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Danielle Worthington cultivates confidence with her boudoir photography

//Boudoir photographer Danielle Worthington photographed by Kyla Fear. Photo courtesy of Worthington.

Most boudoir photography is sexualized. It’s about making a body look its best, oftentimes in superficial ways. Sometimes, the photos come out highly photoshopped. Paired with its vulnerable poses, little to no clothing and the permanence of the final product, boudoir photography doesn’t always feel like the safest of spaces.

When Danielle Worthington chose to pursue the photography style as a career, she made the conscious decision to do things differently. Posing bodies as they are, showcasing all bodies and body types and ensuring her clients feel like they are beautiful, exactly as they are, became her utmost priority as a boudoir photographer.

“It’s been a very personal thing, knowing what boudoir did for me and seeing other bodies being showcased and photographed,” Worthington said. “I knew I wanted to use the passion I had and the skills I had to help other women, and other people with bodies who experience those feelings of not being good enough and show them they are good enough.”

Worthington picked up her first camera at 15, to which she felt an immediate connection and never really put it down. As a teenager, photography was her outlet for creative expression and feeling vast emotions. Portrait photography was her side job for years until she decided in 2019 to specialize in boudoir photography full time.

Worthington was familiar with the work of another boudoir photographer, Cheyenne Gil, who showcased bodies that looked like hers, curvier bodies that she hadn’t grown up seeing represented in media. Gil’s approach was totally different from any other boudoir photographer she had ever seen. Worthington remembers being so radically moved by Gil that she flew to Philadelphia to attend a three-day workshop she was hosting.

“I had gone through this whole journey of healing my relationship with my body, normalizing my own body and learning how to navigate body image after growing up in a world where you’re judged very harshly on your body,” Worthington said. “[Gil’s work] was a very powerful thing for me to experience on my own journey of loving myself and accepting myself.”

At the workshop, Worthington learned about body-empowering boudoir, fat-positive spaces and being a trauma-informed photographer. Her own boudoir photography is meant to be a body-empowering experience, one that doesn’t change bodies to fit the images but rather lets her clients know that they deserve to be seen.

“I’m not photoshopping bodies to be smaller. I’m not using the word ‘flattering’ ever — I’m here to empower,” Worthington said.

Worthington started her full-time boudoir photography business during the pandemic, which added its own layer of complications and challenges, alongside the skills that a delicate specialty like boudoir requires from photographers. Along with having prior trauma-informed training as both a photographer and yoga teacher, Worthington herself went into the industry with a history of sexual trauma and understood the precarity of the situation.

One of the most important factors of trauma training is to learn how to ask for consent constantly. When sitting down prior to a session, Worthington asks her clients a series of questions pertaining to any possible past trauma in order to understand each individual and special situation. She understands that at any time, consent can change mid-session.

“Can I move your hair? Can I fix the strap on your body? Can I move your hand?” These are some of the consensual questions Worthington asks her clients during a session. “They’re allowed to say no. They’re allowed to change their mind. They’re allowed to take consent away,” she said.

The goal is to create a courageous space for her clients. Worthington avoids using the term “safe space” because, in her words, neither she nor anyone can guarantee anyone’s safety. Instead, she sees it as a courageous space where someone can come and feel vulnerable and brave. She sees it as her job is to do the best that she can to provide them with that space.

Though she’s relatively new to the industry, her style of boudoir is something that Worthington cares deeply about. In the future, she hopes to offer mentorships to other photographers who want to approach this type of photography in the same way she does.

“It’s about fostering a space that is courageous and making sure that you’re prioritizing consent,” Worthington said. “It’s these things that are going to make [clients] feel like they’re powerful and in control.”

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