A second above street-level business has opened on Market Square. It’s hard to believe, but it’s been over a year-and-a-half since I wrote about the opening of Coldstream Market upstairs at 34 Market Square, just above Earthbound Trading Company which opened a few days earlier in September of 2013. In that article, I noted a vacant and available space at the same address, upstairs and just behind Coldstream. A beautiful space, it needed just the right tenant. That tenant seems to have arrived.
I met Ash Kamp a couple of weeks ago when I stopped into Coldstream to say, “hello” to Sandy. She told me a general outline of what they have going on the the space and invited me to return when we could be joined by Marie Kamp, owner of the business. Yesterday, we finally connected and I asked about the new business.
Red Door Photography started in Fort Myers, Florida and is currently owned and operated by Marie Kamp and Crystal Robertson. Ash Kamp (Marie’s daughter-in-law) joins her at the Knoxville location. Originally a traditional studio focusing on wedding, family and infant photography, the focus shifted dramatically in 2008 when the group hosted their first party for women. At the party, the women took turns going behind the “Red Door” and having their photographs taken in lingerie, while their friends enjoyed champagne and a girls’ night out. It was such a hit, it quickly became the focus of the business.
Both Marie and Ash insist that the all-woman approach is key to the success of boudoir photography. All photographers, editors and everyone else involved is female. The two said that often women want to have sensual photographs taken – they’d had requests for it before they started – but, paired with the desire to have the photographs taken is some discomfort with their appearance. The sessions generally last about two hours and start with allowing women to voice their concerns before putting those aside to talk about what makes them beautiful.
The parties were the launch point for Red Door’s boudoir focus, but the style of photography was attracting followers all over the country and become increasingly popular thanks to sharing sites like Pinterest. Marie says that women generally find it empowering, often reacting with surprise at their own sensual beauty captured in the photographs, some are even brought to tears. Marie says she’s heard comments like, “Thank you for giving me my sexy back.”
Marie sees it as a way for a woman to take a break from her ordinary life of obligations to family and work and to spend some time re-connecting with herself. She said, “It’s like a break from their life to find their sensual side, again.” Typical customers are women between thirty-five and fifty-five. Often they do the sessions as a gift to their husbands. She related one husband’s comments after the session who thanked her and said, “I don’t know what you did for my wife, but thank you.”
Sometimes the job is poignant. A woman in her twenties recently came for a session after battling cancer. Her hair had grown back after chemotherapy and she wanted to re-connect with her beauty and celebrate her survival. Women also come in with all manner of shapes and sizes. Marie doesn’t focus on the same package for everyone, but rather looks for flattering clothes and poses. Very little is done with Photoshop because she wants them to see the beauty in themselves, not in photographic trickery.
“I feel we redefine what ‘sexy’ means.” She remembers photographing one woman who weighed around four-hundred pounds and another in her eighties. Both left their session feeling very good about the results. She said they, “find the sexy for the person, which is not the same for everyone.” Women are encouraged to send in a photo ahead of time, so the session can be planned and they offer coaching on what clothing to bring, though Ash pointed out that always includes a beautiful set of high-heels. If the woman doesn’t like the way they look in lingerie, there are other options they said, noting that men’s shirts and wrapping in fabric are popular.
I asked them, “Why Knoxville and why downtown?” It turns out they were looking to move from Florida. Ash and her husband had lived in Alaska and liked the mountains and outdoor sports. Marie’s youngest daughter was looking for vet schools across the southeast and they all settled on Knoxville as their best choice for everyone. Marie’s son (Ash’s husband) is a web designer and can work anywhere. She also said the $60 airfare via Allegiant Air from Knoxville to Punto Gorda (fifteen minutes from their studio in Fort Myers) was a strong variable. They also had a base of friends here.
She said they considered Asheville, but felt that Knoxville felt more authentic. They fell in love with downtown and never really considered a suburban studio. They talked of wanting a business and location that breeds relationships and that suburban shopping centers don’t do that, in their opinion. Marie sums it up, “We’re quirky. This suits our business and personalities. We’re authentic and ‘scruffy enough’ to fit in.”
As a summary of the business, Marie says simply, “Everybody deserves to be celebrated.”
They photograph only women and they will do the shoot in their Market Square studio or at another location of your choice. They’ve shot outdoors, in barns, hotels (she noted they would probably book a room in the Oliver, for example), a woman’s home or other places with privacy and personality.
You’ll find the website linked above and you can find them on Facebook (give them a “like” if you do). If you’d like to talk to them about a session, they may be reached at (865)446-2289.
Side Note: As of this writing, thirty-eight people have joined the ticket giveaway contest for Rhythm n Blooms. Thanks for that – and there is still time if you want a shot and missed it yesterday:
This is Rhythm n Blooms week and Inside of Knoxville and the Rhythm n Blooms Festival have two weekend passes to give to a reader. Please do not participate in this giveaway unless you would plan to attend the entire three-day weekend. To enter you must send me a private email at email@example.com. You must include “Ticket Giveaway” in the subject line and your name and contact information in the body of the email. The cutoff is 6:00 PM Wednesday night. Any emails after this time will not be considered. I will randomly select the winner and notify that individual or couple in order to arrange for transference of tickets. Happy R & B week!