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Women's Lifestyle Magazine

Mod Bettie Offers Empowerment Through Photography

Apr 30, 2020 08:36AM ● By WLMagazine

by Kennedy Mapes | Photography courtesy Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique

What started out as a photography studio created to fill a void in the photo industry, has now turned into an outlet for women to learn about, love and embrace themselves.

Elise Kutt, founder of Mod Bettie Portrait Boutique, discovered her love for photography by chance. She was attending Michigan State University and feeling completely lost until she took a photography class at Lansing Community College (LCC)

Elise Kutt

“This is when I fell in love with photography,” Kutt expressed.

She continued her education at LCC before transferring to Washtenaw Community College. Kutt said that it was at Washtenaw that she developed her love for portraits out of convenience; she took self-portraits for her assignments because it was easier for her to play with lighting and photoshop by herself than relying on someone else. After looking through her body of work, she realized how much it influenced her self-love and the way she looked at photography.

“We get so caught up in what
is advertised today because
we don’t see ourselves portrayed
in the media. I wanted to make
sure that every single woman
had the opportunity to be seen.”

— Elise Kutt

Kutt created an impressive portfolio that helped her get into the Art Institute of Chicago where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts. Upon receiving her degree, she worked as a location scout in Chicago for several years until she decided to relocate to Grand Rapids. 

“I had a nervous breakdown,” Kutt said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do in West Michigan. It was saturated in photographers.” 

Photo by Elise Kutt

She stayed in Chicago for two years and researched Grand Rapids. She wanted to see what already existed and what was lacking. She noticed that Chicago had a variety of female empowerment studios and she wanted to bring that concept to Grand Rapids. 

When Mod Bettie first launched, it was exclusively a pin-up studio, and Kutt had no intention of drifting from that niche, until clients started asking her for more.

 “Probably about two years in, I was being asked to do more modern looks,” she said. “You know, it was ‘Can you do this, can you do that?’ and I never say no to anything, so I did it.’’ 

Mod Bettie now offers a variety of sessions from pin-up, glamour and commercial to senior portraits, and family/generational sessions, and several more. Kutt’s favorite style to shoot, though, is modern boudoir.

Photo by Elise Kutt

 “The transformation my clients go through during this shoot is much more significant than any other shoot I do,” Kutt said. 

Kutt wanted Mod Bettie to focus on helping women through their self-love journey.

“Every single day we are faced with feeling like we’re not enough,” she expressed. “We get so caught up in what is advertised today because we don’t see ourselves portrayed in the media. I wanted to make sure that every single woman had the opportunity to be seen.”

In order to fully achieve this mission, Kutt opened her own lingerie boutique for women of all sizes, with no prior retail experience, in order to provide her clients with the opportunity to find clothes that will make them feel beautiful in the same safe, supportive environment in which the pictures take place.

Mary Searcy, a Mod Bettie client, has done several sessions along with her daughter and her mother.

 “It was a blast,” Searcy said. “You have Elise’s entire attention and she has such positive energy that just radiates from her. You can’t help but be excited.” 

Photo by Elise Kutt

Searcy added that the shoot “makes you feel like a gorgeous model.” 

Kutt cheers her clients on the entire time and allows them to look at a few photos along the way. 

“It made me look at myself differently,” Searcy expressed. “It creates confidence and acceptance and you can see yourself the way other people see you.”

Kutt has made it a point to make a personal connection to each and every one of her clients. She keeps in touch with them and also gives them a place to share their stories with other clients through an online community called #SquadBettie. The goal and intention of this empowering business can best be described by Mod Bettie’s mission statement: In a society that puts a camera in every hand but is quick to shame the selfie, our mission is to empower women by creating a safe and supportive environment for female self-expression.

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