Crimson Boudoir: Capturing the essence of beauty

Missy with a client. Photo by Kimberly Shaw Brines

Melissa Adams loves that moment when she’s able to capture the essence of beauty in one of her clients.

Melissa Adams operates Crimson Boudoir and Melissa Adams LLC. in Jasper. Photo by Teri Hoffard

The true magic happens as she turns her camera around to allow her client to see that beauty.

It’s an empowering moment; one that could be rare for these women who may have never seen themselves in this light. A light that Missy provides through Crimson Boudoir, her boudoir photography business in Jasper.

Boudoir photography is a photography style featuring intimate images of its subjects. Missy specializes in photographing women in a private and confidential setting in her studio on Main Street.

While her subjects are featured in sensual poses wearing lingerie or less, many times the finished images aren’t to be shared; they may end up in a special book or in a private area like a walk-in closet where they stand to remind the subject they are beautiful and powerful.

Missy understands. She’s survived an attack that made her feel powerless. She’s battled self-image issues and has always struggled to embrace her femininity.

During a recent seminar — Missy regularly attends training to further her skills in empowering women — the instructor asked the students to list their reasons for specializing in this type of photography. At first, Melissa wrote that it was to empower women. After a moment though, she went back and changed her answer. She realized that she does it to empower herself as well.

That empowerment is what attracted her to boudoir photography.

“I love seeing women reborn from whatever baggage they came in with,” Missy said. “I want them to feel like they’ve gotten the full experience of loving themselves. I’ve had women tell me a session was better than therapy. It’s empowering to see it firsthand.”

She opened her photography business in 2009 after buying a professional camera and being told she took good photographs. After a few years of lackluster success though, her husband, Jeff, pointed out she wasn’t really making any money with her business. While he was supportive, Missy took a step back to re-evaluate her life and business.

Over the years, she had seen boudoir imagery online but had never understood the appeal. She had always wondered why anyone would want to have these types of photographs taken. “Why would someone want a picture of their ass on the wall,” she joked. “I really didn’t understand it, but I really wanted to feel feminine and sexy just once in my life.”

She decided to take the jump and book a boudoir session with a professional female photographer she had been following for a few years.

“I booked it six months out thinking I was going to lose so much weight and look amazing,” she explained. “I totally failed at that. I was at my heaviest weight ever.”

But that weight didn’t matter.

“There was a moment (during the session) when I was at the courthouse and I was cascading down the steps and there was a car stopped at the stoplight and another coming around the square,” she explained. “I was in a dress. My hair and makeup were done. I was wearing boots up to my knees and a skirt just above my knees, so barely showing anything. But another guy coming around the square was looking at me and almost ran into the car that was stopped at the light.”

After the session, Missy called her husband. “I said ‘hey honey, you are gonna take me out tonight because I look amazing and almost caused an accident,'” she said.

She knew that the feeling she had felt during the session was one she wanted to give other women. She decided to specialize in boudoir and newborn photography — naked ladies and naked babies she says on her website.

She booked her first session with a friend. With just some backdrops hanging in her living room, she used dramatic lighting to create a set of images.

There were moments of awkwardness as Missy directed her friend to pose certain ways but overall, the session went really well. To this day, her friend remembers it as a great experience. It’s a sentiment that runs through many of Missy’s shoots. The session itself is empowering while the photos simply serve as mementos of the experience.

It’s why she spends time getting to know clients before they book with her. She requires every client to complete an interview so she can ensure they feel comfortable with her.

“If a client is going to be with me in a vulnerable state, especially in lingerie, we should get to know each other first,” Missy said.

If the client doesn’t wish to do a consultation, Missy knows she’s not going to be the photographer for that client and another photographer may be better suited for that person.

If the interview goes well and a session is scheduled, Missy stays in touch with the client through Snapchat and texts as they go over outfits and other aesthetic elements of the session.

Clients send her photos of their own intimates to be used for the session but Missy has a closet of items available as well. (All items are sanitized after shoots.)

The day of the shoot, the client is pampered as Missy and her stylist, Whitney Eller, work with them reviewing lingerie, color pallets and professionally styling their hair and makeup. This allows Missy to continue to build rapport with her subjects while getting to know them better as they talk during the styling. Many times, clients come with their friends for support and this time allows everyone to become comfortable and ready for what can be an intimate session.

While many clients start out with some apprehension about flaunting their sexuality for a camera, as the session progresses, they are emboldened as they see their beauty develop through Missy’s lens.

Sometimes, a client is so struck by what Missy is able to bring out of them that they cry. It’s a beautiful moment as these clients see themselves differently. Their entire demeanor changes as they gain new confidence. In this moment, Missy knows the rest of the session will be wonderful.

“I love seeing women reborn from whatever baggage they came in with,” Missy said. “I want them to feel like they’ve gotten the full experience of loving themselves. I’ve had women tell me a session was better than therapy. It’s empowering to see it firsthand.”

This feeling is important for women of all ages and all shapes. Each woman has her personal piece of beauty and Missy specializes in finding it.

She’s worked with all sorts of women in different stages of their lives. Some come in as they recover from abusive relationships while others are seeking affirmation of their own beauty.

“There are so many women out there who are emotionally abusing themselves and they don’t know it,” Missy said. “They are literally creating all these walls and boundaries in their head. Society does this to us as well. It (empowerment) is more about going back to who you were before society put all this bullshit on you.”

To a certain extent one could say this is the perpetuation of women being viewed as sexual objects but Missy views these sessions as a way for women to be more comfortable with their own sexuality.

“I am really a prude, but I want to embrace my sexuality,” Missy said adding that when she first began she didn’t want people to think she was some kind of kinky, sex addict.

But in her experience, boudoir photography hasn’t been about sex, many times these photos end up being personal affirmations.

“I would say that 40 percent of my clients are single,” Missy said. “These photos are for themselves.”

Like the one client that had subjected herself to self-harm and decided she wanted some photos featuring her scars — a private part of herself.

Then there was one client in her 60s that contacted Missy. She pointed out that the family photos she was featured in only represented a part of who she was. She told Missy she wanted to have some photos that showed this other side of herself — a beautiful and sexy woman.

Missy regularly hears back from clients that although the session may have been physically and emotionall tough, they are able to embrace their femaninity and strut their stuff.

“I love finding things (beautiful) about women that aren’t typically embraced in society,” Missy said. “If they walk away with a new outlook on their self-worth, then I’ve done my job.”

Details on Crimson Boudoir can be found online here.

Missy and Jeff live near Haysville and have two children, Juliet, 7, and Remi, 4.

Photos provided by Melissa Adams with subjects’ consent

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