Janet Walter’s family cherishes a portrait, painted in the ’30s, of her grandmother wearing a canary-yellow dress. They refer to the painting as “Dearie.” It now hangs in a museum in Tulsa, Okla.
“Women used to have portraits of themselves made,” Walters says. “They used to be put on a pedestal, but in this day and age, women just aren’t.”
When a photographer asked Walter if she would model for a photo shoot, she said, “Really? Me?” She was used to being behind the camera, taking photos of her family, but once she was captured on the other side of the lens, she felt empowered. The experience made her realize that moms, working women and women in their prime need to embrace who they are and record it. The company she launched in April 2010, “I Am Woman,” utilizes this idea.
Walter uses the skills she acquired while painting portraits of her sorority sisters and women in piazzas in Florence, Italy, while majoring in studio art at Dennison University, in Granville, Ohio, and also her years working in retail marketing. Walter hires photographers, makeup artists and helps a fashion consultant and works with the team to make the female subject of the photograph feel comfortable; she wants to emphasize who the woman is as a person.
“I’ve really seen people come out of their shells (during this process),” she says.
Walter, I Am Woman owner and managing director, and Creative Director Doireanne Schoonheim, a former fashion model who has worked in Milan, work with the woman to discover where she is most comfortable. They get to know her so that they can best represent her in the photographs.
“Getting to know her is instrumental to the process,” Walter says.
During the process, women are photographed, have consultations, get their hair and makeup done and receive a disk of edited images.
Whether they are high-fashion, bohemian or feel most comfortable in a swimsuit, the goal is to paint a portrait of who the subject really is.