BUILDING THE BOUDOIR LOUNGE
Having built a thriving business rooted in female empowerment and the influence of art, it comes as no surprise that Aroha McKaig, owner and photographer behind The Boudoir Lounge by Hartistree, is continuously fulfilled by her entrepreneurial pursuit. A hub of creativity, innovation and positivity, McKaig’s London studio has been a source of inspiration not only for her team of artists but also for the women she photographs.
At the age of 28, New Zealand born McKaig made the life-changing decision to leave behind an established career in the Australian hospitality industry, choosing instead to attend Brisbane College of Photography and Art. Upon receiving her diploma in Professional Photography, McKaig commenced her journey as an international entrepreneur, purchasing a franchise photography business before opening her own studio.
While the business was thriving and clientele was growing quickly, the company’s rural location allowed for only a limited spectrum of projects, most of which revolved around wedding, family, maternity and newborn photography. Despite her success, McKaig couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing; a yearning to explore more artistic ventures fuelled her thoughts, stimulating her entrepreneurial spirit and encouraging a search for something more.
In 2011, international love brought McKaig to Canada, where she began her life with her husband, Ian, and her two stepchildren. The experience aroused her creative ambition and artistic desire even more.
“Life has a funny way of showing you where you need to be,” McKaig laughingly explains. Upon arriving in Canada, immigration laws prohibited the immediate transfer of her business. “I was given a good amount of time to meditate on my brand; I was able to strategize how I could successfully transition my business to a new continent, and contemplate how it would change in the process.”
Once given the green light to take up business in London, McKaig launched Hartistree Photographics, a rebrand of her Australian company. With an emphasis on community, laughter and the power of positivity, Hartistree Photographics specializes in wedding, newborn, maternity and family photography as well as doing charity and community special events. McKaig leveraged volunteer opportunities to build her Canadian portfolio, working with renowned non-profit organizations including Ronald McDonald House, The Red Shoe Society, Wellspring, Women’s Community Health and ALS Society of Canada.
“Hartistree Photographics captures the beautiful memories that life is all about,” says McKaig. “Through this company, I have had the pleasure of working with so many amazing people – people who know how to laugh, who don’t take themselves too seriously and who show me what makes them who they are.”
In 2015, McKaig was struck by another wave of creative ambition. The desire to approach her business from a more artistic perspective pushed her to seek the inspiration and motivation required to move forward. For McKaig, photographer Ewan Phelan was the spark that ignited that flame. Deeply affected by his work and the Do More Wear Less movement, McKaig made the decision to subscribe to Ewan’s boudoir photography workshop and join the Phelan’s Boudoir Academy. This proved to be monumental for McKaig who truly discovered her passion for boudoir photography and the empowerment it provides both the artist and client.
“The workshop and academy experience was truly life-changing,” says McKaig. “My work has really transitioned to a beautiful, dark and powerful place. I am very proud to be a part of the boudoir movement and love watching the genre increasingly gain exposure and popularity.”
Taking cues from a variety of both national and international sources, McKaig has established her own unique perspective and technique, carving out a niche for herself in the lifestyle photography market. The Boudoir Lounge by Hartistree provides a unique, luxury customer experience. McKaig’s studio – an open concept loft-style space in East London – offers a stunning juxtaposition of modern industrial design and bright, contemporary decor. Providing a true 360 degree customer experience, McKaig’s clients receive full hair and makeup by some of London’s most coveted artists, such as Esteem Artistry and Beauty Bomb Glam, as well as giving her clients the option of personal styling via the studio’s beautiful lingerie closet. Following the shoot, McKaig schedules a “Reveal Session,” during which clients return to the studio for a private viewing of their images and to select their final art pieces.
“What my clients and I create goes further than photographs,” expresses McKaig. “Together, we create art.” Having researched McKaig’s digital portfolio prior to scheduling a session, clients of The Boudoir Lounge by Hartistree know they will undoubtedly leave with an exquisite collection of artistic photographs that not only capture their beauty, but also their unique personality. However, most are surprised by the sheer empowerment they feel after finishing a shoot. As a feminist and advocate for body positivity and the #EffYourBeautyStandardsMovement, McKaig is driven by her clients’ overwhelming shift in demeanour as a result of her sessions.
“It is absolutely amazing to see women arrive in my studio feeling self-conscious and nervous, and leave feeling strong, empowered and completely renewed. In the end, whatever it is that my client chooses to do with their images; I know they leave feeling 100% amazing in their skin. It’s as if the final piece of the puzzle has been put in place – acceptance for themselves.”
Owner & Photographer
The Boudoir Lounge by Hartistree