something due to a lack of self-confidence sucks. We’ve all been there, but we do not have to live there. I loved being able to help Kathryn feel confident in herself again and love the skin she is in. I loved being able to help her reclaim her power as she begins to rewrite her story.