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Why Over 40 Portrait Photography?

I love getting to the essence of a subject – revealing its true nature. That has been an ongoing theme in my photographic work for over 30 years. I started my photography journey as a documentarian, photographing marginalized subcultures to get to the heart of what they were about and try to bring about the wheels of social change and understanding.

“Transfigurations,” my second published book, is a portrait collection of transgender men and women and their thoughts as they transitioned. The work was my thesis in graduate school and became one of the most powerful experiences of my life in many different ways.

At that point in my career, I was aware that photography was a powerful medium, but I didn’t realize how truly personal that power could be until one of the “Transfigurations” exhibits in San Francisco. In front of a large 30x40 portrait of a transwoman named Cecilia, a woman was sobbing. As I approached I saw that it was the same Cecilia in the portrait. She threw her arms around me declaring, “You captured the woman I have always felt I am on the inside but didn’t know I actually looked like on the outside. I feel so empowered! Thank you!”

That was the moment I truly realized how powerful and life-changing it can be to see ourselves in a beautiful photograph. I think of that moment often. Everyone deserves to experience that kind of life-affirming moment at least once in their lives. Today I am dedicated to doing that for everyone through imagery, especially women over 40 – to empower them in their own their own self.

Transformation: Gail

Gail’s portrait session at my studio was very special. She had lost her husband the year before to cancer, and as she was coming through her mourning period, she was trying to assess who she was in this new, unknown phase of her life. She had put off her session a couple times, but finally came to the studio, nervous and unsure. After a beautiful makeover and reviewing the outfits we would photograph her in, we started with some basic headshots to warm up. Soon Gail was smiling, laughing, and enjoying herself. Music was playing and she was starting to feel free in front of the camera and just let go of everything else. At one point I showed her the back of my camera and she gushed, “Oh my! Is that me? Wow!”

By the end of the session, Gail was over the moon. We’d had a fun day and caught many sides of her personality. Most importantly she rediscovered a part of herself that she thought was lost…but it was only buried and we found it together!

Gail’s comments after her session:

"Being in front of the camera is far outside my comfort zone. But I showed up at Jana’s studio and it was an amazing experience – one of discovering myself, which I didn’t expect. Thank you Jana for the care you give. Your artistry honored my power, beauty, and spirit and the experience has stayed with me after the session was over. Damn, I felt beautiful!"

Gail’s comments after receiving her portrait package:

"Damn, woman! You are magic! I absolutely love the photos. You work magic in your studio. Weeks later I’m still grinning in amazement cause you made me feel and look so beautiful! I’m telling all my friends to make appointments with you."

A Little Piece of My Story

I used to photograph myself every year on my birthday. It was a fun chronicle, but somehow I lost the desire to do that in my 40s. I didn’t really give much thought to why I stopped, I just wasn’t interested in seeing myself at that time. I have since resurrected my self-portrait series. It began when I needed an author shot for my latest book, which came out in 2020 (Line of Blood).

Seeing myself at 58 was shocking at first – I had gained weight and had a lot more wrinkles. I struggled with how much I was going to retouch my author shot – hell, we all want to look good, right? But, the more I thought about it I realized that I was trying to maintain looking like I did in my 40s, and that wasn’t serving me. It was at this time that I also started my first 50 Over 50 Project at the studio. I was empowering women through photographs. But guess what? They were also empowering me – to be honest and raw when I stepped in front of the camera.

As I turned 59 I decided it was time to start looking at myself in a new and appreciative way. Part of that was transitioning my hair color from my trademark dark tresses to blonde – my first step in ultimately going to my natural gray hair color. It’s a huge change in terms of accepting myself and learning to face and appreciate the aging process. I have found such freedom in recording these moments through images and reconnecting with myself. Being seen without apology or question is liberating. I had nothing to prove to anyone but myself – and I’m discovering that I like who I am at 60…and I can be anyone I want to be...not what society tells me I should be!

Yup! That’s me and my portrait sessions!

Interested in booking your portrait experience with us?

Join our Facebook Community

Join our "Over 40 VIP Lounge with Jana" Facebook Group. The private group is focused on empowering women. We post session tips, sneak peeks after shoots, behind the scenes, countdown the 40 women of the year, and more. It's a super supportive group and we take pride in lifting and celebrating one another.


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