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Ashland photographer empowers women through her work | Features/Entertainment

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ASHLAND — On the floor of her Ashland studio, Jammie Adams used a brush to splash different colors of paint on 11-year-old Khloe. Although it is not the first time Adams has used art supplies to capture a shoot, she wanted to make sure Khloe’s story was heard through the colorful elements.

Owner and photographer of Sunshine Soul Photography, Adams was scrolling through Facebook when she came across her friend’s post. Khloe’s mom, Kortney, was addressing how her daughter, Khloe, was being bullied.

Kortney wrote, “For the last couple months, Khloe has been getting picked on by 2, sometimes 3, boys in her grade. Picked on/BULLIED! My 6th grade 11-year-old loves wearing rainbow t-shirts, necklaces and even pants. These boys have been calling her a lesbian, a supporter of the LGBT community, and ridiculous mean things.”

Kortney continued the post by explaining Khloe’s love for rainbows and how it connects to her little brother, Korbin. Kortney had a miscarriage before finding out she was pregnant with Korbin. Khloe would draw rainbows “like she knew” that Korbin was the family’s rainbow baby — a baby born after the loss of a child.

“Khloe is very bubbly. She loves everybody and is just a great kid. And then when I saw Kortney’s post, it broke my heart,” Adams said. “I immediately reached out to her to do a photo shoot with Khloe.”

Adams went to Target to grab anything rainbow-related she could find — signs, paint and props — to go along with Khloe’s collection.

“My whole business is built on doing photo shoots to build confidence and make you feel better,” Adams said. “Kortney read all the comments to Khloe after the photos were posted on Facebook. The comments were telling Khloe that she is loved and to not worry about what other people are saying to you at school and just kind of ignore it. The shoot was a lot of fun. We really, really enjoyed that.”

Finding inspiration

As Adams seeks new photo shoot ideas to empower women of all ages, she didn’t always know that what the direction her business would take.

When she started her business in May 2019, Adams primarily did photo shoots for families and couples, but she now realizes that her company name was inspired by a woman who empowered her — her grandma Jackie Mays.

Her grandmother lived in Florida when Hurricane Charley hit in 2004. When Mays returned to her home after the storm, she realized everything was destroyed except for a photo of Adams and her brother, James, with a frame that would play a recording of Adams singing , “You Are My Sunshine” — sunshine being a nickname for Adams.

“She said it wouldn’t stop playing even though everything in the house was destroyed,” Adams said. “She had to physically take the batteries out of it because it kept singing that song over and over and over again.”

Mays died in February 2015.

Intimate photography

Once Adams began offering boudoir shoots — a French description for intimate photography — there was a huge demand in the area. With no space to go except for renting local Airbnbs, Adams opened her own studio at the Camayo Arcade in October 2020 and later rented another studio right across the hall.

“It was scary because you know I have to buy everything for the studio. And we were in the middle of a pandemic. I was terrified to open something,” Adams explained. “But it’s kind of just really taken off from there. And I’m extremely surprised by how fast I’ve grown, because I didn’t think that it would be this quick.”

As Adams has a love for Halloween, she began to get creative with the holiday and her new studio.

Before she started providing boudoir sessions, Adams used a skeleton — named Sunshine Bones by her daughter — with Halloween decorations, lingerie and a camera. She dressed the skeleton and moved it in traditional boudoir poses and shared the images on social media. She woke up to thousands of shares and comments, and the post has now reached over 5,600 shares on Facebook and almost 2,000 likes.

The community reacted positively to the photo shoot, and she began to get a following in the community and internationally. A Sweden news website, La Vie en C, wrote about the shoot.

A month later, Adams decided to do her first boudoir shoot.

“Boudoir wasn’t really common around here. I really didn’t have much idea as to what it was until I had my friend reach out and say, ‘Hey, let’s do these,’” Adams said.

Customer options

Over the past year and a half, Adams has offered photo shoot packages with her makeup artists Arizona Kearns and Taylor Mcknight, and her hairstylists Ashley Parker and Kortney Walters. The photo shoots include the choice of clothing, from hundreds of different lingerie pieces from size extra-small to 5X, robes and wigs.

Adams recommends clients get the full package to completely enjoy the experience and to see themselves in a new way.

“I would say probably 90 percent of the people in here use what I have to offer because they just don’t want to go through the trouble of trying to figure it out on their own. Plus it’s just a relaxing and an empowering day where they don’t have to do much of anything. We are here for them,” Adams said.

To allow her clients to be involved with new orders — some who have had several photo shoots with Adams — she will do Facebook Live sessions in a group chat while she unboxes the order.

As a way of limiting the number of intimate photos on her main page and to allow her clients to share their own experience with the boudoir photos, Adams started a private group chat with over 7,500 members.

“I have people who aren’t really comfortable posting their lingerie shoots publicly. My group is 100 percent women. I post them there because that just feels like it’s more of a private thing. A lot of girls don’t even want to post it there and they just want them for themselves, which I’m totally fine with,” Adams said. “You are posing basically half-nude in front of a stranger, and a lot of girls are super nervous.”

The group allows clients to post their own photos and share their experiences — which are sometimes life-changing, according to Adams.

“I always encourage others to post their own sessions and tell others about their experience, because it just is better than me posting it because then others can see, ‘OK, it’s not that bad,'” Adams said.

Variety of reactions

In the intimate setting, clients experience different reactions to the shoot.

Adams said she noticed one girl broke out in hives while getting ready. After talking about the process, the client was ready and even wanted to do another shoot after the first. Clients of Adams have cried due to stress or as a reaction to their makeup, and one client threw up in the parking lot before her shoot.

“They realize it’s not as bad as what it seems to be. Because like I said, in there it’s like you’re posing half-naked in front of somebody that you don’t know,” Adams said. “But a lot of people don’t understand, too, that I don’t look at boudoir as just with lingerie.”

Clients sometimes wear large sweaters or their significant other’s favorite piece of clothing. Adams said the shoot is simply about “what makes you feel good and confident.”

The photo shoot is a physical job for Adams, as she gets into the same poses to help. She is sometimes standing on items or lying on the ground to take the perfect photo.

The second studio she rents is fully remodeled, with the help of her husband, who is a contractor, and includes a walk-in closet, a vanity and different photo sets, including a queen size bed for boudoir shoots.

The space also allows her to continue what she calls “boudoir marathons,” where she provides a weekend of sessions back-to-back. The marathon usually includes six to eight sessions in a day and will sell out within 24 hours.

Although boudoir photo shoots sometimes look similar, Adams said everybody’s session is a little different.

“There’s poses often with girls that look the same, but they aren’t, even in the same pose. Everybody’s built differently and has their own insecurities,” Adams said. “I’ll take the photo of the client, and then I’ll show it to them. That way they can see themselves in the camera, because they are going to see something about themselves that they don’t like that I am not going to see.”

Empowering women

Adams said she gets clients who want to get photos after losing weight, and she has an elderly clientele as well.

One woman, in her 60s, has had three boudoir shoots with Adams and is hoping to have her fourth shoot on her motorcycle.

When Adams is empowering the women in her studio, whether in a boudoir shoot or other style, she thinks about what she would say to her own 8-year-old daughter about body positivity.

“She’s getting to the age where she’s getting more into her appearance and how she looks. So, I push it onto her to not make negative comments about herself,” Adams said. “My daughter knows exactly what I do here as I am very transparent. She has been with me through the process. She understands self-love, love your own body and to take care of yourself.”

Adams said maternity shoots are also a way to capture intimate moments during pregnancy.

“When you’re pregnant, everything changes. Especially in your first pregnancy, your body’s changing. You don’t feel as pretty as having a big belly. So, during the shoot I want them to know that pregnancy is absolutely beautiful,” Adams said. “It’s always focused on the belly, but I love to do things with my robes so that way it’s open in the front.”

Adams hopes to one day own a studio with the same goal — empowering women through creativity and body positivity.

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