Femininity and Strength – not mutually exclusive

A Fitness/Fantasy Shoot

I met Shannon McMillan Hernandez at Lifetime Fitness, or rather I approached her to ask if she would be interested in doing a shoot. She is a Pro Figure Athlete and a personal trainer. As I explained to Shannon, my intent was to try to combine two themes that are, in my opinion, infrequently expressed together: femininity and strength.

Shannon has competed as a Pro Figure Athlete and obviously knows how to get her body ready for the stage but I wanted her to avoid getting into competition shape. Anyone who is familiar with what it takes to compete in the bodybuilding/fitness world understands the amount of work and commitment needed. They also know that the way competitors look on stage is not a sustainable version of themselves. That shredded look has its place of course but I didn’t want people, especially women, looking a the pictures to view a professional competitor’s physique as any sort of standard by which they should judge themselves or others. After all, even competitors don’t look like that on a daily basis. Rather than feeling intimidated, I wanted people to feel inspired. I think Shannon really delivered!

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An added bonus was that Shannon didn’t just want to do a fitness shoot, she also had a specific theme she had been wanting to try out for a long time – Goddess/Warrior. Her ideas for theme were a great fit for what I wanted to capture.

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I think that femininity is too often presented in terms of objectified sexuality. Images of  women looking feminine are ubiquitous but they are often sexually explicit. I am not offended by nudity or revealing images but I think they can also limit our perceptions. I wanted to show that a woman does not have to be naked to be feminine, that she can look both feminine and strong, and that strong can be sexy without being explicit or objectifying. I don’t think this is a new idea and I don’t claim inventing it – I just don’t see it expressed in photography often enough. I hope I succeed in capturing Shannon as an example of femininity and strength – powerful, confident, and not boxed in by objectified sexuality.

It is always fun to try a different genre of photography. I love taking on a project that is creative, or gives me the chance to expand my skills. This shoot did both.

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You can see more unedited examples on Shannon’s Facebook page. At some point I will make time to do some creative edits on a few of these images but I think that they stand up very well as they are today.

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