Jenn Gregory took a lot of photos as a kid. The shots were mostly of her friends, random objects, and landscapes. When she asked several friends to model for her she learned that she loved taking portraits.
“I liked how the pictures turned out,” Gregory says. “I liked the contrast of the photos and how they made people feel when they looked at them.”
Seven years ago, she started Jenn Gregory Photography, focusing primarily on portrait work. Then one client asked her to do a boudoir shoot. The photos would be a gift for her husband.
“I loved the whole concept and how the client reacted, the emotions she showed when we were shooting and gave her the final product,” Gregory says. “She was so happy and so excited to see herself all done up in hair and makeup.”
She then opened a second business, called Halifax Boudoir Photography Studio. Gregory, who has a full-time job in the IT industry, calls her business her “side hustle.” She shoots during evenings and weekends in her private residential studio, which is decorated as a boudoir.
Are people nervous when they come in for a shoot?
All the time. It’s the first thing they say when they come in for a shoot.
How do you deal with that?
We ask them questions. We do everything here. Hair and makeup are done here. And we’re pretty friendly. We laugh and we have fun.
Who are they getting these photos for?
A lot of time it’s for themselves. Other times, it’s for their partners. But most of the time it’s for themselves: to build their confidence, to celebrate weight loss, or a new job.
Do you see a reaction to the photos when they see the final product?
Yes. Even before we actually give them the album, we show them as we go. We show them a few photos on the back of the camera and say, “Look how beautiful you look.” And they say, “Oh my God, I look amazing.” So, they sort of know what they are getting into before we show them the images. They can’t believe it’s them.
What would you say to someone who looked at these photos and said, “You’re objectifying women”—do people say that?
Never. I guess you have to look at it differently. We are promoting empowerment and confidence. We are not showing women in a sexual position. We are not objectifying. It’s a different way of showing women. It’s not Hustler. It’s not Playboy. Although we do shoot nudes, we shoot them in an elegant and classy way.
What has this kind of photography taught you about self-image?
Embrace our curves. Embrace our size and beauty. Embrace us. We don’t do a lot of retouching. We show women as they are. We do hair and makeup and we add lashes. But what we do is sort of smooth out the lines. We want people to look at themselves and say, “That is me, and I look amazing.”
Do you think this is an antidote to how women are portrayed in other media?
I think so. I think this shows not just models. Yes, we show models, but we also show these other girls, other women who aren’t necessarily models. But we are the first ones to show you this is the type of image we promote.
Do you think the photos make your clients feel better about themselves?
Yes. And it also makes them feel better that we are not size six. I had a woman come to me and say, “It makes me feel more comfortable that you are not a size six.” At first I thought, “Did she call me fat [laughs]?” We want women to feel comfortable. We want them to feel they can come in and not be judged.
Would you sit for a shoot?
I have done self-boudoir. I set up my camera, put it on a timer and did some posing. It was nerve wracking and exciting.
What did you think when you saw the photos?
I thought I looked awesome.
Did that teach you what you need to tell the women for their sessions?
Yes. We give so much instruction and we will get into the poses beforehand and show the client what to do. We refine them from there. But it was nerve wracking because I was thinking, “How do I look?” and no one was here to tell me how to look. But we’ve been doing it for so long you know what clients’ insecurities are. They are nervous about how they are going to look because they don’t know how to make a sexy face. They don’t know how to pose. It’s all about focusing on angles, proper lighting, and wardrobe.
What do you want your clients to get out of the experience?
Acceptance of their body now, not necessarily what they looked like 20 years ago or 20 pounds ago. We have a lot of people who say, “I need to lose five, 10, or 20 pounds first.” We say, “No, you don’t.”