In our bodies, everything is connected. Our sense of touch changes our mood. Our sight influences flavor. Smells transport us to a fond memory. Tastes dictate what we put in our bodies, and how we feel.

Today we speak with feminist boudoir photographer Tutti del Monte, to learn how photography creates self-love.

Splendid Spoon: Hi Tutti! Tell us about your journey to boudoir photography.

Tutti Del Monte: Hi! I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. A huge part of my identity comes from Latin culture. I’ve always loved taking pictures. I’ve also always loved giving my friends “makeovers” and taking pictures of them to make them feel beautiful. That feeling of wanting women to feel great about themselves has always lived within me.

The journey to becoming a boudoir photographer started while I was at photography school in Madrid. We were given a self-portrait assignment and one of my peers asked me to help with hers. It was in the likeness of a modern boudoir shoot. As soon as we got the shot she’d envisioned, I felt exhilarated and inspired. We ended up shooting for a couple hours longer because it was so much fun. That’s when the metaphorical flower began blossoming into what eventually became Boudoir by Tutti.

SS: How do you make your work empowering for the women you shoot?

TM: I’ve always focused on serving the woman I work with. The boudoir process is highly intimate and sensitive. It leads to women truly seeing themselves, sometimes for the first time in years, or even for the first time ever.

The empowering element starts when I direct women to keep moving their body, rather than posing. It continues as women start to get a sense of their body and lose themselves in the music playing. One of my favorite things is when the shoot wraps up, and the woman’s face just reads: “I want more of this!” This experience facilitates access to a divine pool of self-love. It’s a pure place, which is yearning to be seen, felt, and enjoyed.

SS: How does your photography style help women love themselves and their bodies?

TM: I give women permission to feel free. Through words of affirmation and encouragement, I guide them through the whole process, from what to wear, to the most flattering camera and body angles. The literal and figurative de-layering becomes a ritual. It’s something they can continue to do on their own, long after the shoot is done.

SS: When do you feel most at peace?

TM: I feel most at peace in nature. Living in New York, I’m forced to get creative with what this looks like! I’ve become quite the plant lady! I love touching my plants’ leaves, talking to them as I water them, telling them they’re beautiful, and asking what they need. It sounds crazy, but the serenity I feel when I’m surrounded by nature is incomparable to anything else.

I also feel at peace when I honor my body through exercise. Exercise and movement keeps me connected to my body, which is where I draw my inspiration from for my shoots!

SS: How does being in-touch with our bodies combine with our self-care practices?

TM: When we’re in communication with our body, we know what it needs. There’s pure wisdom within us that has our best interest at heart. If we train ourselves to tune into this instinctual knowledge, we can operate from a place of full awareness.

Self-care isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity that women sometimes forego because we’re strong enough to do without it. But in time, overriding our systems leads to stress, anxiety, burnout, self-judgement, and an overall lopsided outlook. If we rewire our patterns and allow self-care and self-love to be a pillar of our daily life, we can craft a balanced and loving perspective.

SS: Do you have any secret methods that women can use to embrace their own selves, exactly as they are?

TM: Our self-image goes way beyond what our bodies look like or our perception of how we look. There’s no special word or formula that leads to self-love.

The main way I encourage this is by example. I battle self-judgement just like other women. However, I’ve learned to differentiate between the real and false stories in my head. When I divide my thoughts into myths and truths, I embrace the real stuff rather than concerning myself with the trivial. If we clear out the clutter and gunk that shades our truth, we’re able to fully see, love, and accept ourselves as we are.

SS: Can a boudoir photography session increase our self-love?

TM: I believe boudoir shoots facilitate self-love through vulnerability and intimacy. Putting judgement, shame, and other lingering, paralyzing feelings aside, and doing a boudoir shoot, is a direct message to the Universe that says, “I welcome more ease, self-love and grace into my life. I’m ready to love myself.”

SS: Do you have a go-to self-care routine?

TM: Yes! I love going to the gym in the middle of the day when it’s empty, taking my time, enjoying the music, challenging my body, and marveling at what it can do. Our bodies are amazing!

I’m also not afraid of saying no to invites when I need alone time. My down time includes gardening, reading, slow mornings, journaling, watching movies, cooking, Facetiming my family, and face masks. I craft my days in a way that always makes room for self-care.