Raised in a small farming community in Saskatchewan, Canada, Chad Carpenter found himself far from the idea of ever being a boudoir retoucher. Boudoir in a small conservative town can be considered taboo and Carpenter never imaged he would be leaving his job in order to work as the main retoucher for his wife's boudoir company.
"The people there are good people who had a great sense of community. One of the draw backs of being raised where I was is that it's very conservative. So conversations like sexuality, body positivity weren't discussed. I grew up with very narrow beliefs believing that most sexuality was wrong or belonged only in the bedroom." Carpenter wrote. When he moved to the Vancouver area that was more liberal and open minded he still found himself clinging to his upbringing and closed off to those subjects.
A few years later, after marrying Jessica Rae, award winning boudoir photographer, he found himself opening up to new ways of thinking. "Jessica had her own past and some of it was dark. She struggled to love herself and when she learned how she made it her mission to help other women learn to love themselves. It was this explanation that allowed me to open my mind a little more and accept that maybe it wasn't wrong and that boudoir could be therapeutic" Carpenter explained.
Rae's studio is located in their home, so while Carpenter worked in their home office at his other employment, he was on the side lines watching these women go into sessions looking unsure of themselves. Hearing the stories of the self deprecating views these woman placed on their own bodies. He noticed when they left without fail, they were standing up straight and more confident.
His views changed drastically about what boudoir can do for a person, and after some time he left his job in order to assist Rae in her company. At first he simply retouched for her clients, but now he has moved on to retouch for other photographers as well. During this time, he has seen the body positive debate come up and each side has pleaded their case with passion.
The groups are divided by retouching versus no retouching. One side passionately pushes for no retouching in saying that women need to learn to embrace their stretch marks, scars and cellulite. Another group will liquefy to change body shape and edit out every little blemish to make women feel as if they are in a magazine. Then there are the varying degrees of photographer in between. The one thing these people all have in common is they believe they are helping women see themselves as beautiful.
Carpenter wrote that as a retoucher he can without a doubt settle this debate and who is right . "They all are. I have images come across my screen of every different type of woman you can imagine in different stages of their lives. Every one of them is on a different journey and looking for something that they can treasure and that makes them feel beautiful. For some it's embracing the scars and the cellulite and for some it's seeing themselves as someone who belongs in a magazine."
They are drawn to the type of photographer that they feel fits well with them and their journey. Carpenter wrote that he feels this is why you often hear stories of women unhappy that they went with a cheaper photographer rather than the one they wanted. When he first start retouching, he explained he would have said body positivity is his wife's work. She creates art with her clients without changing the body shape. Now that he has a broader view he feels there is no right or wrong way of doing things. Each client is looking for something different.
"I try as a retoucher to remember that every person that comes across my screen is on a different journey and while this is my job and how I make money, I am a step in that journey. So it is important to me to understand the style of the photographer they hired." The client picked that specific photographer knowing what they brought to the table. "It is important we all remember we are a community working together to help people love themselves" Carpenter wrote.
Photographers images with permission and courtesy of :Shawn Black , Christie Conyer, Jessica Rae, and Cassie Trebar.