“I empower women to be proud of who they are through raw and authentic black and white portraits.” Meet Mel Watt!
We're so grateful to hear your story today, Mel. You’re a women’s photographer in Brisbane with a mission to show women THEY ARE ENOUGH just as they are RIGHT NOW.
You originally photographed kids and families, how did your business transform into empowering women?
I noticed I wasn’t in love with it anymore and the passion was leaving me, I didn’t hate it but the love was gone. At the same time I was suffering from depression which was a big eye opener for me. I thought I was invincible and would never go through depression being such a positive person myself. I wasn’t proud of who I was and felt shame. Coming out the other side I have more empathy and understanding of people who have experienced it and thought there must be so many other people going through something similar. An idea came to me afterwards to see if I could help women on their own journey of self worth through photography and show them their true authentic self and what other people see and love about them i.e. their inner beauty, so they too could be proud of who they are. We are conditioned by society to look and behave a certain way and I want to steer women away from this idea of perfectionism and show them what truly matters…their strength, courage, kindness, quirks, bravery, generosity & humour. I called it the ‘Empowering Women Portrait Experience’ and started it as a project to begin with and celebrated it at the end with an exhibition, not to sell the photographs but to celebrate the courage of the women who took part in the project.
Have you always loved photography? Where did it all begin?
I always had an interest from a young age but I started to notice my love for it when I started travelling overseas in Europe back in 1995 with a point and shoot film camera. I loved exploring and capturing anything around me that inspired me. I realised how limiting a point and shoot was and upgraded to a SLR camera for my overland safari trip in Africa. In 2008 I was burnt out from Nursing and had this overwhelming desire to study photography, so I applied to do the Diploma in Photography course and completed it in 2009. It was completing one of my major folios in my last year of study and that was when I discovered the love of simplicity and black and white photography. I went to class every day unless I was sick, I just loved it so much.
What impact do you think photographs have on people?
The impact of a photograph is so powerful and will be different for every person because of their own personal journey and experiences in life. I had a client who said out loud ‘I am beautiful’ for the first time in her life when she held her print for the first time. The connection you have with yourself in your photographs is very liberating, and a print is more powerful than a digital file because it has depth and more feeling, allowing you to really connect with who you are. The beauty of black and white photographs is that it takes you straight to the soul of the person.
I’ve had clients who hate photos of themselves and being photographed, come back for their viewing and fall in love with their photographs for the very first time. They watch in awe and surprise as their story unfolds during their slideshow. Photographs are not just for now, they are also for the future for you to return to at any time to be reminded of the amazing human being you are. We all have strength within us and sometimes we just need to be reminded it is there for you to draw upon. As we know life is a roller coaster ride.
Tell us more about the concept of no make-up and the Mel Watt experience.
I was very nervous when I decided to make it a no make-up experience but I am so glad I followed my gut instinct. I wanted the photographs to be very raw and real and I thought the only way to show a woman’s true essence was without make-up. The Empowering Portrait Experience is not just a photo shoot and getting your photographs at the end. It is the whole experience that starts with some self care in preparation for the photo shoot, this is where the woman can start to feel like they are doing something for themselves instead of everyone else. Emma K Willman an image consultant takes the anxiety away about what to wear and helps them select their outfits. The photo shoot is when the fun really begins. It takes place at my home in Brisbane in a beautiful safe private space with natural light filling the studio. The woman starts to be present with her mind and body and reconnect with herself. This is when the magic happens and I see their light shine inside and their inner beauty come to life. This is what I want to photograph for them, who they are on the inside because when you see this in a photograph everything else falls away. I see women reconnect with their inner child and start to play, be free, move and be unapologetically them. Having fun is something we forget to do in our busy lives. After the photo shoot they walk out feeling like they are floating on air because they feel like they can conquer anything in the world.
Why does every woman need to experience a photography session?
Every woman needs to celebrate who they are, regardless of where they are in life because everybody is worthy of being documented including their quirks and imperfect imperfections. Depending on where they are on their own journey this experience can help women: Reclaim their identity, realise their value, strength, and their voice especially those who have suffered from domestic violence or divorce; See their femininity and strength before and/or after a mastectomy or other cancer to help with the healing process; Come out of the depth of shadows from poor mental health and help empower them to step forward and shine again; Find themselves again and reconnect with who they are, especially mothers who feel like they have lost their own identity after having children; See what others see in them and embrace who they are; and Feel seen, heard and valued as some women over 50 feel like they become invisible in society.
Do you have any future plans for your business?
Absolutely. I am currently in the process of photographing women for a book, it will not only include their beautiful portrait but also their story. The purpose behind the book is to give the readers inspiration and hope for their own journey. It is true what they say…Empowered women empower women. I am also donating $100 to the amazing McGrath Foundation for every photo shoot booked in to be part of this project. Here is the link if any readers would like to be involved! I haven’t finalised the name of the book yet but I’m close, I’m letting it come to me naturally.