26 Jan kim brundage.
richmond, virginia | mother. wife. portrait photographer. self-esteem instructor.
I believe we are all shaped by personal experience. How we choose to respond to an event or storyline tells us a great deal about our character. Some people completely disregard past experiences — looking only to the future. Others get stuck, unable to recover from their past. And then there are those who dedicate their entire lives to assist and inspire others with a shared experience. Sometimes we move through each of these responses at different stages — taking anywhere from a few moments to lifetime to process information and experience.
More often than not, career paths are chosen from a direct personal experience. For example, a medical professional may choose their field because they lost a loved-one, or a violent environment may propel someone else into a law enforcement career in an effort to serve and protect. Another person may go into education because they were inspired by their fifth-grade teacher who offered extra attention. In this case, a talented photographer spends her time helping others see their inner and outer beauty.
Allow me to introduce you to Kim Brundage, a woman who takes the field of photography to a new level. Kim was brought up in an environment that harshly reminded her that her physical imperfections were abundant. After years of listening to these messages given to her, she slowly began to take on those negative thoughts, creating an unhealthy inner dialog that affected her daily existence.
But now this incredibly talented woman spends her time producing images that helps others see their own beauty—from the inside out. And when Kim is not empowering her clients to feel confident through photography, she spends her time teaching a self-esteem course to young girls, which highlights the importance of having a positive body image.
I am honored to feature a woman who offers a refreshing approach in response to a world that creates impossible expectations of physical beauty.
From public health to photography, how and why did you make this shift in your career?
I’ve always had this little “voice” in me that nudged me toward photography ever since I was 12-years old. I decided it was not practical and I would not be able to support myself taking pictures. I pursued what I thought was the right path for me, which was wellness. I earned a Master in Public Health to support that dream. Funny … I never was able to land my dream wellness job. I did healthcare marketing instead. I also earned my Black Belt in Six Sigma, which allowed me to change from the healthcare to the financial sector. I worked for Capital One for three years as a process engineer and then I was laid off. In the last 20 years, that “voice” got louder and louder for photography. When I was laid off, I decided to pursue my dreams of being a photographer full time.
You built your business platform on empowering women to feel beautiful and confident about themselves. What inspired this strong foundation in your business practice?
It is a very personal mission for me. I was criticized from a young age that my butt and stomach was too big and my breasts were too small. I felt wholly inadequate and self-conscious. I wasted a lot of energy making disparaging remarks to myself. When I would share these concerns with my friends they would reassure me I was fine. But I didn’t believe them because my family told me what I thought was the truth. I married my second husband who told me that I was beautiful all the time. I thought that was nice but didn’t believe him. Then I started practicing my poses before trying them on future clients and I was taking my own portraits with a remote. BAM—it hit me that I was beautiful! I realized that the right posing, lighting, hair and makeup were essential in highlighting that beauty. When I saw my own beauty, my confidence immediately increased. Now I own my beauty and my confidence! It makes for a much nicer conversation with myself in front of the mirror. I’ve surrounded myself with other professional women who also see everyone’s beauty and we work hard to bring that out so each client sees it.
Who are your clients?
My clients are primarily women. Overall, women hate having their picture taken because they do not like their own image. I had one women drive all the way from Philadelphia for me to take her portrait. She swore she photographed horribly and would rather have a root canal. We laughed the whole time and she absolutely loved her portraits. I also do headshot parties where we make sure to connect you with your personal brand. Men participate in these headshot parties as well. I also love taking children and family portraits and capturing those special family bonds. Most recently, I started teaching girls ages 10-18 about the importance of beauty — from the inside out and self confidence — which has led to a tween and teen clientele.
Society places a great deal of pressure on women and their physical beauty. As you raise your son, how do you combat the superficial expectations that are placed on young girls?
It has been really interesting because my son has absorbed my message deeper than I expected. One day I was so sick I had to go to the ER and was exhausted from the ordeal. I needed help to get to the bathroom and he gave me a steady hand. When we reached to the bathroom mirror, he said, “Mom, look in the mirror” and I said “I know, I look pretty bad.” And then he said, “Mom, you look beautiful!” It took my breath away. I had no idea that he would take it that far. We also have continued conversations about body size and how every person has their unique beauty on the inside and outside.
What has been your greatest obstacle in life and how do/did you navigate it?
My greatest obstacle has been myself. I’ve made very poor decisions because I lacked the confidence. I married an abusive 1st husband who was very controlling. Once I decided that I deserved a better life for me and my son, that is when I took important steps to get myself help. I needed to learn to put myself first and I needed to learn to listen to my inner voice.
What was your greatest life lesson learned?
That your personal relationship with yourself is the most important relationship to have. The second most important relationship is your marriage partner. Having a supportive, loving, trustworthy marriage partner makes all the difference. But first you need to have that healthy relationship with yourself to attract a healthy relationship with another person.
What is your best advice on how to live a graceful life?
Be kind to yourself. Try each day to be less critical of yourself and you will find that you are less critical of others. Celebrate the positives and move the negatives out of your life, including negative people. And be grateful!
j. jane side notes:
Like many others, I detest getting my photograph taken—it’s a form of torture for me. Over my professional career, I have spent a great deal of money on photos to help brand my business. Admittedly, I feel incredibly silly posing for a camera so the real me never seems to come through. I can honestly say that a recent experience with Kim and Holly was a game changer. Both women took the time and energy to learn about me and my personality. Subsequently, I was able to relax enough for Kim to take the following photographs. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt good about sharing a photo taken for professional purposes. Thanks, ladies!
Learn more about Kim’s work and enjoy her beautiful images at www.KimBrundage.com
Kim’s team consists of: Makeup Artist, Holly Byrd Miller (www.MakeupbyHollyB.com); Hairstyling by Brittany Williams (www.BeautybyBrittany1190.com); Wardrobe styling by Anetra Johnson (www.NeechicStyles.com).