Claire Cortese Photography: Blog en-us (C) Claire Cortese Photography (Claire Cortese Photography) Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:16:00 GMT Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:16:00 GMT Claire Cortese Photography: Blog 120 80 Angie + John's Romantic Portsmouth Engagements

Of the engagement shoots I've done with numerous couples thus far, nobody has dressed to the nines like Angie and John. Angie was a colleague of mine at Tilton School, so I was thrilled when she asked me to do an engagement session for her and her fiance, John. We spent an August afternoon walking through downtown Portsmouth and through the beautiful gardens of Prescott Park. As Angie lives in Tilton, New Hampshire, and John lives in the Netherlands (where they're set to be married in July 2018), they've been nurturing their connection across an entire ocean. But if anything, the physical distance between them only seems to have made them cherish every second they have together - I often felt like I was photographing a couple of blissfully love drunk teenagers - they spent the whole hour laughing together, tangled in each other's arms. 

You'll notice that Angie's ring is a deep Sapphire - there seems to be a trend emerging lately, straying from the traditional convention of diamond engagement rings, in favor of other stones. I couldn't be more excited about it - I think it exemplifies how couples are starting to break away from the constructed ideals of a traditional relationship, and celebrate their unique quirks and their own individual values. Love comes in many shapes and definitions; it looks different to everyone. So why not find a ring that fits the constructs of your own relationship more appropriately? 















(Claire Cortese Photography) blog bride couple engaged engagement engagement ring fiance groom love new england new hampshire photo photographer photography portsmouth ring wedding Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:16:09 GMT
Kelsey and Jon's Maine Cottage Wedding


About a year ago, I sat down with Kelsey and Jon at a Starbuck's in Brookline, Massachusetts, where they shared their story with me - in November of 2012, the met while serving on a missions trip to Haiti. Fast forward three years, after Jon made a move from Michigan to Massachusetts to be with Kelsey - in May of 2015, the two of them went back to Haiti, and Jon proposed!

Kelsey and Jon were married in late July in Brownfield, Maine. For their venue, they rented a private log cabin with an expansive plot of land featuring a beautiful old barn and a large pond bordered by little birch trees. In the distance, mountains rise over the horizon. The location is remote and quiet - the land completely surrounded by forest. The wedding was a combination of rustic and Tuscan themed, and Kelsey and Jon planned everything themselves. The ceremony site was simple but beautiful - an arch constructed of birchwood, looking back onto the grounds and the expanse of mountains in the distance. Two wooden chairs were placed next to the arch where the ceremony was to be performed, each with a single red rose. These chairs symbolized the place and presence of Kelsey's maternal grandparents, who have passed on.   

The ceremony began with a quiet moment and a prayer, and then two of Kelsey and Jon's friends were called up to read a prayer. Jon's three younger sisters also read during the ceremony. Finally, the mother of the bride and mother of the groom performed a tree planting ceremony, in which they poured soil from each of their homes into the pot of a young tree. It was a truly beautiful ceremony - filled with laughter, and joy, and love. And at the conclusion, after the kiss, Jon hollered in joy and the two of them skipped down the aisle together. Of all the weddings I've been to - I've never seen a man so excited to marry the woman he loves. 

The rest of the day was filled with sweet, personal touches that made the event fun, casual, and memorable. Kelsey's nephew sang during the father/daughter dance. And for dinner, Jon and Kelsey donned personalized aprons and served their guests pizza! I can't say I've ever heard of wedding where the bride and groom are serving dinner, and it was honestly touching to witness the big hearts of these two wonderful people in person. And if that adorableness wasn't enough - they decided to forego the traditional wedding cake route, and instead chose to have whoopie pies for dessert! Throughout the night, Kelsey's beloved dog, Beckham, made multiple appearances - although we never were able to sit the pupper down to get a good portrait! As the sun went down, the Christmas lights bordering the dance area came on, and Jon proved to be the real life of the party with his groomsmen. 

Each wedding I shoot feels like a blessing for me. I learn more and more with each and every event - about the industry and the mechanics and skillset of this job. But I also learn a lot about myself, and about the world around me. Each and every wedding, no matter how different, will always have one thing in common - it's a celebration of love. Sometimes, I get so wrapped up in the job I'm doing - capturing every little moment - that I forget to slow down and really pay attention to those moments as they're happening. More often than not, I come away from a ceremony realizing that I haven't actually heard a word of what the couple said in their vows. Which is ironic, because that's the service I'm trying to provide for my clients - to freeze a small, intimate moment in time, so they may have a chance to cherish it forever. But Kelsey and Jon's connection and love for each other was inspiring in the most beautiful way, and it came at a time when I needed to be grounded, and reminded more than ever of what's most important in this world - the connections and love we foster with other people. Real, genuine, uninhibited human love and connection, that allows us to be our true selves without fear or insecurity. For this, I am more grateful to Kelsey and Jon than they will ever know. 


(Claire Cortese Photography) blog bride engagement ring groom love maine photo photo blog photographer photography portrait the knot wedding wedding blog wedding photographer wedding photography weddingwire Fri, 08 Sep 2017 00:49:56 GMT
Alanna + Cole's Fort Foster Couples Session

Alanna and I met our senior year at the University of New Hampshire, when I answered her ad on a university facebook page looking for a roommate. And thus, I found myself moving into a small apartment with three other girls that I had met all but once. I met Alanna's boyfriend, Cole, shortly after moving in. Cole didn't go to UNH, but he often came to visit Alanna on the weekends, and sometimes even during the week. Of everything I remember about them from that time, what stands out the most is how much they laughed while making dinner together. They're two adventurous, down-to-earth, creative people, and they are both filled to the brim with love. 

Alanna has always had an interest in photography, her father being an avid photographer himself. But a few months ago, Alanna expressed an interest to me in breaking into the wedding photography business. Of course, one of the most crucial elements when breaking into this line of work is building up your portfolio as much as possible. So, we grabbed our boyfriends, dressed them up, and decided to collaborate on a couples shoot. The four of us met at Fort Foster Park in Kittery, Maine, and spent an hour going back and forth shooting each other. This is the first shoot I've done like this - bouncing back and forth between being the photographer and the subject - and I can't express how incredibly fun it was. 

Going through the photos afterwards, the visual placeholder of Alanna and Cole's love really struck a cord within me. I recently posted a photo of them on instagram with a caption expressing this sentiment, but I'll leave it as well, to resonate with you as you look through the final product of the shoot. 

Love has a way of both taking your breath away, and giving you oxygen to breathe, all at once. People were never created to be singular beings. We are not meant to be alone. Not even the garden of Eden was enough for Adam - he needed Eve. It really doesn't matter what happens to you in this life, you can take on anything. Love will always be on your side. And moments like this one - moments filled with joy, and silliness, and laughter, and most of all, love - these are the marrow of life.


(Claire Cortese Photography) blog bride couple engagement photography engagement photos engagement ring fort foster groom love maine new hampshire new hampshire photographer photo photographer photography portrait portrait photography relationship wedding Mon, 24 Jul 2017 20:31:49 GMT
Marco + Melissa's Mystic River Maternity

IT'S A GIRL! I met with Melissa and Marco on a sunny summer day for a maternity session. We walked around the Mystic River State Reservation in Medford, MA, stopping at several locations along the way. At 39 weeks pregnant, Melissa's due date was just a week after the date of our session! Despite being so far along in her pregnancy, she was energetic and a real trooper as we walked around the park in the hot sun. And a few days later - just short of Melissa's due date - Melissa and Marco's beautiful baby daughter, Liliana, arrived early!  

(Claire Cortese Photography) baby blog boston dad love massachusetts maternity maternity photo maternity photography mom mom to be parent parents photo photo blog photographer photography photography blog portrait portrait photography pregnancy pregnant Wed, 19 Jul 2017 14:54:21 GMT
Carl and Shraya's Boston Arboretum Springtime Engagement Session


I met with Carl and Shraya in late May to shoot engagement photos for them at the Boston Arboretum. With the lilacs in full bloom and the park draped in greenery, this session turned out to be quite the springtime session. 

Before I met with them, Shraya shared a little bit of her and Carl's story with me:

"Carl and I met nine years ago when we were in the same undergraduate dorm in our freshman year. After that, we were best friends for five years, and have been dating just over four years now! We are both pretty introverted, but also pretty goofy. We like to explore new places, travel, eat, hike, read, ...and bike -- pretty much everything! We have a crazy height difference - fifteen inches! Carl recently completed a PhD in computer science, and I work as a behavior therapist for children - so, pretty different careers, but we compliment each other well."

Working with a fifteen inch height difference between these two love birds was definitely a new challenge for me. But the shoot actually went easily and smoothly, and Shraya and Carl quickly relaxed in front of the camera. Everyone is always a little uncomfortable at first - for a lot of couples, it's their first time getting professional photos taken. But these two really focused on each other. and as a result, their unique quirks - and the goofiness that Shraya mentioned - finally started to surface. Each couple I work with is so different, but Carl and Shraya are so refreshingly unafraid to be themselves. They own who they are, and love each and every part of each other. Congratulations to these two on their engagement, after nine wonderful years of friendship and love together! 


(Claire Cortese Photography) blog blogger boston bride couple engaged engagement engagement photos engagement ring love massachussetts photo photographer photography photos portrait wedding Tue, 04 Jul 2017 01:41:09 GMT
Shelby & Jim's Belknap Mill Wedding


Shelby and Jim planned one hell of a superhero celebration of love. Their wedding was held at the Belknap Mill in Laconia, New Hampshire, on April 29th. The event was peppered with subtle hints of their superhero theme. The groomsmen sported ties, socks, and cufflinks of various superhero characters - The Hulk, Captain America, and Flash. Jim's details were all Batman themed - including a watch that Shelby gave to him as a wedding present. Shelby's electric blue shoes were quite a statement piece, and the adorable ring bearer wore a cape down the aisle. The flower girls, including Jim's youngest daughter Ava, had superman hair ribbons. The ceremony was held outside, at the gazebo, followed by a reception inside the mill. The wedding cake was fantastic - absolutely Pinterest worthy! Half superhero and half traditional, with a Batman cake topper. During the reception, they held a special father/daughter dance, during which Jim's two daughters, Ava and Mackenzie, danced with him and Shelby's father. 

Their celebration was filled with laughter, love, and lots of happy, dancing little kids! At nine hours, this is the longest wedding I have shot to date. And man oh man, the weight of my new kit took a toll on me! I spent most of the time shooting with a D810, Nikon 24-300 3.5, and a Speedlight SB910. With the combined weight of the massive lens and the large flash on top of the camera body, my tiny arms were really feeling the burn. I spent the following two weeks with my right hand in a wrist brace! But I can say with a full and happy heart that this was by far one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a photographer as yet. Having shot Shelby's and Jim's engagement photos back in January, I can say that I came to know these two beautiful people, and their two wonderful daughters, fairly well. Photographer/client relationships are one of the most complicated dynamics - the photographer is taken into a couple's life to capture some of their most important and intimate moments. It's a delicate and beautiful process. And with Shelby and Jim, I finally experienced that part of my profession to a greater extent. 


(Claire Cortese Photography) band belknap blog bridal bride dress engagement groom hampshire love mill new nh photo photographer photography ring rings wedding Mon, 26 Jun 2017 21:46:55 GMT
Florida Portraits with Maria Tiano


I spent the month of March down on the west coast of Florida, visiting family. While I was down there, a good friend of mine, Maria Tiano, came down to visit me for a week. As a fellow creative, Maria and I always enjoy embarking on photo adventures. We went out to Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island for a day. It was a particularly windy day, so we had a quick session on the beach, and then headed for cover. As we explored the island, we came across some beautiful shoot spots - a jungle corridor that leads onto the beach, an old Spanish-style church, and the ever famous Banyan Street. It was a pretty perfect day for a shoot - and I'm thrilled with the results. All the photos of myself were of course taken by Maria. 

We used a Nikon D810 equipped with a 50mm lens for the shoot. I edited using a mix of Lightroom India Earl Presets, 1 & 2. 


(Claire Cortese Photography) adventure blog florida model nikon photo photographer photography portrait portraiture session soulmate travel Mon, 24 Apr 2017 20:37:01 GMT
January 2017: Ireland, Part 1: The Ring of Kerry & Dingle

The last leg of our Europe trip in January was spent in Ireland. Brad and I stayed in the Temple Bar district. Our hotel was actually above an apparently very popular TGI Friday's, which I found hilarious. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed Dublin. The lively Temple Bar streets were entertaining on certain nights, as there was more than enough people watching to do. But overall, Dublin was uninspiring to me. Though I must admit that we didn't spend much time exploring the city - we mostly embarked on excursions to the countryside via Paddywagon Tours. The first of which was to the Ring of Kerry and Dingle. We awoke before dawn, navigated the now quiet streets in the early morning darkness, and waited at the meeting place to be picked up by our guide. Killarney National Park was our first stop. We had just twenty minutes to wander off the bus into the woods, but I was pleasantly delighted by what we discovered. The forest had a mystical feel to it. Everything, everything, everything was green. The trees were covered in vines and moss. Torc Waterfall reminded me a bit of the waterfalls that can be found back home, hiking through the White Mountains. I imagine it's the kind of place where fairytales are set. The only disappointment is that we did not have more time there. 

We then moved on to Muckross House and gardens, a 19th century estate with an expanse of fields, gardens, and woods to explore. Red Deer tracks littered the sodden grounds. 

Now, I've heard about the wild Irish sea, but never actually seen it. But finally getting to experience it in person, I understand where the reputation comes from. The beach in Dingle was raw, with far reaching waves on one side and dried winter brush on the other. The beach was sparsely populated, but a few surfers peppered the water here and there. It felt like a place where you go to wash yourself clean. Not necessarily in the ocean, but just by the very nature of the beach itself. A place that is so vast and grand that you can feel yourself taking a new kind of breath as you step out onto the sand. After a short twenty minutes, we hopped back onto the bus, drove along the Atlantic coast for a while, and then turned inland back towards Dublin. 







(Claire Cortese Photography) adventure blog britain cliffs europe great ireland kingdom moher of photo photographer photography story travel traveler united wanderlust writer Sun, 16 Apr 2017 18:51:44 GMT
January 2017: Edinburgh It's been a few years since I fell in love with a city. Florence and Rome stole my heart a few years ago, but since then, my explorations have failed to ignite the same passions for any such locations. Though I greatly enjoyed Denia on the coast of Spain, it felt much more like a lively Mediterranean seaport, than a historic European city.

To be honest, as I was riding the airlink bus in from the airport, I wasn't much impressed with Edinburgh from my first glimpses of the city. The bus came thrown the new city, and it looked much like London or Dublin - both cities that are disappointingly similar to American cities. But the bus stopped at Waverley station - basically the portal between the old city and the new - it sits on a bridge and divides the two worlds. Brad and I hopped in a cab, and were brought onto the other side of Edinburgh. For what it's worth, though cabs are not the cheapest form of public transportation, you'll sometimes get lucky, and end up with a driver who will give you a quick tour and historic background of the city while you're on your way to your destination. Unfortunately, I had more than a little trouble understanding Scottish accents, so a lot of information was lost on me. 

We stayed in Grassmarket, in the appropriately named Grassmarket Hotel. The hotel was quite exquisite - with a bottle of complimentary Prosecco, and an interactive map on the wall of each room to help you plan out your time in Edinburgh. The first floor of rooms, however, sit directly above Biddy Mulligan's, an Irish pub. As much as I loved the hotel, I would not recommend that anyone stay on the first floor, unless you're a particularly heavy sleeper. While the hotel is actually impressively soundproofed for noise coming from the outside, unfortunately, it doesn't block sound coming from the inside of the building. And each night, live music is played in the pub downstairs from 10pm - 1am. It radiates throughout the ground and first floor. Thus, the next morning, Brad and I moved to a higher floor, and slept peacefully for the rest of our stay. 

We made the most of our few short days in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, we spent a sizable chunk of one day bouncing from medical center to medical center, trying to find somewhere that would take a walk in so late in the day. It had been a week since I had been attacked by a dog in Spain, and I needed to get my stitches removed. Luckily, my British citizenship grants me free healthcare, so the process - once we found someone who would actually accept me without an appointment - was relatively easy. 

We spent the rest of our time wandering the streets, ambling up and down the Royal Mile, and exploring Edinburgh castle. We even indulged in the touristy guilty pleasure of embarking on a ghost bus tour, which was hilariously entertaining. Sometimes, I find exploring a city by night is so much more revealing than exploring it by day. I always seem to get a better feeling for the true essence of the city - its history and grandeur. We first visited Edinburgh castle at night, and it was quite a marvelous sight. Returning the next day, I found that its allure had worn off ever so slightly. It's as if the city comes alive at night, revealing parts of itself that are kept hidden in the harsh light of day. 

I finally came around to trying haggis, and was pleasantly surprised. I'll say this - it's much easier to stomach than black pudding. Neither have particularly appetizing contents, but as far as taste and texture goes, I'd take haggis over black pudding any day. I was sad to leave the city, feeling that our time there had been cut far too short. I would have loved to be able to venture out into the highlands and see the countryside. Alas, a different adventure for another time, I suppose. 


(Claire Cortese Photography) adventure blog blogger edinburgh europe photo photographer photography scotland travel traveler wanderlust Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:37:02 GMT
January 2017: The Coast Of Spain Five and a half hours across the Atlantic, Brad and I landed in London in early January for our two and a half week trip. We stayed in London for only one night, until our flight the following day to Alicante, Spain. In our exhausted, jet-lagged state, the staff at the Tophams Hotel took pity on us, and managed to have our room ready within an hour of our arrival. The hotel was just a ten minute walk from Buckingham Palace, so we made the most of our evening by taking a stroll there and then grabbing dinner at a local pub. I stuffed my face with a delicious steak and ale pie, which reminded me of all the English food I had been missing since I last visited Britain years ago. 

The next day, we set off for Alicante, where I finally got to see my close friend, Fibby, for the first time in four years. She picked us up from the airport and we made the hour long journey from Alicante airport to Denia - a small coastal city that serves as the closest port to Ibiza. It was dark when we landed, so we made the drive back in total darkness - unfortunately unable to see the Spanish mountains that lined the highway. 

But the next morning, Denia revealed itself to us, and I can easily say that I would be quite happy to live there. It's not a city by any American standards, which suited me just fine. And after leaving frigid New England temperatures, this Mediterranean coastal wonder quickly came to feel like paradise. 

But travel doesn't always go smoothly and according to plan. Our second morning in Spain, that concept became glaringly clear to me. We woke up around noon (as people tend to do in Spain), and I slipped into Fibby's room to say good morning. She lay on the bed with her two dogs - Mia, a Pitbull/Lab mix, and Poncho, a Bernese Mountain Dog. And here, I made an error in judgment. I got on the bed and crawled towards Fibby to sit next to her.

I don't remember Poncho lunging at me, I just remember laying on my back a few seconds later, my hand grasping my face. He had attacked me, and bitten my face. Fibby rushed around the apartment, dealing with the dogs and frantically preparing to take me to the hospital, while Brad tried to keep me conscious. I vaguely remember sitting on the bed, with blood all over my hands. I was more scared than I had ever been in my entire life. We were turned away by a public Spanish hospital, and my nightmare only seemed to grow darker. But they then took me to a private hospital, where I was finally treated. Nobody spoke much in the way of English, so Fibby did most of the communicating. I picked up bits and pieces of what was going on, but felt largely like a terrified foreigner in a foreign world. 

Luckily, the damage was minimal - there were a few puncture holes in my cheek, and the right side of my mouth had been ripped open about a third of an inch. I had four or five stitches in total - I wasn't keeping count as the Spanish-speaking doctors stuck needles into my face in various spots. The right side of my face was covered by bandages for several days afterwards, so I never actually got to see the damage until almost a week later, when I finally took the bandages off. 

Needless to say, this wasn't the kind of hiccup that we were expecting on our trip. I spent a few days resting, with a swollen face, an angry tetanus shot, and a whole bunch of antibiotics and pain medication. The shock of what had happened had me severely rattled for a few days. But we slowly started to venture out again - Fibby took us to a little restaurant on the water, and we gorged ourself on tapas. We drove over a mountain with dangerously narrow and winding roads to see the neighboring seacoast city of Javea. My love for the Spanish seacoast had not been shaken by the incident, and the Mediterranean climate, as always, served as a breath of fresh air. 

We stayed in Spain longer than we had intended to, so I could return to the hospital a few days later to get my sutures checked. And then, after I was cleared to fly, we set off for Scotland. 



(Claire Cortese Photography) adventure europe photo photographer photography spain travel traveler wanderlust Sat, 18 Feb 2017 21:42:21 GMT
Anna & Lazaro Portland Winter Wedding Anna and Lazaro are truly something special. Living in Portland, ME, they own Danza Latina together, a dance company in which they teach Latin Dance to adults. I have never met such a fiery, passionate couple in my whole life. They met in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where Lazaro was a dance instructor, and Anna was his student. "This is how we started to fall in love," Anna told me,  "...under the rhythms of hot Salsa and passionate bachata. 8 months later, I had to move to the USA, and then he decided to move here after me. Now we are working together and trying to bring our love of Latin dance to Mainers."

It takes real guts and some serious undying love to get married outside in Portland, Maine, in the middle of December. Anna approached me in the fall, originally with plans to get married at Portland city hall. But shortly after we began planning for the shoot on her and Lazaro's big day, we ran into a roadblock - the room they had intended to book for the ceremony was already reserved. If there's anything I've learned working in the wedding industry so far, it's that nothing ever goes perfectly according to plan. You have to be able to think on your feet. 

So with the room already booked, Anna and Lazaro decided to opt for a quick outdoor ceremony at the Eastern Promenade. It was 20 degrees fahrenheit, with a serious windchill factor. But Anna, Lazaro, their two witnesses, All In 1 Weddings, and I all stood outside and braved the freezing temperatures to celebrate their love. After the ceremony, we stopped by city hall to pick up the marriage certificate, and then I whisked the newly weds away for an extended bridal shoot. By the end of the first leg of the bridal session at Deering Park, my fingers were so numb, I couldn't even feel myself pressing down on the shutter button. Lazaro was equally as freezing. Anna, however, was wearing thermal leggings under her wedding dress, and opted for Uggs instead of heels on her big day - you may spot a glimpse of them peeking out from under the ballgown in a few of the shots. Despite the cold, both of them were in high spirits, and I got a first glimpse of the true chemistry between them as they began to dance in the park. For the final shoot location, we drove down to the Portland Head Light. 

With Anna's family in back in Russia, and Lazaro's in Cuba, the couple held a small reception at Casa Fiesta, and invited just a handful of their dance students. It was a lively, wonderful evening, celebrated with Latin dance and food. 

The day was, by far, my most challenging shoot to date. Dealing with the cold outside for much of the day took a toll both on me, and my equipment. But it was incredibly rewarding - capturing the kind of passion that Anna and Lazaro have together is a rare privilege, one that I will never take for granted. 


(Claire Cortese Photography) bride engagement photography engagement photos groom love photo photography wedding wedding photographer wedding photography Thu, 02 Feb 2017 16:27:23 GMT
Jon & Fabi's Museum Proposal and Boston Common Engagements Working with Jon and Fabiola was truly an incredible experience. These two people have such a real, genuine love story. When I asked Jon to tell me about his relationship with Fabi, he said: "'s been a love that I never thought existed. Something stronger than I've ever experienced. It's intense and amazing...She is everything to me...We don't want to waste anymore time without each other. It's crazy...We know we're loyal and committed, but we want more... We want that union. Definitely that "when you know,  you know" scenario."

Originally from Chicago, Jon planned to propose in late September, while they were on vacation in Boston. For this wonderful couple, I made a special exception, and laid in wait for the moment that Jon was ready. So I stayed on-call for several days, waiting for a text from Jon to say "today's the day!", at which point I would spring in to action and head to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where Jon planned to propose. Finally, a few days into their trip, I got the green light from Jon in the morning. I packed up my gear, went to the museum, and hid behind a gated section that was branching off from the main corridor surrounding the courtyard. I watched and waited, and eventually Jon and Fabi rounded the corner, and as they came into the center arch, Jon turned to her and dropped down to one knee. Being in a museum, I couldn't use flash - but the resulting silhouetting gave the photos a much more romantic essence anyway. 

A few days later, I met Jon and Fabi at Boston Common for their engagement session on a sunny, albeit windy fall day. After spending just ten minutes with these two, it's clear as day how in love they are - and it shows in the photos. After spending some time in the Common, we made our way over to the historic Acorn Street, where we finished the session. I've been dying to do a shoot at Acorn Street, and I'm so glad that when I finally had the chance, it was with Jon and Fabi. 

Working with Jon and Fabi was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had yet. Getting to witness such an intimate, emotional moment between a couple is truly a privilege, but Jon and Fabi's powerful love made it so much more special. Jon and Fabi - I wish you all the best! 

(Claire Cortese Photography) acorn street blog blogger boston engaged engagement engagement photography engagement photos engagement ring groom love new hampshire nh photo photographer photography proposal wedding wedding photographer wedding photography Tue, 15 Nov 2016 17:08:58 GMT
Brian & Prema's White Mountains Proposal

Brian and I spent weeks planning the proposal - between choosing a picture-perfect location, tracking the weather and even making sure that Prema was standing at the right angle for the proposal shot.

After a few minutes of letting the moment sink in, we had an engagement session right there on the trail in the White Mountains. They came prepared with their own props, which added their own unique personality to their engagement photos. In anticipation of the question that she knew was coming sometime soon, Prema had painted a beautiful card depicting a proposal scene - on the inside, it read "I said yes!". They also brought roses, bubbles, and a small book. Adding their own unique touches really created a personal feel in these photos.

Driving up to the White Mountains to capture this special moment between these two wonderful people was definitely a new and exciting experience for me. Even with other hikers passing by, I loved working within the quiet intimacy of the woods.



(Claire Cortese Photography) bride engagement photography engagement photos engagement ring groom love nh photo photographer photography relationship wedding Wed, 26 Oct 2016 20:14:40 GMT
Cam & Hei Keu's September City Hall Wedding I think September is one of the best months for shooting weddings. Maybe I'm biased by my love of everything and anything that has to do with the fall season, but I mean...what's not to love? The sweltering summer heat has died down, but it's still warm enough to spend the whole day adventuring outside, and many of the flowers and greenery are still alive and kickin'. And so, I was extremely excited to kick off my fall season with Cam and Hei Keu - a wonderful Thai couple from Albany, NY, who made the road trip over to New Hampshire to get married. September 16th, we started off the day by meeting at Wagon Hill Farm, in Durham, NH where the light was p-e-r-f-e-c-t for a morning engagement session. I have been dying to do an engagement session at Wagon Hill Farm for ages, and these two could not have been more fun to work with! Hei Keu came prepared with a big sunflower, and as we roamed through the expansive grounds of Wagon Hill Farm, she picked wild flowers to create her own mini bouquet. On more than one occasion, we were photobombed by the various dogs that people were walking off-leash throughout the park. 

Following the engagement session, we headed over to the gardens at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH, for the bridal shoot. Talk about flowers! This place was like a mini fairytale land. I went nuts for all the colors, and they complimented the floral design on the upper half of Hei Keu's gorgeous, form-fitting wedding dress wonderfully. Cue yet another photobomb by a friendly dog going for a stroll at the park - but that old girl was a total natural in front of the camera. 

Finally, we finished off the afternoon with an intimate ceremony at the Manchester, NH city hall. Only close family attended. It was a relaxed and rewarding day - I love getting to work one-on-one in intimate sessions with couples on their wedding day. The feeling of excitement and love that fills the day is one of the many reasons that I enjoy my job so much. 


(Claire Cortese Photography) bridal portraits bride engaged engagement photographer engagement photography engagement photos engagement ring groom love marriage married photo photography portrait portraits wedding wedding ceremony wedding photographer wedding photography Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:37:10 GMT
Beth and Nate's August Waltham Wedding It's hard to believe that I shot my first wedding just over a month ago. Since then, I have learned SO much, expanded my business, worked with some of my first big clients, and gone on to shoot weddings solo. A huge thank you to Morgan O'neil Photography for entrusting in me to be her second shooter for Beth and Nate's wedding on August 6th at the Charles River Industrial Museum in Waltham, MA. Here's a few favorites from my very first wedding shoot! 


(Claire Cortese Photography) boston bride engagement ring groom nikon photo photography summer summer wedding wedding wedding photographer wedding photography Mon, 19 Sep 2016 19:24:11 GMT
Kyle and Lilah's Proposal and Engagements This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of being able to capture Kyle proposing to his girlfriend Lilah in the middle of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in the north end of Boston. The park was packed with people on the sunny Saturday afternoon, and several onlookers cheered and whistled when Kyle dropped a knee and Lilah accepted. Being present for such an intimate moment in a couple's life is a truly special experience. Their engagement session was shot throughout the greenway.

Of their three year relationship, Kyle said: "In those three years we really have been through the kind of things that test some relationships that have been around for a while. We have been able to get through some really tough times together and enjoy some amazing adventures...We love living together and enjoying life together, taking trips, getting breakfast on the weekends, being with friends and family. I must say she truly is a blessing and I would probably not be who I am today if she had not been in my life."


(Claire Cortese Photography) couple engaged engagement engagement photography engagement photos engagement ring in love love photo photographer photography photos proposal wedding Wed, 31 Aug 2016 22:08:17 GMT
5 Reasons Why A Hammock Could Be The Best Thing You'll Ever Buy Hammocking off the trail of Bald Knob, Moultonborough, New Hampshire


About a year ago, I bought my very first hammock. I was looking for a way to comfortably enjoy being in nature, without actually having to sit on the ground with the plethora of bugs that happen to inhabit the great outdoors. And boy, did I find it. I bring my hammock absolutely everywhere with me now - hiking, the beach, the park, even abroad!

Hammocks come in single or double occupancy, and can hold up to 400 pounds. After shopping around a bit, I chose a double occupancy hammock from Grand Trunk. Eagle Nest Outfitters is another great and very popular hammock company, however I chose Grand Trunk because their products are a little bit more affordable, and I read multiple reviews from other customers who were very pleased with their exceptional customer service.

Hammocks have become a blooming commodity in the travel and outdoor adventure community, and with good reason. It was the best $60 I have ever spent. Here’s why:


  1. They’re COMFORTABLE

For me, the only thing that tops being out in nature is being in my bed. Because let’s be honest – what’s the most comfortable place in the world? Your bed, duh. Now imagine combining the two – you can be in nature, AND you can be comfortable! You can’t exactly drag a mattress out into the woods with you, or lug a foldable chair whenever you go hiking. But you CAN bring a hammock, because they are both lightweight and compact. Hammocks weigh only about two pounds, and fit into a sack that is roughly the size of a pineapple. And boy, are these babies comfortable! I like to go for walks in the woods, and I always bring my hammock and end up reading out there for hours! Napping in a hammock is about as good as it gets when you’re on the go, and the double occupancy hammock very comfortably fits both me and my boyfriend.

Hammocking on the beach in Nassau, Bahamas!

  1. They’re EASY

Despite what some may assume, hammocks are actually incredibly easy to set up. I’m no boy scout, but it takes me less than five minutes to unpack my hammock and hook it up between a couple trees. The whole set up is really only the hammock, two carabineers and a couple ropes. My hammock even came with the knots pre-tied! Woohoo! Taking down your hammock is just as easy as setting it up. There’s no aggravating folding or rolling – just stuff it into the sack and you’re good to go!


  1. They’re AFFORDABLE

My double hammock from Grand Trunk cost about $60 - a very reasonable one-time price for a lifetime of outdoor comfort. However, you can find hammocks for even cheaper than that! Single occupancy hammocks tend to be a little bit cheaper than double occupancy hammocks.

Camped out in the college woods of Durham, New Hampshire for the day.

  1. They’re COLORFUL

Hammocks come in all kinds of fun colors, patterns and designs, so you’re sure to find something that suits your own personal style, whatever that may be – Rastafarian, neon, rainbow – you name it. You can even hang out in the American flag, if you want to.

OneMade American Flag HammockAvailable from Grand Trunk for $99.99


  1. They’re DURABLE and RELIABLE

I will never stop enjoying the shocked look on a person’s face when they see just how well my hammock holds up. For people who haven’t experienced the joy of hammocking yet, I can understand how there might be some skepticism. Every time I pull my flimsy hammock out of the stuff sack and set it up, my companion often delivers a reaction along the lines of “Will that hold you? Is it safe?” Well, yes actually. Want to climb in here with me? It’ll hold both of us! Hammocks are made out of incredibly durable and reliable parachute nylon, and they’re made to last.



(Claire Cortese Photography) adventure camp camping camping essentials eno explore grand trunk hammock hammocking hike hiking nature outdoor life outdoors travel travel essentials travel tips wanderlust Tue, 28 Jun 2016 20:46:30 GMT
The Sleep App that EVERY Traveler Needs Travel can be absolutely miserable if you're sleep-deprived. And whether you're crashing in a hostel or decked out at the Four Seasons, sometimes you just don't get restful sleep when you're on the road. I once visited the beautiful ruins of Pompeii while studying abroad in Italy one summer. A lover of old ancient cities, you'd think that I would've been overjoyed to explore the ruins for a day. Unfortunately, I was exhausted and beyond grouchy all day, because I had only a few hours of sleep before. Because of that, my memories of Pompeii are pretty negative, and I doubt I'll ever go back.

Why was I so sleep deprived? Well, I happen to be one of those people that can't sleep without some kind of white noise on in the background all night. The main function of it is to drown out other sounds that might wake you up in the night. And when you're traveling, there can be plenty of that. Rowdy hotel guests returning to their rooms in the middle of the night, yelling in the hallway and slamming their doors. City sirens, car horns, clanging pipes, rowdy college kids partying long into the night, you name it. So I started using air conditioners and fans for white noise at night so I could fall asleep. But you can't exactly lug an air conditioner with you every time you go on a road trip or hop on an airplane.

(For more insight on why white noise helps us sleep, check out this information from the National Sleep Foundation.)

A few years ago, I discovered a handy little device called the Dohm sound machine. This circular machine weighs just two pounds, has two settings and a couple sliding parts that allow you to adjust the volume of the sound it makes. It sounds just like a fan. You can grab one off of Amazon for about $50.


For a while, I carried the Dohm around with me. But it became a problem when I went to Italy, as I found that it's wattage did not take well to European conversions...long story short, I unplugged it the first night in my hotel room when it got hot as hell and started to give off a smokey smell. Oops. If you're only traveling within the States, then there's no problem. Except even the Dohm seemed to become a hassle to lug around, especially with air travel. Despite it's small size, it still takes up a lot of suitcase space, especially in a carry-on. And after a while, the few extra pounds are definitely felt. After taking it on a few trips, I started to get sick of carrying it around. A few times I forgot to pack it for road trips, and wouldn't realize it until I got to my destination. That was a HUGE bummer. So - the Dohm is great for home, especially if you're looking to block out background noise like sirens, car horns, music, nocturnal animal sounds, talking...really anything at all. I still love the device, and I use it every single night at home. But after one of those countless times laying awake in the middle of the night because I forgot to pack the Dohm for a road trip, I decided enough was enough.

I turned to my trusty friend the app store for a solution, and it turns out that there are several different FREE sound apps available. I downloaded all of them, and tested each one. The winner? Relax Melodies by a company called Ipnos Soft.

On the free version of the app, it has a whopping 52 different sounds for you to choose from. The app lets you mix and match, playing multiple sounds at once and altering each one's volume level. My personal favorite is "heavy rain" - it provides the perfect amount of consistent white noise without being abrasive. The app has a huge variety of different sounds, including different versions of ocean waves and rain, birds, pianos, and even city ambience if you're a city dweller who's traveled to a quiet rural area and can't fall asleep without your usual street sounds in the background.

I did receive one complaint from a friend, who claims that when her phone screen eventually shuts off and returns to lock mode, the sound shuts off too. Simple fix - make sure you turn your screen off yourself, instead of letting it go off by itself.

Overall - I LOVE this app, and I'll never have to worry about a sleepless night or poorly utilized luggage space while on the road ever again.

(Claire Cortese Photography) advice app apps article iphone sleep sound technology travel travel advice travel tips wanderlust Wed, 15 Jun 2016 16:37:28 GMT
Social Media Tunnel Vision


Every time we look down at our phones, we look away from someone’s face. We substitute a real interaction with a virtual one. Our society is so deeply transfixed by the technological realm that the extraction from such an obsession seems almost impossible. It’s almost like everyone has wandered into a dark tunnel, and don’t care to find their way out. That dark tunnel is constructed by social media, and it’s blocking us from truly seeing and experiencing the real world around us, rather than the virtual one.

That virtual world, the world of Instagram likes, Facebook stalking, and retweets, has sucked the life out of human interaction and become a toxic parasite within each of us that gives in to it. Eye contact has become a foreign entity that is avoided at all costs. We as a people have developed an aversion to each other. We do not make eye contact or pleasant chitchat on the subway, we dread the thought of sitting next to a Chatty Cathy on an airplane. We prefer Facebook stalking as a method of getting to know someone more than an actual conversation with the person. People have lost the ability to comfortably be within themselves without filling every empty minute with piles of social information.


In 2014, the summer after my sophomore year of college, I studied abroad in Italy for five weeks. I lived in an apartment in the heart of Florence with six other female students from all over the United States. Penny was from New York. Shameen was from Boston. Christiana was from Georgia. Catherine was from Texas and Laura was from Kentucky, but they both went to the University of Alabama together. Jamie was from Wisconsin.

Before I left for Italy, I went through the process of upgrading my cellphone to an iPhone 5S specifically so I could use it overseas. But as I found, unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi, you can’t use any applications that would usually require cellular data – including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or most other apps for that matter. The cost of texting was astronomical unless you waited for Wi-Fi connection to use iMessage or apps like WhatsApp. That being said, Wi-Fi is slim throughout many parts of Italy. It can be found sparingly within restaurants, bars, cafes, and hotels. The only reliable location with Wi-Fi connection was in our apartment in Florence. As a result, my iPhone, instead of being a wonderbox smart machine, was mostly just a regular phone used to call people.

I had to fly across an ocean to realize that we are quickly losing the affinity to look each other in the eye, to have a raw human connection with someone devoid of cell phones and smart devices, and because of this, we are losing the ability to truly be happy. People pay less attention to what is physically in front of them, and more attention to the screen in front of them. As we’re looking down at our phones, we’re missing our own lives passing us by in front of our noses.

We spent our first night in Italy at the Hotel Astoria, a four-star hotel in the center of Florence with huge cathedral ceilings and marble pillars. The hotel housed dozens of us who had just arrived for the program; many of whom had never been to Italy before - including myself. For most of our very first afternoon in Italy, we all sat amongst couches and on the floor of the hotel lobby, staring at our cellphones. The talk was largely limited to who had cellphone reception and who didn’t, and which corners of the hotel had the best Wi-Fi connection.


Instagram FeedA snippet of my extensive Instagram feed from the five weeks that I was posting photos of Italy

As our virtual interactions grow more expansive, our in-person relations whither to almost nothing. We need real connections, actual human relationships in order to experience the full weight and benefits of the pleasantries of another person’s company. Sharing photos on Facebook and tweeting at each other on Twitter is not the same as actually spending time together. The third weekend in Italy, I went to the Amalfi Coast with a group of friends. You had to pay for Wi-Fi at our hostel. Jamie from Wisconsin fell asleep in bed holding her phone above her face.

I am no innocent here – I have sold my soul to social media just like the rest of us. I feel like I’ve grown up on the edge of two worlds: pre- and post- social media. As a 90’s baby - before the age of iPads or the popularity of touchscreen phones - the first decade or so of my life was kept fairly pure of any and all social media; I spent my time building stick forts outside, catching frogs in ponds and rolling down hills. When I went to a restaurant with my parents, the main source of entertainment was building sculptural works of art out of my meals or having foot wars with my older brother. For the first decade of my life, I had no idea what the Internet was.


But during those five weeks in Italy, I skipped nights out to the bar, ditched dinner with my friends early and held back from going on site-seeing activities so I could make time to Skype with my boyfriend from back home in New Hampshire. I was acutely aware any time we entered a Wi-Fi zone throughout Italy, so I could pick up my phone and text him. I had a horrible case of tunnel vision; completely oblivious to the fact that as I stared down at my cellphone, I was missing out on the time of my life. I put so much effort into Instagramming, that I wasn’t even paying attention to what I was supposedly experiencing in said instagram posts. I spent five whole weeks living in Florence, and every day on my way to class, I walked past the Florence Cathedral. I never once went inside, but I posted plenty of photos of it on social media.


Florence, ItalyPosing for a photo next to the Florence Cathedral on my last night in Italy - during my five weeks living in Florence, I never once went inside the cathedral.

Thus, the latter half of my life has been a snowball of social media – Myspace, then Facebook, then eventually Formspring, Twitter, Tinder, Instagram, YikYak, Fade, Pinterest. Allow me to admit that in the past five years, it would not be far fetched to claim that I have spent more hours on social media sites in one sitting of a single day than I spend outside for an entire week. And I have felt the gradual effects, like everyone else who has caught the social media sickness. In such heavy doses, social media is a depressant.

We create false identities for ourselves online – false identities that we can never live up to. We fine-tune every post to curate the perfect life for others to see – to show how happy we are, how adventurous we are, how successful we are. And we forget that the person behind those posts is just a person – they have bad days, they have known loss, they can feel pain. The lives we display online are not real, but nevertheless, we see the “joy” had by other people, and we wish we could be as happy as them. You see a photo on Facebook of one of your friends smiling with their girlfriend or boyfriend, and you instantly wish that your relationship was as “perfect” as theirs. Nobody posts about the fights, the tears, the breakups.

When I went to study abroad in Italy the summer after my sophomore year of college, I flooded my Facebook and Instagram pages with updates on the amazing places I was going and the amazing things I was doing. But I never shared anything about how miserably homesick I was, how I counted the days until I could go home, or how I cut my trip two weeks short. All of my friends just saw that I was having an amazing time, and expressed how jealous they were. I wish I could have lived up to experience the happiness I was posting about on Facebook, but real life just doesn’t work that way.




(Claire Cortese Photography) abroad article college italy media obsession social social media study study abroad technology Wed, 08 Jun 2016 17:00:58 GMT
Your Body is a Battleground Before and after retouching, done with Adobe Photoshop. Notice the changes I made, which are common among the fashion industry - her eyes have been brightened, makeup applied, her teeth have been whitened, her arm and face have been thinned out. Her hair has been made to appear glossy, and lighting affects in photoshop have been applied to contour her face. The bra strap on her right shoulder has been erased.

The media holds an immeasurable amount of power in society. It dictates what we see and what we know; it forms ideas in our heads. This channel of information is flooded with images of “perfect” people, showing us what our bodies should supposedly look like. Magazine covers, Instagram posts, billboards and advertisements – everywhere we look, there are images; images of tall, gorgeous women with flawless bodies and perfect hair; images of men with perfectly sculpted, muscular bodies. After being exposed to these images for so long, people become envious; envious of their spotless, even skin, their shiny hair, their perfect figure, their perfect teeth. I’ll admit that I have fallen victim to the same green-eyed monster; I can’t count how many times I have aspired to look like the women I constantly see in the media. But here’s the problem with that: a lot of the people you see in those images don’t actually exist. Not in the way we see them, anyway. The models in those photos are often retouched to the point where their bodies are distorted to naturally unattainable ends. The problem affects both men and women – ideal body images are projected onto everyone. However, women tend to bare the greater brunt of the issue, as the female body has always been a battleground in society. The constant bombardment of unrealistic images in the media is largely responsible for the destruction of the greater female population’s self-esteem.


Allow me to take you through the process of retouching a photo in Adobe Photoshop, so you may understand just how drastic the transformation is. Anyone with a decent understanding of the software can accomplish this; it’s really not that hard. However, my point here is not to teach you how to retouch an image – it’s to make you realize just how extensive the process is to get from a photo of a model with a normal appearance, to the aliens you see on magazine covers.


First of all, light and color are corrected. This will probably involve adjusting the skin color of the model to look more “radiant.” Then, the spot healing brush and clone stamp tools are used to remove acne, wrinkles, stretch marks or any other imperfect blemishes. Next, the body and face is reshaped using something called the “warp” tool. This is when legs and arms are thinned out, waists are pulled in to look skinnier, faces are stripped of any features that are too round, and breasts are enhanced. It can also be used to make eyes and lips look bigger. Next, a simple brush and burn tool can be used to acquire that oh-so coveted contour effect on your face, as well as make your lips look fuller and glossier. These tools are also used to accentuate and digitally “tone” muscles, simply by casting fake shadows in specific places on the body. Cue the fake six-pack abdominal muscles. A simple adjustment of exposure can make the model’s eyes look brighter. Finally, a carefully calculated blur filter allows skin to be completely smoothed out, eliminating the body of any and all pores.


Today, women in the media are retouched to look as thin as possible, with tiny waists, long legs, large breasts and a shapely behind. Aspects such as glowing, flawless skin, shiny hair, and sparkling white teeth are also tossed into the equation. I don’t know how society decided that this was the ideal figure of womanhood, but somewhere along the way, this is what we ended up with. And these women – in magazines, on Instagram, in advertisements or wherever else – are praised for their beauty. After all, they are models. And if we take a closer look at that word, “model,” we’ll find the problem right there. The word “model” literally means “a standard of example for imitation or comparison.” Whether they’re movie stars or super models, they are publicly displayed as the standard of beauty to live up to. They are viewed as the most desirable women in the world. But the images of these “perfect” women that we see throughout the media have created an unrealistic model for all other women to aspire to.


Scarlett Johansson before and after retouching. Her skin and hair color have been completely changed, fake makeup has been applied to her eyelids, her eyes have been brightened, and her two freckles have been removed.


Upon seeing photos of these women – devoid of stretch marks, scars, fat rolls, under-eye bags, wrinkles, cellulite, or any other imperfections – we say to ourselves “Wow, she is so perfect.” And then we turn to look in the mirror, where we proceed to pinpoint every single aspect of our body and appearance that is perceived as a “flaw” by society. When we take a photo with our friends, our immediate response upon seeing the photo is to make a quick decision whether or not we look good or bad in the photo – does my face look too fat? My thighs look huge. My smile looks weird. My hair is messy. And we retake the photo. And retake and retake and retake, hoping that in one of those photos, we will appear as gorgeous as the women on the cover of magazines.


People tend to forget that the models in the media are not actually perfect. In fact, there’s no such thing as “perfect.” The people you see on the cover of magazines don’t actually exist. Nobody is completely devoid of any and all “flaws.” The human body is not made to look like a Barbie doll. Women, you are made of flesh, blood and bones. You are not made of plastic.


Women put themselves through psychological, emotional and physical hell trying to look like the models on magazine covers. We routinely practice lengthy beauty routines and apply pounds of make-up, suffocating the pores on our skin. We go through extensive, painful hair-removal procedures. Some women diet to try and get thinner, and then some fall victim to eating disorders.


A friend of mine recently received breast-enhancement surgery. She claimed that having a relatively flat chest made her feel unfeminine. “I don’t feel like a woman,” she told me. I supported my friend on her personal journey, but I do not support the society that made her believe that her flat chest was unfeminine. It is the same society that made her believe that beautiful is a synonym for “thin” or “skinny.” And it is the same society that caused her to struggle with anorexia for many years in the pursuit of being “beautiful.”


Kim Kardashian, before and after retouching. Notice that her waist, legs and arm have been slimmed, her skin smoothed over, and her face has been thinned out.


The reasons why women aspire to be physically beautiful are somewhat of a mystery. In the end, I think it comes down to something quite simple. Beautiful women are coveted. They are desired by men and envied by other women. Perhaps it is somewhat of a primal instinct, the want to be coveted by men. Or maybe it’s an idea that society has drilled into our brains for centuries: you must be beautiful in order to find a good husband; otherwise you’ll die an old shrew. The media has shaped not only women’s perception of beauty, but men’s as well. It creates an expectation in the male brain – they desire the gorgeous women they see in magazines. Those women are the “hottest,” the most attractive. They are the women that every man wants. They are the most coveted.


Carol Conaway, a professor in the Women’s Studies department at the University of New Hampshire, shared her view on the matter: “Men are attracted to the images of "perfect women" and begin to compare their partners to what they see in media. Media standards for "beauty" are shown to support various industries, such as the fashion, hair products, and sex worker industries. None of these industries serve to enhance womens' self-esteem and self-worth. In media products, there are no examples of realistic women.


To be fair, a few faces in the fashion industry have slowly started to make steps in the right direction. In 2014, Aerie, a lingerie branch of American Eagle, launched an ad campaign composed entirely of unretouched photos. Aerie released a statement saying that they were trying to “challenge supermodel standards.” The campaign is called Aerie Real, and has since grown into something of a movement, featuring real girls in all their glory – fat rolls and tattoos included.



Sports Illustrated recently released their annual swimsuit edition with “plus-sized” model Ashley Graham. The release created a lot of hype, as it is the first time Sports Illustrated has put a size 16 model on the cover. Many people believe that this is a major leap in the pursuit of a society that is geared more towards body-acceptance and self-love. Graham is a huge advocate for positive body image; however, a lot of controversy has stirred around the release of the cover. Though Graham publicly stated that she is completely unretouched in the photos, many people are unconvinced. Though it appears the overall shape of her body has not been altered, there is not a single stretch mark or inch of cellulite on her in site. In regards to being featured on the cover, Graham stated, “To actually be on the cover, I didn’t think that Sports Illustrated was going to take that risk. But right now what they are doing is they are setting the standard for what everybody else – magazines, designers, people in Hollywood, should be doing.”


I sat down with senior UNH student Sara Aybar and asked her about her thoughts on how women are portrayed in the media, and the affects it has on our society. She chimed in on the Sports Illustrated controversy. “It’s fantastic,” she told me. “It’s a giant step for women all over the globe. But when I see the photo – I also notice that she has no stretch marks, no scars from a scraped knee…no pores.” Both Sara and Graham are right – Sports Illustrated has taken a step in the right direction by featuring a model on the cover that is bigger than the size of a twig, and by allowing to Graham to flaunt the natural shape of her body. But we still have a long way to go.


Aybar shared with me her own personal struggle with body image: “When I was in sixth grade, a girl in my study hall turned around to me and said, ‘Wow. You really need to pluck your eyebrows.’ I’m Turkish, so yeah, I was naturally born with thick brows. I hadn’t thought too much about it before. After that comment, I started plucking my brows. I started pulling at them when I was nervous or excited – subconsciously trying to get rid of the ‘excess’ hairs, the imperfections. After years of doing this, my brows stopped growing naturally anymore. Now I fill in the spaces I pulled or plucked too hard and no longer grow back. To be honest, it makes me terribly sad that such a simple comment could encourage me to physically distort my natural image beyond repair.”


Now consider this for a moment – what exactly convinced that sixth grade girl that Sara’s eyebrows were too thick? The media, and the societal norms that it creates, are most likely at fault here. Thin, shapely eyebrows are one of the many aspects commonly portrayed in images of women in ads and magazines. Exposure to these images, even at such a young age, probably convinced this girl that eyebrows really are meant to be thin and shapely. Consequently, that belief implies that thick eyebrows are ugly or unfeminine. We can’t entirely blame the young girl for her view of how a body should be – like so many others, she was mislead by unrealistic depictions of women in the media.

In regards to the impact of excessive and early exposure, Professor Conaway commented, “these unrealistic images destroy women's self-confidence and self-satisfaction. Even young girls begin emulating these images when they are before the age of ten years old. If women don't have realistic role models they feel defeated and unworthy of praise or love.”


This issue affects people of all ages – young girls and senior citizens alike. The problem is widespread – women of every shape, size and age group are photoshopped for publication in the media. Thankfully, some women with powerful voices are speaking out – actresses Keira Knightley, Jennifer Lawrence, Jamie Lee Curtis, MMA fighter Rhonda Rousey, and super diva Beyonce have all refused to be retouched for magazines and ad campaigns at one point or another. They often release original, untouched photos to fight back against images that have been retouched without their consent. These celebrities understand the negative impact that exposure to unrealistic, retouched photos has on the women in our society.


Aybar left me with a powerful sentiment about the lengths to which women go through in the pursuit of being beautiful, “Shave. Wax. Trim. Cleanse. Wash. Paint. Pluck. Exfoliate. Moisturize. Curl. Straighten. Line. Fill. Color. Flatten. Tighten. Shrink. Stuff. Cover up. Fix. Adjust. Contour. Blend. Highlight. Matte. Gloss. Shimmer. Prep. Spray. Restore. Revive. Remove.


And after all of that, you still don’t look like the girl in the magazine.”


Well no, you still don’t look like the girl in the magazine, and you never will. Remember – she isn’t real. She is a fabrication of digital alteration. But you are real, and you are beautiful. And you are not beautiful despite whatever “flaws” you may have as dictated by society, you are beautiful because of every imperfection you have. Every scar, stretch mark, or blemish on your body makes you uniquely human. Your imperfections are beautiful, and so are you. Never let a magazine cover tell you otherwise.

(Claire Cortese Photography) beautiful beauty body body image fashion feminism magazine photography photoshop positive body image retouch society Sat, 04 Jun 2016 01:40:17 GMT