(Written by Mrs Paula Brown herself)

Paulas photo shoot from  May the 5th 2018

(todays date 22nd April the 4th 2020)

''I'm a photographer. I have photographed it all. Birth, death, marriage, kids growing up, pets, engagement. All those magical moments that make life the beautiful journey it is, have been captured by my camera. What a beautiful thing to be part of. It's actually an honor to share someone's moments like that. I am always telling people to get in front of the camera, be present, be part of the memories. But I confess, I am the world's biggest hypocrite, because I never, ever, ever took my own advice. Why. Because I just didn’t like myself enough to like my photos.

Rewind…… When I got married, I eloped. I never had the white dress and the bridal experience. I definitely don't regret the way we got married. It suits who we are. But the more weddings I photographed, the more I saw what I didn't get…. And I wanted it. I asked my husband to marry me again and he said he would, but the reality is, it actually meant nothing to him, we had done it once. So as time went on I decided that I didn't really want to marry him again. I just wanted to put on the pretty dress and have an awesome bridal experience.

So one day I bought a dress. A gorgeous Anna Schimmel gown that I got on Trade Me for a bargain. Problem was it was a size 12 and I wasn't….. Why didnt I buy a dress that fitted. Because I didn't want to be a size 16 bride. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have photographed many brides that size and larger and they are stunning, beautiful women. It just wasn't what I wanted. I sat on that dress for 4 years!!!

Now a very important person in this story is Awhina. She sees the beauty in EVERYONE. It's her superpower. She can take the most self conscious woman and turn her into a goddess. I have known her for quite a while now and she is one of the kindest, most genuine, creative and beautiful people I have met. Working with her is always epic. Hanging with her is always fun. Being photographed by her is an amazing experience, but I needed to love myself enough to let it happen.

In November 2017 I hit my rock bottom. I don't even know what it was…. I don’t know what got me there, or why, but there I was. Hating myself. Hating being fat. Feeling ugly and worthless. Argh, it sucks feeling like that. So finally I did something about it. I found this amazing programme - Kim Beach ( and I finally lost weight. At the start I had about 15cm before I could even begin to do the dress up. Every week I tried. Every week I would be closer. I would send Awhina a photo and show her how close I was. One day I could actually do it up!!!!!! I think I was about 15kg down at that stage. So we made a plan.

I went to Halcyon and had the amazing Kyla and Kerry make me look beautiful. I don't own makeup and don't even know where to start. Unless it's blue eyeshadow in the 80s. I have that look nailed. I put that dress on, and I can tell ya right now I felt like a million dollars. I have never really felt feminine, or beautiful, but in that moment I felt amazing. I had reached the goal of fitting into that bloody size 12 dress. I had found happiness by being healthier and living a better life.
We decided I needed some bling so we went to Brides by Donna Rae. They were amazing there and let my daughter Kate who joined us for the day look at dresses (Kates wedding dress obsessed), and let us shoot there. So much fun. Thank you Donna Rae.

We had the most amazing day. We went all over the show. It was truly amazing. These photos mean the world to me and I can look at them without hating myself and that is truly a miracle. It's a mixture of learning some self love and Awhinas insane skill.

Since then I have lost another 7kg, so the dress is too big now. I have donated it to Awhinas wardrobe so one day someone else might enjoy it. Since then I have achieved some awesome goals. I have run half marathons, competed in bodybuilding comp, done some long trail runs, and among it all I have managed to keep the weight off, develop a healthy lifestyle and really enjoy my health and fitness. These photos remind me of what I worked so hard to gain. I know that it's pretty shallow of me to judge my happiness based on my weight. But for me it was more than that. It was about feeling strong, and healthy, knowing that I can live my best life. These photos are me doing that. Living my best life. Thank you Awhina. I love you''

I'm currently offering (free) consultations if you would like to talk about your own fine art portrait session please send me your details. Id love to talk to you we can set up a video call or a  phone call.

© 2020 Awhina Russell Fine Art Photographer Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand. / 0279206482