The Gift of Self-Esteem

Dawn Gardner

Dawn Gardner empowers women of all ages through her camera lens

Dawn Gardner, a local photographer, was enthralled with the television show Bewitched during her formative years. “I thought Darrin Stevens [one of the main characters] had the best job ever! He created slogans and ad campaigns combining imagery and words. I began using a camera at around nine years old and would photograph my own [pretend] marketing shots,” shared Gardner.

Her love for the art of advertising and photography as a youngster morphed into a passion for capturing images of people. “I loved telling their stories with photographs. I was part of the yearbook staff in high school and photography editor my senior year. Little did I know, this was foreshadowing what was to come in my career,” noted Gardner.

In 2007, she started her photography business on part-time basis while she was still a full-time graphic designer. Then in 2013 she became focused solely on her photography career. Her studio specializes in contemporary portraits of women of all ages. “I love photographing women and their relationships to other women — mothers, daughters, sisters, best friends, grandmothers — there is such a beautiful thread through these relationships,” she explained.

“We women are typically so hard on ourselves. When we look at ourselves in a mirror we bring to that reflection all the things we don’t like, and/or the things we have been told we lack. We instantly start to self criticize,” noted Gardner. Inherently she believes culture, people, and imagery — especially on social platforms — have created falsehoods in the way beauty is defined.

“All woman are uniquely beautiful and it is time we realize this. My hope is that each woman can see herself as beautiful. I find through my art I am able to get past the untruth and capture the beauty that radiates from within each person I photograph.”

Gardner’s mission is to to offer empowerment. “Almost every client I work with thinks they don’t look great in photographs,” she shared. “All our past experiences affect what we see in our image. When the self-judgment goes away, it makes a huge difference,” described Gardner. “The experience of seeing how someone truly shines when they exhibit their inner self is something that gives me goosebumps every single time.”

Her approach to capturing everyone’s inner brilliance is to create a relaxing, comfortable environment. Clients then let down their barriers, and once those obstacles are removed, Gardner captures the effect with her camera. Her clients are positively amazed with results.

Another philosophy of Gardner’s is to “embrace who you are right this minute.” Gardner thinks too many individuals won’t have photographs taken because they are waiting until they lose weight, or they have too many wrinkles, or for a variety of other reasons. Some clients come to her with negative perceptions related to aging. “I’m on an anti-aging campaign; it is not to be dreaded, it is to be embraced. You can still look beautiful, and sexy. Embrace the wrinkles, you don’t need to hide them,” she remarked.

“Culture imposes on us,” Gardener explained. “It is important to love yourself, not your number or size.” And there is no doubt she will continue to empower and help improve a client’s self image. This is a lesson for all of us: view yourself for who you really are, not what others have said you are. We all have beauty — embrace it and let it shine.

Dawn Gardner Photography provides the following services

  • Portrait sessions
  • Boudoir sessions
  • Corporate headshots
  • Corporate branding and marketing photography

For more information on her photography services, please visit Dawn Gardner Photography’s website (, or follow her on Facebook and Instagram. She may also be reached by email at

Debbie Eisele
About Debbie Eisele 60 Articles
Debbie Eisele is a freelance writer and the Community Outreach Coordinator for Hero’s Bridge, a nonprofit serving older veterans. She lives in Warrenton with her husband and twin daughters.

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