Portrait photographer Danijela Kandera is on a mission to photograph 40 women in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond, in a transformational, empowering experience. To date, she's photographed women ages 42 to 84.
"It's inspiring to see them embrace their bodies, age and insecurities, and simply celebrate themselves for who they are today," beams Danijela, co-owner of St. Louis-based Pets and People Portrait Studio.
Women of all ages and all wonderful shapes and sizes are uniquely beautiful and deserve to be acknowledged, seen and celebrated, believes Danijela. "As a woman in my 40s, I can relate first-hand to women worrying about their age, looks or simply not feeling worthy enough to celebrate their age and body. This inspired me to partake in the global movement of photographers focusing on empowering women over 40 to embrace self-love and their beauty."
She emphasizes the manner in which most women featured in commercials or other media are executed, delivers an unrealistic, unrelatable concept of beauty for many women of any age. "However, it hits even harder the 40-plus demographics, as they're featured much less in general. Yes, you see them as moms, grandmothers or business owners, but rarely only to celebrate their beauty," she adds.
As a photographer, Danijela says she's often met with shy resistance by older female clients about having their individual portraits taken, in addition to the ones taken with their pet, their family, or their significant other. She says insecurities often surface, followed by comments about aging and the feeling of "not being enough" anymore. "These are worries most women share," she reveals. "I heard them all and promised every woman I photographed that their session with me would be a safe space to celebrate them and their individuality with stunning portraits they will love and want to share with the world."
At portrait reveals, Danijela says it's a delight to see and feel their excitement, and often tears of joy, for having indulged in this amazing portrait experience -- an experience that made them more confident about themselves and revealed how beautiful they already are.
Danijela anticipates completing this project this October. She reports she's filled all 40 openings and has a waiting list. Every woman participating in the project receives a copy of a printed magazine featuring the 40 women, their images, and sharing their views on being 40-plus.
She's learned to explain the project in this overall way: "Picture this. You're looking at the portrait of the woman displayed on your wall, and you're completely mesmerized by her confidence and her beauty. There's something so powerful and so free about her. She's your inspiration on so many days you don’t feel so good about yourself, and she reminds you to celebrate yourself on the days that you rock the world. Now imagine this woman you admire so much on the wall portrait is YOU."
"This project has been very meaningful and fulfilling not only to the women participating but to me as their photographer, too. I'm already excited and planning the 2023 A Woman Empowered – 40 over 40 Project, starting in January," she announces.