women

It All Starts With...

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When I was young, I would pick up a purple marker to spell my name. “Anji,” that was my nickname at the time (it’s hard to spell Mitanjeli when you’re 3) and I usually wrote the J backwards. But I chose purple, and I chose it for years. I wore this color and painted with this color because for some reason it helped me express who I am. So I guess for me, it all started with a purple marker. 

And over the next few decades I cycled through many colors, clothing styles, glasses frames — I continue to do so. It’s because when I see something that helps me express who I am, I wear it. 

When Kristen filled out my Luxe Portrait contact form early this spring, I gave her and call and quickly learned that she had been inspired to do a photoshoot because of a dress. “I was at Saks in St Louis when, I saw it. The most beautiful gown, black with flowers and beading and I thought, well I have to have it!” So she bought it in honor of her 50th birthday and booked a photoshoot so she could express herself in her gown. I probably don’t need to say this but when she put it on and walked out of our studio dressing room, she came alive in a new way.

When Ashleigh scheduled a photoshoot for herself and her daughter, she asked me if Kaitlyn could bring her pet bird for a portrait. As you can imagine, this beautiful green bird lit Kaitlyn up and our portraits including him were breathtaking. She planned her outfit to coordinate with his bright feathers and I’m so, so glad she asked to bring him. 

When Bailey called me last year to do a photoshoot, she shared a personal part of her story with me. As she was coming out of a challenging time of counseling to address past and present issues with her body, she had come to a point where she was ready to celebrate it. She requested fine art nude portraits at the end of her shoot, and to this day they’re some of my favorite ones I’ve created. She truly was inspired by her new relationship with her body, and I was so honored to walk with her in that journey. 

It all starts with something... 

Maybe for you it’s a new career, a new outlook, or a new relationship. Maybe it’s a new pair of Louboutins or your late mother’s pearls. Whatever you’re celebrating and expressing at this point in life is worth it, and I can’t wait to hear about your journey and create something beautiful together. 

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I Am Woman. I Will Not Be Defined.

Dear woman, when was the day that someone decided you were ___________ *insert female stereotype here* _____________ ?

Maybe you remember the moment, or maybe it happened slowly. But my guess is, you've allowed others to define you.

Maybe you expressed who you were and someone in the crowd said, "No, actually you’re __________." And you believed them. Or maybe someone in the crowd said, "You are ____________" and you rejected that definition so you decided to be the opposite of it, even if the opposite wasn't completely true.

There’s something I’ve learned over the past few years. The opposite of the identity you reject won't necessarily be your authentic self.

Two years ago, I transitioned out of a definition I had subconsciously clung to for over half a decade and my entire marriage up to that point. It was "Pastor's Wife."

I never signed a contract that said I had to make this title my identity, but at the time I believed it was an expectation that my family and faith community had put on me. However, when that title was no longer mine (because my husband made a career change), I resented it. Bitterly. I looked hard at the expectations and the ways I'd made myself physically and mentally ill trying to meet them. I resented the crowd that I believed had crushed me beneath these impossible standards and when I woke up that first Sunday morning with no place to go, I realized that I'd clung to this definition like a safety blanket so I could hide beneath my insecurities and blame them on the impossible "standards" others had set for me.

I climbed onto that pendulum and swung as far to the other side as I could. I cussed, I used the F word (feminism), and posted photos with alcohol on social media. I felt like a badass because I read books by people I didn't previously agree with and started to speak my broadened mind. I wore crop tops! But do you know what happened? I started to make whatever-is-the-opposite-of-pastors-wife my new identity. But over time I began to realize that trying to be a perfectly strong and independent #bossbabe (ugh) is just as impossible as trying to be a perfect Pastor's Wife. I began to reexamine my faith, my work habits, and my beliefs around all of these pieces that make me who I am.

I finally stopped clinging to the pendulum - regardless of where it sat - and got brave enough to jump off completely.

Big sigh. I've never written those words before. But I smile as I share them with you, because that festering wound has become a scar that I acquired on this journey (strenuous hike) called life. Through this process I faced the fact that while our society has wrongfully stereotyped women, we are prone to accept those stereotypes so we don't have to change or grow.

I get it though. It can be easier to accept one tidy definition than to look in the mirror and drink in the multifaceted, complex, and overwhelmingly beautiful being you are.

So that leads me to this project - these portraits. I wanted to photograph Alexis first as a blank slate, and then as an undefinable woman. In my world, a vintage gold motorcycle jacket, bralette, and handmade tulle skirt do not "go" together. But in this portrait, they do. Because Alexis is a woman like any other, who is professional, creative, kind, whimsical, AND true to herself. She is independent but vulnerable and involved in her family and community. She does art therapy for children and also loves Crossfit. She enjoys cotton candy and salad bars. She is soft and fierce.

You and I are so much more than the one little definition our society uses to pinpoint us for marketing strategies and advertising. We are more than the words we choose for our Instagram bios. We are women - We will not be defined.

Cheering you on,

Mitzi

Ready to celebrate the many pieces of who you are? Contact Mitzi here.