When photographer Trina Cary began looking for a couple who would be willing to do an intimate photo shoot, a mom from Canada named Mel responded to her call out. Mel had given birth to three babies over the course of a year — a son in March 2013 and then twin girls in March 2014 — and she was struggling with post-baby body image.
“I wanted to show the vulnerable side of a couple, and with their story and Mel’s postpartum insecurities, [she and her husband Gabby] were a perfect fit,” Cary tells Cosmopolitan.com. “I do boudoir shoots all the time anyway, so I’m always dealing with building women’s confidence up.”
When the time came to do the shoot last month, it was nothing short of “magical,” Cary notes. “Gabby was really super-shy at first. When we had talked about the session initially, he was like, ‘No, I’m not getting naked. Absolutely not!’ And then, we got out there, and Mel got into it, and obviously he wanted to join his wife. They were on top of the world at the end of the session.”
After Mel and Gabby got their first peek at the photos, Cary said Mel messaged her online. “She was like, ‘So I woke up this morning, and I looked at myself in the mirror, and I said ‘I love you,’ and I didn’t even realize what I was doing and I realized how happy and amazing I felt after doing [the photo shoot].”
Cary loved seeing how it brought the couple closer. “After having three children in one year, obviously babies are everywhere, and chaos is happening,” she explains. “This session really brought their chemistry back.”
But when the un-retouched photos were published late last month, critics and commenters tore Mel apart. “Lots of people were people judging Mel, cuz she was ‘too pretty,'” Cary explains. “They said she was too thin, she didn’t have enough stretch marks, she didn’t have saggy breasts, she looked too good, how dare she say she was going through all these problems.”
The backlash took an emotional toll on Mel, causing her to bow out of any future interviews about the photos. It also caused Cary to leap to her client’s defense by writing a Facebook post about negative responses. “I hurt for Mel,” she wrote. “I hurt for any other woman trying to regain her confidence and do something for herself. The gist of the comments were people who aren’t comfortable with their own bodies lashing out at her.”
Cary goes on to note that the photo series has inspired a lot of love and positivity too, and she listed several supportive comments about the images, like, “Oh those? Those aren’t stretch marks. They’re tiger stripes. They’re not caused, they’re earned. I love my wife for hers,” and, “I think she’s revolutionary!”
“I was hoping to get some positive comments flowing, so Mel can see it, and it can reboot her self-esteem again,” Cary explains to Cosmopolitan.com. “I think she’ll come out of it 1,000 times stronger than she was. I’ve been getting comments from women all around the world, and I keep forwarding them to Mel. And it’s a great thing for her baby girls to grow up and to have [Mel] as this huge role model.”
Here are several more of the stunning images of Mel and Gabby taken by Cary. The first is the couple’s and Cary’s favorite.