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Photographer Linka van As turns a day of pampering into a lifelong memory
Linka van As has been boosting and capturing Calgary women's confidence levels since 2008. That boost doesn't come in the form of motivational speeches; it comes in the form of pin-up photo shoots.
Her unique business, Astoria Photography, offers women the chance to pose for those '40s style shots – incorporating a theme of their choosing.
"Even though a spa day is treating yourself to something special, this is different. We really bring out you, and the beauty that you already have," van As says. "(Pin-up) has that seductiveness and innocence."
The business got its start when van As was approached by a friend, asking for a pin-up themed photo shoot as a gift for her husband.
The business doesn't just involve a camera and lights. It also involves making her clients and guests feel comfortable – a talent that directly reflects van As's everyday environment.
Open doors and an open heart
Vibrant wall colors and exquisite photos from her travels around the world greet visitors to van As's home.
Welcomed with a cup of green tea, van As's inviting personality highlights the reasons why her clients feel so comfortable around her.
Her patience is calming, allowing her clients to take the plunge of having their photo taken for a day.
It took Axinia Doering five consultations, and half a year to get the courage to follow through with the photo session.
Because the pin-up photos have a risqué twist, it can take a while before someone can fully commit to the session.
Nerves aside, Doering thought the shoot couldn't have ended on a better note.
"We all have doubts. Women can say, 'my butt's too big, or I don't like my nose.' I look back on these photos and say 'Wow, that's me.' "
Initially, Doering says her mother didn't believe the photos were of her own daughter.
"They never expected me to do it," Doering says. "I was so excited to show them off."
"There's a fine line between sluty and tasteful" – something Doering says van As handles very well.
A full photography session can take up to five hours.
Clients are provided with a combination of outfits ranging from pin-up to boudoir, and a selected hair and make-up team completes the full '40s look.
She and her styling team do their best to make sure clients are comfortable during the shoot.
"After two hours of chatting and being girly, we're already friends," van As says. "Everybody's laughing and it just gets to be a lot of fun."
But it's not all fun and games for those who are looking for pictures a bit closer to the heart.
She asks her clients to do some "homework," and bring important props that can be incorporated into the scene.
One woman brought a hairbrush that belonged to her great-grandmother. Another wore her wedding shoes from Sex and the City that cost over $1,000.
"It's not just hair, makeup and show up. It's a whole story, a full scenario," van As says. "It picks up where you are in life."
Melanie Lizotte, for example, had her photo shoot last September. Her style consisted of a pearl necklace, a fedora and a cane.
"When I'm 50 years old, I want to be able to look back and say, 'wow that was me,'" Lizotte says. "I want to show my kids one day so they can see what I used to look like."
But others come for different reasons. One woman made three visits, van As recalls.
The first time was for a confidence boost after her marriage ended in a divorce. The second visit was for herself, and the third was for her new boyfriend.
"It's so personal for everybody. They all have their own reasons," van As says. "There's different ages, different cultures, different sizes, all different walks of life."
CORRECTION: This story has been updated with a new photo of Leila Harris
due to a miscommunication.
What do you think of a pin-up photo shoot to boost your confidence? Please share your comments below.