As we all know one of the greatest challenges as a photographer is finding inspiration. Being creative and looking for a fresh perspective can be the skill that sets you apart from your competition. It is also one of the most difficult things to achieve, because creativity does not come on command and as any artist will tell you maintaining and growing your creativity can be a slow and sometimes painful process. This is my story about how I found inspiration in a very unlikely place, and how it elevated my creativity but also changed how I service my clients and augmented my customers’ experience.
I came across pole dance sort of by accident in my early twenties, I think I saw a flyer someone had discarded on the ground. It seemed like a fun thing to try, so I signed up. It was love at first twirl. I had always dreamed of being swirled and lifted into the air like a ballerina. I am in fact about a head taller then most male ballet dancers and I out weigh them too, so this particular fantasy seemed improbable for me. #tallgirlproblems. That is until the pole came into my life. It was really difficult, and took me weeks of trying before I got my very first spin down pat, but I immediately saw that my dance dream could finally come true. Seven years later I now dance at a studio called Brass Belles, and the owner of this studio, my teacher, is the root of my recent transformation in mind, body and spirit. It is my preferred form of fitness but it is also become so much more. It’s a sisterhood of supportive women from all walks of life who have now become some of my dearest friends. We call each other the Belles. I never thought that pole dance class could come to change every single part of me, including my photography.
I think there is something about the sexualized, bad girl stigma associated with pole fitness that automatically filters out judgmental, flippant, frenimies that women seem to constantly have to weed through and had been so prevalent in the mommy and me groups that had surrounded me. In complete contrast, my pole class was full of real, supportive, confident women, and it was AMAZING. One day I realized that at pole we have our own way of speaking. I was shocked to realize that we never criticize or complain about our bodies. We never wish to be something we are not, we only ever wish to be stronger.
How does this apply to photography?
This is a mind set I now carry forward into my photography. My goal is always to show the women I photograph how beautiful they really are at this exact moment in time. I coach them how to pose and I take shots from flattering angles but maybe more importantly I boost my client up with compliments, I hush her depreciating remarks and I follow through with beautiful images.
I feel so strong. All I want is to be stronger. I want to share this feeling and view point with every woman I meet. Now I have changed my language, I don’t tell my daughter she is pretty, I tell her how strong she is. I use words like powerful, fierce and determined when I praise her. Beauty may come from strength, but I know now its just a bi-product, it’s not the goal. Achieving beauty won’t bring you any satisfaction, happiness or peace, but my oh my Belles, strength most certainly will! My Belles taught me that and now not a single client of mine leaves me without hearing that message too. I truly aim to spend my whole time with my clients building their self esteem exactly the way the pole girls did for me. Beautiful images are also just a bi-product of this strength that I impart on them during our shoot. I challenge you to find the larger meaning behind the images you create, to seek out the importance of the experience and you will also see that your images transform themselves into true art. Adding your passion is the secret ingredient that elevate your photos into artwork. How do you find your passion? The fastest way I have found is by dreaming up and executing a personal project. Shoot something that inspires you, and shoot it only for you, with no expectations of marketing, branding or revenues, do it just because it makes you excited every time you think about it. Also try something new or out of your comfort zone, in my case I added the element of underwater photography.
My photography, is a reflection of me, it is my art form, so it is only fitting that my photography represent all of me. I am a mother, lover, wife, philanthropist, adoption advocate, photographer, friend, sister AND pole girl! I have learned so many things at Brass Belles. I have learned about determination, friendship, joy, flexibility and acceptance but I never thought one day it would lead me to an underwater pole dancer photo shoot! I was inspired to do this because I want to show the world that this dance form I love is beautiful, powerful and artistic. I want to help erase the negative stigma and just show off these women in my life who have loved and supported me in all their glory, and in a way only a photographer can. With that in mind, I am thrilled to present these images that are so incredibly and uniquely me. I have been dreaming of making them for a long time, I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as we enjoyed creating them.
Meet the Belles!!
Sylvia Eng is a family and wedding photographer at squeaker & yoyo PHOTOGRAPHY, as well as a digital artist working in the greater Toronto area. She specializes in family portraiture with a focus on kiddos with special needs. Find her on facebook here.