You are currently viewing Seeing Ourselves in Black & White – Q&A with Photographer Amy Paine

Seeing Ourselves in Black & White – Q&A with Photographer Amy Paine

If there is one type of book that draws me in, it’s black-and-white photography. Combine that with a book featuring women embracing who they are, joyfully showing their vulnerability, and being all-around inspiring, and it’s hard not to be a fan of Amy Paine’s book Just Me.

The concept was startlingly simple: photo shoots of women without makeup or hair styling and without enhancements of the final pictures, with the goal of changing the way we see ourselves. The outcome is 100 stories and images of women combined into one outstanding book.

Amy was kind enough to answer some questions that I have been thinking about since seeing her project come to Gorham Printing.

Gorham Printing: What was your inspiration for this book?

Amy Paine: Most women feel the need to leave the house looking presentable (me!). Most women go through their days feeling some sort of inadequacy (also me!). We are sold the message that we are not enough; that we need to buy these things or do these other things in order to be beautiful. Bored at the studio one day, I was killing time and took self portraits with no makeup and no hair styling. Expecting to only see my insecurities, I was surprised to appreciate the photos when looking at them with love and kindness. There was vulnerability, strength, and a message of “F You” to unrealistic beauty standards. I posted the photos online and asked if anyone else wanted to be photographed with no makeup and no hair styling (and no retouching!) And people signed up. 100+ over the course of a year.

GP: Did you plan the photo sessions with this project in mind or did the idea come about after the photo shoots?

AP: I did start the project with a goal of 100 women, but a book was not on my mind, only a gallery event. At the gallery event, so many people asked about a book because they wanted a friend to experience all of the stories and images on their own time. It can be overwhelming to read all the vulnerable, heartbreaking, and uplifting stories that the people told.

GP: How long did you spend designing the first draft?

AP: I originally tried to find a designer to create it for me, but the budget did not allow for it. I put it off for way longer than it took to actually design the book. Then, once designed, I printed drafts for friends and family to proofread and make suggestions. The first draft had two images/people on a spread, but it was too cluttered and didn’t give the stories or portraits the space they deserved. So now, a portrait is on one side of the spread and their interview snippet is on the other side.

GP: What program did you use to design your book? Were there any particular challenges with the software you used?

AP: Adobe InDesign! I had only dabbled in it. Thankfully, my design wasn’t very complicated. Many YouTube videos were watched to figure out how to make a footer.

GP: You had a book launch scheduled that was ultimately canceled due to Covid-19. How did you shift gears to spread the word about your book? How have you been marketing since?

AP: I did; it was such a bummer and I’m still sad that I didn’t get to celebrate in person! If only I had planned everything for two weeks before. I continued to market on social media and through my email list. I hosted a 20-minute Facebook Live to celebrate the book launch, and shipped everyone’s books out over the course of a few weeks. I only have about 15 books left right now, so I haven’t been marketing it as much as I should. Funny enough, when random people come over (for example, the woman who brought our refinance paperwork over), if I bring the book out, they usually buy it off of me. Especially if they have a daughter. It sells itself. I wish I had the energy and time to put into finding a publisher. I think it would hold its own on a bookshelf. My Kickstarter campaign in order to print the book raised $10k — my mind was blown!

GP: What’s next for Amy Paine Photography? Do you have any upcoming book projects in mind?

AP: I’ve been focusing on my boudoir/empowerment business at my Queen Anne studio in Seattle. I have thought of new projects, but haven’t put any into practice. I have done two group sessions at the water to celebrate “Every Body is a Beach Body” and my friend said I could make those into a book. It will take a few more years because we only go to the water once a year and last year’s was cancelled!

I have also had many people ask me to do the “Just Me” project for men. They have their own insecurities and stories, but I love spending my days with women (and non-binary humans—there are a few in the Just Me book) since I relate to their struggles the most.

GP: How did you find out about Gorham Printing?

Google, it’s a beautiful thing! I wanted somewhere local — it’s a couple-hour drive, but was so fun to be able to see where everything was made (and save on shipping costs). The team has been so lovely and noticed such tiny details on the cover to make sure I signed off (the beauty of designing things yourself is that there are bound to be more imperfections).

GP: What did it feel like when you first saw your finished book?

I just had to give it a hug! I was so excited, because it was a long time coming with many hands to make it possible. I couldn’t wait to show my community that it was a real thing.

GP: If you could send your book to anyone in the world, who would it be?


Oh, gosh. Two answers: 

1. The one publisher who would want to run 100k copies out into the world. 

2. Any woman (especially teenagers) who need to see real, honest, vulnerable bodies and faces that they recognize themselves in. To know that they are not alone, that other people share their stories and struggles, and that the world of social media and advertising is not real. My message to them: “Be kind to yourself, because you are enough today.”

GP: Where can people find out more about you and your book?

Thank you! At the moment, I only have about 15 books left, and I’m not sure if/when I’d order more. But here is where to go: is my website where you can learn more about me and my projects.

It is also on Etsy:

I do still offer these Just Me photo sessions. If you want to learn more about me and join my community, please come to these places:

Instagram (most active)

Our Facebook Group for women and non-binary people:

Books open up so many avenues for writers and artists to reach and inspire people. One of the best parts of being on the Gorham Printing team is watching this journey unfold! Do you have a similar project you’ve always dreamed of turning into a book? Give Jennefer or I a call to help turn that dream into a reality.


Candace moved to the PNW in 1998 after getting her B.A. in English Literature with a minor in History. She previously lived in Portland, where she owned and operated a professional pet-sitting company. Candace enjoys writing fiction and crocheting, and loves her label-maker.

Leave a Reply