A few weeks ago, I received an inquiry from Johanna, a 2nd year journalism student at Carleton University. She was working on a profile story for a class assignment. “I have read great reviews about your work,” said Johanna, “and feel that it is an interesting subject matter that isn’t discussed enough.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement. I was quite honoured to be chosen and immediately booked a time to meet with her in person at my Ottawa studio. With permission from Johanna to share, here is the story she wrote:
Suzanne Ng: Boudoir Photographer
By: Johanna Bernardi
“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude,” Maya Angelou once said. Suzanne Ng lives by these words and is encouraging women to change their attitude about themselves through fine art boudoir photography.
Suzanne is the owner and photographer at je m’adore fine art portraits. She specializes in boudoir, retro pin up photography and helping women rediscover their beauty and confidence.
Growing up, Suzanne was the quiet friend. “I was always the shy little girl with no voice, the invisible one,” she said.
“My friends were all the opposite, and I kind of sat back and watched them to talk to other people… I was always in the background.”
In high school, she was always seen with a camera in hand, but never using her talent in a formal setting.
“I liked carrying a camera around with me, but I was never on the yearbook committee,” Suzanne said. “I created my own little yearbook- photo albums with pictures of my friends and experiences. On family holidays, I would always use up so much film and my dad would be mad to see a million pictures of sand crabs.”
Pressures mounted for Suzanne to pursue a career that would bring her financial success. With camera in hand, she followed her heart and attended Algonquin College in Ottawa. There, she studied photography. She didn’t have a direction where her photography would go. She just knew it was her passion.
“I did a one-year apprenticeship with a commercial photographer and realized that was not my thing… It seemed like a high stress situation,” Suzanne said. “I kind of strayed away from photography in order to pay the bills and took odd jobs here and there.”
After marriage and the birth of her only child, Suzanne decided she wanted to get back into photography. “I wanted to take pictures of my baby, and maybe I’ll take pictures of my friends’ babies.”
“I didn’t want to go back to my job. It was not what I was passionate about at all… I was not made to be a nine to five girl sitting at a desk,” Suzanne said.
Simple portrait shots of her daughter led to the start of her successful photography career.
“It kind of snowballed from there and I thought maybe I can start something,” Suzanne said.
Suzanne began offering maternity photos shoots that had more glam than the typical shoot. The women she met inspired her to do more than just take photos.
“I kept meeting a lot of pregnant women who were down on themselves and how they looked physically. They felt so negative about their bodies and kept forgetting about the miracle growing inside of them,” Suzanne said.
“I thought what about after you give birth, after you’ve been a mom for a few years. That’s when you really get down on yourself,” Suzanne said. This idea led her to offer boudoir sessions.
“I wanted to offer the everyday woman the chance to feel like a supermodel,” Suzanne said.
Suzanne is now a member of the Association of International Boudoir Photographers and has been awarded for her work on numerous occasions.
Boudoir is a sensual style of photography. It highlights the model in an intimate and vulnerable way. Boudoir can consist of implied or full nudity. For Suzanne, this decision is up to her clients.
“I don’t push my clients to go beyond their comfort levels. I encourage them to go outside their comfort zone…It’s always good to push yourself and feel that bit of anxiety because you grow, and you learn from it.” Suzanne said.
Jacqueline Lane did a retro pin up photo shoot with Suzanne five years ago for her 40th birthday. Lane loved the experience so much she brought her daughter to Suzanne for her sweet 16 and had her do a retro photo shoot.
“She automatically knew your personal space and if she could enter that space or not. She had a sense of what would work, in terms of response,” Lane said.
As her website, jemadoreportraits.ca, outlines, Suzanne wants to “empower women and celebrate all the many things we can be.”
“Boudoir is shedding your inhibitions and being more vulnerable in front of the photographer,” Suzanne said. “I want them to feel comfortable with me because it is such an intimate experience.”
Alison Espinoza has been working with Suzanne as her pin up hair and make-up artist since 2009, when Suzanne started her business. Espinoza used to be in the studio with Suzanne during her shoots.
“I could feel the nervousness of the people in the photos but then I see them after and you don’t see that at all,” Espinoza said. “She draws a lot out of people when they don’t even know they have it.”
“Sometimes they will have one idea going into the session of how far they’re willing to go…and then maybe 10 minutes, half way through the session, they’re like maybe I’ll try something a little more daring,” Suzanne said, “we do it and they pull it off beautifully.”
To help her clients find confidence during the shoot, Suzanne shows them one of the pictures she has taken to show them how well they’re doing. “When I do see them, that twinkle in their eye, and they look at themselves and they say, ‘damn I look good,’ it’s so rewarding for me and that’s why I do this,” Suzanne said.
“When she did that which was kind of in the middle of the shoot, that helped the comfort factor too…You’re like ‘holy, wow! That’s why you’re behind the lens,’” Lane said about how her confidence grew when she saw a photo of herself during her session.
Often boudoir images are used as gifts to significant others. The real gift for Suzanne and her clients is the rediscovered sense of confidence that comes with baring it all.
“It’s quite amazing to see the transformations. A lot of women I meet, they do have body image issues, everybody does,” Suzanne said. “Doing a boudoir session is not a quick fix, but it’s a great first step in the direction to accepting yourself.”
“There are no judgments in my studio,” Suzanne said. There are no size requirements in order to have a shoot at je m’adore.
“She has a presence where nothing seems to faze her. I have a tendency to be very hard on myself and throw out all the worst sort of insults at myself during the photoshoot and she would always come back with something that was positive,” Lane said.
The business is “devoted to capturing the beauty in everyone,” as highlighted on the website.
“She has this ability to get people at their absolute best on camera,” said Espinoza.
With her daughter coming of age to understand sensuality, Suzanne hopes to pass on the confidence she gives to her clients to her 11-year-old.
“I’m hoping that my work will inspire her to be herself and be confident,” Suzanne said.
Suzanne has made an impact on her clients and inspired them to love themselves, as seen in the testimonials on her website.
“The ability to see yourself through someone else’s art form is going to be helpful to you and something that you will absolutely treasure,” Lane said.