Yahozka Godfrey is Owner and Lead Photographer, Gabriela Cruz Boudoir & Photography and this week’s Woman on the Move
Tell us about how you chose your career/business and what your responsibilities include?
My journey into the photography industry was a bit sudden and unexpected. Before I became a photographer, I was a licensed practical nurse in the travel immunization industry. I have always loved travel, nursing, helping others and was fascinated by tropical infectious diseases that I took a summer working in a small town hospital in Nepal. It was honestly a path that I thought I would take and continue to pursue. My mother owns an immunization clinic in Edmonton and I truly believed that I was going to take over the business. I always admired her for her dedication and doing what it took to create a life she was proud of and becoming an entrepreneur. I knew I’ve always wanted to own a business – in this case the travel clinic but then as life went on, I got married and had 2 kids and like all mothers do, we begin taking photos of our kids. Long story short, it became a passion and a few friends asked me to take photos of them, and then friends of their friends and then within 3 months, I was running a business. Within 6 months, I got busy enough that I had to choose between pursuing photography full time or going back to nursing. It wasn’t a difficult decision because I knew that if it didn’t work out, I always had my nursing to fall back on. January 2018, I decided to try out boudoir. I knew as soon as I started shooting my first boudoir client, that I had found what I was meant to do. I had this feeling inside my body that felt like it was shaking, my heart was racing, I was in awe of the beauty I was capturing; the art, the light, the way it hit the curves of the body and the angles and features that we as women have. I knew right there that this was my passion. But I didn’t want to have JUST a photography studio. I was aiming for something more.
Tell us about the company you work for or own?
Gabriela Cruz Photography is an empowerment boudoir studio in Edmonton, AB, Canada that not only focuses on creating art and empowering women but also teaching and guiding women to create a life they love. I have witnessed first hand the power a photograph has. I have seen all the lies and comments that a woman has told herself disappear as she is in the moment of the empowerment shoot, as she sees the images of herself disprove everything she has every been told she was or wasn’t. I photograph women because I want to provide an experience and place where I can tell her, show her, prove to her how beautiful she is. I have had women break down and cry and tell me that they have never seen themselves in that way, that they were always told they were ugly and believe it until now. They have never been so in love with their body and stretchmarks as they are now.
So it became my mission to help these women learn to love and embrace the body that they have. It is my goal to make my clients or future clients aware that my photoshoots are more than just photoshoots, its an experience and a true transformation. But this transformation doesn’t happen in one day. Life throws curveballs and obstacles and we need to learn how to take them and not beat ourselves up and judge ourselves too harshly when we aren’t showing up every single day. It’s ok to break down, it’s okay to feel frustrated and mad or sad or a little discouraged but we need to focus on making one step towards your future each day.
As part of my empowerment boudoir shoots, we not only begin with how to prepare for the shoot, have the photoshoot and that’s it, we go beyond that. We continue giving out strategies and helpful advice that can guide our clients to continue on in your journey of self-discovery.
What are some of the most fulfilling projects you have been involved with so far?
Being a boudoir photographer, I noticed there was a gap in areas where we can submit our work and be recognized for the good that we do to empower women. Many boudoir magazines that I have seen are more provocative and do not tell a story. So I decided to change that. With the help of my other business partner, we have decided to create a boudoir inspired magazine that empowers and celebrates women in all stages of life and where they can share their stories, their why and their journey to self discovery after doing a boudoir shoot in hopes of empowering other women.
I am also a brand ambassador the Gems for Gems Foundation, a local charity that empowers women to empower themselves and end the cycle of domestic abuse. It is because of the strength of our clients and the stories that they have shared that we want to give back to the community.
Are there any people in your field you would like to meet and/or work with and have not yet had the opportunity?
I would love to meet and work with Ashley Graham. She has truly paved the way to body inclusivity and positivity that she has helped so many women embrace the body that they have. A lot of people think that boudoir is only for fit and young women but it is not. It is for every woman, 40, 50, 60, pregnant, fit, plus size, anyone. When done right, boudoir photography is such a powerful experience.
What are some of your favorite ways to network?
Social media because it allows me to easy connect with women from all over and industry leaders. My hope is that I can continue to teach women how to embrace their body and femininity and empower all over the world. I also am part of local networking groups which I love attending!
Do you have a mentor – if so how did you choose one another? If not, is this something you think would benefit your career and is there anyone you would like to have as a mentor?
I do not have an official mentor but I want to think that my mentor is my past studio manager and now business partner Laura-Lee Harrison. She is a multi-talented entrepreneur herself and she has really pushed me and got me out of my comfort zone. She has listened to my very late night talks and ideas and always encouraged me to pursue them. I definitely would not be where I am today without her guidance.
What have you learned from your mentor? What do you hope to learn?
I learned to face my fears. The biggest one was putting myself out there more on social media. I wanted to stay behind the camera but she pushed me and worked with me to get out of the comfort zone and start showing up more. To the point that we have also created a podcast together called The Women’s Exclusive for women and mothers in business.
What’s been the most surprising thing that has happened to you so far in your career?
Getting recognized for my accomplishments and for the help I am doing with women. It is something that I hope to get more of course but jus the fact that I did means that I am on the right path in following my passion.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
Being out in the sun with my sons and husband and going on family adventures.
Any parting advice for someone who would like to follow in your footsteps?
You don’t know until you try.
What’s the best way for the readers of WE Magazine for Women to connect with you (feel free to include the links to your social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Myspace, etc and websites)?
Website: www. Gabrielacruz.ca