Last week was my 45th birthday.

I will confess, turning 45 did not feel as great as I expected it would…
And when I sat down to think about it,

I think in our 20s we were striving to be perfect…make a perfect life;
Perfect job, perfect body, perfect mate, perfect life.

Then, we reach our 30s we begin to realize that mirage is actually* just one big imperfect shit show. So we spend time and energy attempting to make it a non-shit show, make it look as perfect as when can. When clearly, we know it’s NOT. That creates a sense of dissonance and misery. It’s definitely something I would have warned my younger self about.

But then comes 40s…

Ah! Glorious epiphany. The zero F*cks stage. Ages 40-44 somehow I managed to feel just liberated and amazing. I truly felt I had grown into who I was supposed to be as a person by now. I realized, actually that NOTHING about my world is perfect AT ALL…and in that acceptance I could be more ME. I was finally OK with that.

I’ll admit — looking backwards, I have lived a pretty cool life. I have enjoyed big success at a young age, have traveled the world and have had the chance to do things in my 20s and 30s that very, very few people get to do. I won’t even list them because they’ll sound too surreal. Even to me. But I have them buried away, these golden bits of memories of a former life.

But my 40s felt a bit badass… because I could look back and say, “Yeah OK so that was amazing. But this is who I am now”, and I was seemingly very cool with that.

BUT THEN MARCH 19, 2019… CAME 45.
Somehow, the morning I woke up and I hit 45 didn’t feel quite the same for me.
Where the hell am I?
How did I get here?
OMG when did I get to be 40F’5?
Good Lord, is this that midlife crisis thing?
Wait — I am that cougar age?
Sexual prime what???
When the fck is that menopause thing?
Is my heart actually racing?
Why am I crying?

And then there’s this other thing. Every year I do a portrait session for my birthday. It’s become an annual tradition I can visually see WHO and HOW I am at that moment in time. And, it’s so cathartic to see year over year what that looks like. Sometimes I will shoot them myself (as a self portrait) or other times I work with a super talented photographer friend. I do them just for myself. I share them with clients too, who often tell me it pushes them to go out of their comfort zone and book a boudoir session, too.

Maybe it was the drab winter blues; was my zodiac wonky (haha- I actually know nothing about that).
Or, perhaps my it was my weird collection of random PTSD moments over the past few years finally took their toll (Car explosion? check. Life threatening emergencies? check. Critical extended family issues? Check. Cancer scares? check.).

But on my birthday? The timing seemed suspicious.

I wasn’t feeling the love to muster up the strength to do the shoot this year. The thought of getting all dolled up in hair and makeup and rocking it out with one of my photographer friends seemed — tedious. Pointless. Old. UM…45, to be exact.

But I am really never one to break a tradition. And, on a professional level, doing these types of self portrait sessions are REALLY educational. I can practice posing; and the art of emoting expressions; and new “sets” I hadn’t considered; or lighting possibilities that I never considered before.

I can’t “practice” that stuff on clients. I can practice it on me.

Now, let me say, pro selfies take skill. A LOT OF SKILL.

I tend to be a minimalist with equipment. As such, it makes the selfie game THAT much harder. My tripod was broken by an outdoor mishap. I did not have a trigger remote. I used available ambient lighting. And my pro Canon camera body runs on a 10 second self-timer. Basically, from a photography standpoint that is a hot mess right there. BUT HEY…that is who I am now. LOL.

SOOO what does this means in visual terms —for every single one of these shots?

  • I am setting up a scene and assessing lighting and composition

  • Propping my camera on a table or some random furniture with tiny objects like pencils underneath to lift the lens by mere millimeter angles

  • Adjusting myself quickly…trying to look decent without hair or makeup or knowledge how my expressions look

  • Hitting the button,

  • Then frantically* running into place, to execute a pose. IN 10 DAMN SECONDS.

  • Check the back of the camera;


It creates many duds. It creates exhaustion. I was sweaty. But it also tests my skills as a boudoir photographer with limited resources and zero visibility what I am doing in-camera.

I truly had no idea what I’d find when I downloaded over 95 images later that night. But when I saw before my very eyes what I had done, it turned things around for me. I felt proud of me. Of how I pushed through.

It showed me that I had some decent skills (back pat); But more importantly, it captured exactly how I was feeling at that moment in time. As an artist, that is the biggest accomplishment of all.

And there is a certain beauty in the sadness, or droll uncertainty about myself and future I was feeling. I could actually see what was in my head in the pictures. It was sort of an ‘exquisite torture’ that day.

And what I realized, in my no-frills self, was that I was in fact doing a wonderful thing for myself in this exercise. I had skills. I didn’t look bad for 45! And I laughed at myself doing this alone running back and forth in my pretty underwear. LOL

But most importantly, I benefitted from seeing myself in art. New art. Different than last year’s art.

It turned me around.

SO what I want to say here is — if you are ever feeling not-your-best, set yourself up for a challenge. Dare yourself to do something. Push through. Don’t wait until you feel your best — in fact, do it at your worst. You will come out of that fire, on the other end feeling like a bit of a phoenix.

Let yourself see you as art. I am so happy to help you with that in a session. TO INQUIRE OR BOOK YOUR SESSION click here.

Thanks for allowing me to share these photos …and for your birthday wishes, too.
They meant so much.

xoxo, Cate

P.S., a pretty important sidenote: I would like to thank in my credits my beautiful friend Em Rigby, who took on the challenge to artistically edit my photos for me. Normally I like to edit myself but I was lacking in objectivity and she offered to see me in the way she knows my soul to be. She knew who I was that day, and it shows in her depiction of the edits. She is my crazy, whacky, funny, ride or die bad bitch who treats me like family. And I am so grateful for her. And this work that I can be proud of. Thank you, Em.

Wardrobe: Urban Outfitters
Shoes: None! ;)
Hairstylist: none!
Makeup artist: none!