By Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
When Benita Cloward won a plastic camera as a teenager she never imagined it would blossom into more than just snap shots of family and friends.
Since 2008, this former Norman resident has been taking natural-light photographs of weddings, seniors and families as a part of her business, BRC Photography. Most recently, Cloward expanded her brand to include what she calls “Portrait Couture,” a mix between boudoir and glamour photography.
I had the chance to step in front of the spunky, self-taught photographer’s lense in her studio in Purcell as we visited about her work and thoughts on beauty and faith.
For more information on Cloward’s Portrait Couture line, visit couture.brcphotography.com or find her on Facebook at BRC Photography.
Q: What was it about photography when you were a kid that attracted you to it?
A: I come from a large, large family and we used to take a lot of images. I just grew up with my mom always taking pictures and we would take the traditional family pictures annually for a Christmas card and we would always do one or two proper ones but then we would do goofy pictures.
I always just associated it with capturing these moments that are like freezing your family in time, basically. Those are the most fun pictures to look back on, too. I never knew either one of my grandfathers, but the only way for me to see them was through images so I always associated it with family and fun and a piece of history. That’s why. Because I was able to capture time, capture families and capture their real life. Actually my first tag line to my business was “Life pictured.”
Q: How many siblings do you?
A: I have 13. I’m number 13 of 14. So imagine the fun we had during family pictures!
Q: Where did the inspiration come from for the Portrait Couture line?
A: I always felt that the female body is just — oh, Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he created them! And I’m more of a fan of a Marilyn Monroe shape than the runway model shape, but I still think that any female body is beautiful and it should be showcased.
I’ve seen myself and other women in my life that once you start having a family and once you start having kids — maybe on top of that you have a job — you forget about yourself. You forget about yourself being a woman. I was like, “Oh, I want to do that, I want to open up that market and help women feel beautiful.”
I would love if every woman would come and do a shoot for herself first and then second for anybody else. I just want them to come and have the experience of being pampered and going through a time where they can just feel like a woman today.
I really think there are women out there that so deserve this and should know that there is this option and there’s not just boudoir. So I have clients that only have normal dresses and clothes on but it’s just a glammed up version of it. You go in knowing I don’t do nudes so basically the rest is how comfortable you feel. And I’ve had some girls who surprise themselves — and their spouses — who do bring it but don’t ever think that they would go down to bikinis basically, just bra and panties, but then they do and they absolutely love it. And like I said they surprise themselves and me. And it’s absolutely beautiful.
Q: What kind of people come get these photos? Or, I guess, what are the reasons people are coming to get these types of photos?
A: All kinds of people. And all kinds of reasons, actually. Some come because their spouses are either in school somewhere else or are in the military and are gone all the time for work, and they want to surprise them because they can’t actually see them besides doing Skype or Facetime.
There’s all kind of reasons. I would hope that they come for themselves first, just to give themselves a day and a beautiful experience. But it can be for their boyfriend, for a spouse, for your girlfriend. I don’t do couple boudoir or glamour. That’s a comfort level I can’t cross. But it doesn’t matter who you want to surprise. It’s for anybody.
Q: What is your main goal with this branch of your photography?
A: I want every woman — every woman — to come to me. And I can give them an experience that will have them walking away feeling refreshed, feeling more beautiful and sensual than ever. Or if they’ve never even felt that way, to feel that for the very first time, and to get this boost of self-confidence. Oh my goodness, I’m going to cry. I wish I could give this to some of my sisters, that’s why — sorry, give me a moment. Oh my God! I’m just really, really, so emotionally involved with this. There are so many every day women out there that either work, all day and they come home and do house work and do the family work and they don’t get that.
Q: How often do you do these photo shoots?
A: Still not as often as I would like because I would like to do them with every woman. [laughing] But I’ve been doing much more lately, which is just incredible, and makes me super happy. If I could do at least two or three a week I would be so happy.
Q: What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?
A: A lot of it has to do with what the client is already envisioning. But if they just want to let me do whatever, then it helps if I can see what they look like. If they tell me a little bit about themselves it helps guide me in a direction, that way I don’t pick something that I really like but they don’t or just don’t associate with themselves at all.
I love Victoria’s Secret catalogue, I subscribe to them — just for the pictures, of course.
And every day life. I’m a people watcher. People watching can be a good thing.
Q: Do you have any photographers that are your favorite that inspire you?
A: I do. I love Elizabeth Messina. It’s just gorgeous. She’s primarily a natural light photographer, as well. Then there is, she does glamour as well, Sue Bryce — and that would be just strictly for this kind of line of work. Other than that, I don’t look too much at other people’s work so I can feel that it’s still mine and I’m not actually copying.
Q: What do you want to do with your business next? Where do you see it going?
A: I still want to shoot weddings. I love that, very much so. But if I could, I would love to mainly just shoot headshots and this, aside from weddings and my personal projects and do very little of the other portrait work. If I could do more of this I would be very, very happy. That would seriously fulfill me in so many ways.
Q: What about it is fulfilling?
A: You heard me cry earlier. That part is fulfilling. Like seriously because I know, at least so far, every girl that I’ve worked with has gotten exactly what I was hoping for her to get out of this. Meaning, if I were to shoot lots more of this I would be helping women to connect with that inner beauty that they have and they would actually remember that they have it. Or for the first time actually see it.
Q: How much does your faith in God shape your artistic vision and your work? Or does it at all?
A: It definitely plays a part in it. I find it very awesome that Gordon B. Hinckley said — oh my gosh, you’re making me cry again, what is this Oprah Winfrey? — but he said that every woman deserves to be said or told that she’s beautiful. So I’m like, “Oh my gosh, that was for me.” Seriously when I heard that I thought, “You’re speaking to me, right? You’re speaking to me so I can help women even more.” It just means a lot to me to be able to do this and to help women. I don’t even know if it helps women.
Q: Well, I think it is helping women, if you’re helping to develop their self-esteem and highlight their qualities.
A: Yes. I definitely feel that it has quite an impact on how I see a woman. Because I appreciate the female body and I want them to appreciate that as well with its kinks and faults and blemishes — I have them, I get it — I have scars, I have dimples where they shouldn’t be. But I get that.
Yes, it totally impacts and shapes the way I look at women — my beliefs, and my faith in Christ and Heavenly Father.