A Photographic Rite of Passage

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.