A little bit of a personal post today – can we talk about burlesque?

April 18th marked my six year burlesquiversary. (That is absolutely definitely a real word.)

Carla and Louise at the Fling festival in Chelmsford | carlawatkinsphotography.comWith my best friend Lou (she’s on the right, I’m on the left, our stripes match!) at Fling festival 2013, between performances

Six and a bit years ago, I took my first tentative steps into the world of burlesque, at a class underneath County Hall in Chelmsford, with some lovely friends, a corset and a bundle of nerves. I’d been to shows and hen dos, wore corsets for festivals and parties, and have been a dancer all my life – but this was a new experience and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Needless to say, I loved it and have never looked back.

Last night at class, the lovely Faye was teaching alongside Lizzie, and as the three of us started more or less at the same time, I found myself remembering those early days, and looking at us now, I am SO FUCKING PROUD of how far we’ve all come.

Burlesque has changed my life – it’s been a huge influence in my confidence, my sass, my style and most importantly in how I feel about my body.

I was already body positive back then, though I didn’t know the movement existed – frustrated with how people were trying to make me feel about my larger-than-is-widely-considered-ideal self, my tendency towards hairiness and how they perceived my unattractiveness to the male of the species.

Carla (3rd from left, blue corset) with burlesque ladies at Love You Burlesque cabaret 2012 | carlawatkinsphotography.comAt cabaret in 2012 with my gorgeous burlesque ladies – who knew how far we’d come together?!

I felt so strongly that there was more to being a woman than that – that I wanted to feel and look good in my own right, for me, not for some bloke who happened to be passing & wanted an eyeful.

As part of my early burlesque journey, I had a shoot with photographer Grace Gelder, involving frilly knickers and rollerskates among other things, and that was a huge turning point for me, as a woman, as a dancer and as a photographer. I saw myself as others did for the first time – and I realised that I really wanted to create that experience for other people, though at the time I couldn’t see how.

Carla by Grace GelderNot the same style as I shoot, but a total revelation for me – these are from my own first burlesque shoot! Photography: Grace Gelder

Fast forward six years, countless classes, lots of performances, lots of new friendships and a lingerie-strewn festival tent, and as a photographer, some of my favourite sessions have been pin up, boudoir & burlesque. I love everything about them – the differing styles my ladies choose, the different ways they approach it, the different ways I shoot them.

But most of all, I love seeing their reactions when they see themselves through my lens for the very first time, whether on the back of the camera mid-shoot, or when their images are ready. That “oh” of recognition – that this gorgeous creature on the screen is who they are – is the most glorious moment to witness!

Because of course most of us have never seen ourselves like that – not many people have professional photos taken regularly, and when we do, they are usually for a wedding, for work, or to document our families.

Carla, shot by Carla | All Your Glory | carlawatkinsphotography.comObviously I can occasionally cheat and get studio shots of myself – I am my own model more often than you would suspect! This was a self portrait experiment in my studio – but most people don’t spend their free time doing this…!

Being in front of the camera, showing your very best and brightest self to keep forever – it’s magic in its truest sense.

One of my dearest friends, who introduced me to burlesque classes all those years ago, always says she will treasure the memories and photos from this time of our lives – and will revel in showing the grandchildren just how fabulous Grandmama was in her day.

I can’t think of any better, more glorious reason for doing what I do. <3

All Your Glory sessions can be studio based (at my Colchester studio) or on location - celebrating you in all your glory. You can be as dressed or as undressed as you like, and I'll work with you to take photographs that have you squee-ing with happiness when you see them!