Guest Story By Mary Hohlmann
In the fall of my junior year of high school, I auditioned to be a model in a fashion show that the design students were putting on. I had runway experience from doing the bridal markets at the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago and I really enjoyed it. After school I went to the audition in a sea foam green turtleneck and my fitted white jeans. My hair was long and curly and I felt a confidence I seem to lack in most other areas of my life. I knew I could be successful here.
A girl watched us walk and then went to take our measurements. When she got to me, she looked at my stomach area and remarked. "You need to do some crunches.” I looked down at my belly and saw I was maybe a bit bloated and had accumulated a little bit of body fat. I cringed. Here started the decline of my body image and the deep unhappiness with my body shape.
Obsessed With My Mid Section
As the years went on, I became obsessed with the mid section of my body. I loathed it. To counter it I became heavily involved with fitness and super conscious of the food I ate. I admired other women who had the typical hourglass figure and had the longer torsos with the smaller waists. I constantly researched diets and became an avid runner. In my early twenties I moved to California and became a triathlete and personal trainer. Becoming an athlete was great, but my own personal relationship with my body I continue to struggle with. I just couldn’t seem to accept my body type. It was exhausting.
Another very unfortunate thing I was dealing with was the healing from a very abusive childhood. First it was physical and emotional then my father sexually abused me for many years. Here I grew into my womanhood completely traumatized with such poor self-esteem. My boundaries were beyond crossed and I had no healthy model of what I was suppose to become. I was sexualized and objectified. I was very lost and spent years wrestling with this image of myself and the deep pain it caused.
Abuse can cause such a distorted sense of self. It was this fragmentation of myself that didn't allow for me to see the beauty that was my soul.
A few years after I moved West, I was introduced to Lone from a mutual friend as I was looking for a photographer to shoot me for my website I was creating. I was taken in immediately by her warmness. I loved her Danish accent and how adventurous she was in her own life. She shared with me about her boudoir photo shoots. She showed me some of her work. Here I saw such gorgeous photos of women: all body type, all shapes and sizes. They looked like pieces of art, not these objects.
They were elegant and how I thought the beauty of women should be shown. No societal hang-ups here. No sexualization, and I was very curious, could I ever be that brave? Who was I underneath all the trauma?
A BODY PRAYER
I took the plunge. I met with her for two shoots, one in her studio and one on the beach. I was around twenty-seven at the time.
Words cannot even describe the bliss I felt at those shoots. I got to be so playful and feel so free and sexier (in a healthy way) then I ever had. I called the shots and Lone was very caring and never pushed me into feeling uncomfortable. It was so refreshing.
The photos we got were superb. As beautiful as they were, I still could hear that critical voice trying to cloud the photos. I somehow managed to let it go and launched my website. I was delighted to have such photos of myself, these incredible memories.
Powerful in the Presence of a Gentle Witness
Lone and I stayed in touch through the years. I loved her energy and her deep commitment to empowering women. It was so fun to see her project explode as she made quite a name for herself. I was deeply happy for her success. The world needs more of this. She was strong and fierce. I felt more powerful in her presence. She was a part of my healing.
Capturing Life, Becoming Whole
I continued to have her photograph me over the years. When I became pregnant I wanted her to capture it. We had fun playing together and she captured me in a very pivotal and wonderful part of my womanhood. Five months after I had my daughter we did another shoot. That was a harder one for me because I was so broken down from having a very challenging birth and I really beat myself up about it. I felt broken. Four years after that I went to play in the woods. Now fast approaching middle age and a changed body from childbearing and birth. Again who was I? I somehow felt lost, again. Two years after that, a beautiful spread of my sweet family. How great she was capturing all of our essence: Individually and as a collective.
There I am!
All of my collections of Lone’s work are indeed some of my most fond treasures. The thing that strikes me the very most is the deepening of appreciation now that I look at them years later. I don’t see a lost woman. I see a strong, brave, and beautiful woman. I see the clarity in her eyes –THERE I AM!
I don’t look at my body in such a critical way; I am beautiful the way I was made. I see Mary, the resilient woman who is loving, kind, playful, powerful, and inspirational. I am a mother, a partner, and an athlete. I am a goddess, the way God intended for all women to be. I deeply thank Lone for her friendship and for helping me to really see myself. She is indeed a blessing and huge beacon of light.