Boston-based Commercial Photographer Nicole Loeb specializes in lifestyle imagery. In her latest work for the custom clothing company 9Tailors, Nicole collaborated with owner Sam Shih to photograph and document the stories of some trailblazing female leaders, just in time for Women’s History Month in March.
The 9 Tailors team selected clients to feature and interview, and I photographed their all-around badassery. The project captured women in male-dominated industries, how they persevered through the pandemic, and what their inspirations were.
Nicole met Sam Shih several years ago at a neighborhood bakery, and she made an impression on her. The relationship grew over time, with Nicole photographing a line of pet bow ties for Sam’s business and Sam creating bespoke suits for Nicole and her husband later on.
We had similar but different backgrounds — I was really impressed by her. She exuded confidence, grace, and kindness all at once.
Their kinship led to them collaborating on the ‘Women Who Mean Business” project. The purpose of the shoot was to highlight and uplift women leaders at a time when their businesses were being affected by the pandemic. When talking about dealing with the changes brought on by the pandemic, Shih said, “We’re going to work harder than we ever have before.”
Nicole photographed four women in four locations: a tailor in her studio in the Leather District of Boston, a scholar in Boston’s most iconic bookstore, a personal trainer in her gym, and a celebrity chef in one of her restaurants. The scheduling of multiple locations and subjects was tricky, but Nicole’s local knowledge of the city and its parking challenges gave her a leg up.
Traveling to four locations in a short amount of time, with subjects coming from different states, was a challenge, but then add in Boston traffic and near impossible parking to the mix, and it becomes a feat. I was born and raised here, so I have a knack for finding and squeezing into the smallest parking spaces.
Shooting during the pandemic meant that Nicole operated with a smaller team. Nicole and her assistant Avery Roche took on additional duties to make it easier to adhere to social distancing guidelines and collaborated on creating an integrated video campaign that included video snippets to be used to promote the project on Instagram Reels.
Working on an all-female team was terrific. Having a good assistant is invaluable. Being a photographer, lighting assistant, videographer, and digital tech at the same time is possible. Still, I appreciate my normal crew and can’t wait for larger productions to be safe again.
Once the first set of images were shot, the vision for the project started to come together. Nicole shared the photos from the gym with the client, and she responded positively, pointing out her appreciation for Nicole’s energy and enthusiasm for the project.
I was so excited about the goals and inspiration behind the project. On set, I bring a sense of Type-A organization but also a collaborative approach. I genuinely love working with people, and I’ve been told I bring a sense of fun and supportive energy to all sets.
Nicole’s passion for the project stemmed from the women she was able to meet and photograph during the shoot. Each woman had a remarkable story about perseverance and strength that Nicole had the opportunity to share through the project.
The images and the messages are so empowering. In their interviews, they all express points in their lives where they encountered challenges when they were scared and unsure.
One of the women photographed, Danielle Lee (pictured above), served for eight years in the U.S. Air Force before diving into Thai Boxing. When talking about her transition to physical training, she said, “I decided to go back to school to learn more about the human body, with the goal of helping others achieve their highest physical and mental potential.”
Another one of the subjects, Tiffany Faison, is a Top Chef finalist and a restaurateur who owns Sweet Cheeks and Tiger Mama, two popular dining spots in Boston. Talking about the inspirational women in her life, she said, “I appreciate and revere women that don’t “go along to get along,” stand for their beliefs, and live their truths. Without listing everyone, my life is surrounded and inspired by these women. Anecdotally, my dogs have been named after Edith Windsor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”
Nicole’s images portray these women as the powerhouses that they are, conveying a sense of strength and resilience in each portrait. The experience of meeting and photographing these women also inspired her to rethink her definition of strength — realizing that fearing the unknown is a normal part of the process. Strength comes from figuring it out as you go along.
There have been times where I’ve been unsure of the next step, and I’ve tried to hide it because I thought that’s what strength meant. It’s not. Strength is about pulling it together and persevering through. I’ve learned that it’s okay to be a little nervous. Much of entering the unknown is done while jittery, and that’s okay.