An interesting part of my job here at Art of Seduction is to become somewhat of a connoisseur of the entire industry. Like Argentina, I’m constantly flipping through glamour magazines and lingerie catalogs to study the different poses. In addition to my obsession with fine intimates, now whenever I find a new pair of underwear, my first thought is to whether they would photograph well. Lately, I have been hunting down vintage photos to better know about boudoir’s history.
A high point was when I was at a used bookstore the other day and had to have the staff unlock the “erotica” section of books for me because I wanted to do a little research on boudoir photography and pinup. Anthony, my boyfriend, teased me by telling the bookstore worker to “watch out, [I’m] a total creep.” Fortunately, I don’t have that look about me (just about no one finds me physically threatening — not even small animals), so it caused no issue.
But as I thumbed through old pinup books by the likes of Playboy, and even as I do Google searches on the history of intimate women’s portraiture, I realize why the boudoir industry often gets a bad rap. Often when I have to explain to people what kind of photography studio I work at, there’s a fair amount of confusion and misunderstanding. (To avoid this, I usually simply tell people I work “for a photographer.”)
To clarify, I want to explain things to the layman. If you’ve booked a shoot and haven’t done it yet and your friends don’t understand why — or maybe if you aren’t even really sure what you’ve gotten yourself into — this is for you. Naturally, there are some folks that just won’t get it. For instance, my father will never know the nature of my work, and I have no problem with this. (He once found a print from my couples shoot — a supertame one of practically just our faces, by the way — and FLIPPED OUT.) But if you’re open-minded and appreciate feminity and art, read on.
Personally, I have a little trouble distinguishing the difference between some pinup photography and boudoir, as the lines are rather blurred. To be sure, they’re like sisters. However, after all my “creeping” around learning about them both, my current understanding of pinup is that it is considered a part of erotica, and often includes obvious displays of nudity. To be fair, the traditional 50s pinup style we’re so familiar with from the WWII days is very similar to the boudoir philosophy, but nowadays requires quite a bit of costuming and is therefore less accessible to the “everywoman.” (I feel, as a woman of Asian descent, that I probably lack the “look” for that type of pinup, anyway, whereas there is no predefined look for boudoir.)
Boudoir photography, while it does contain an element of sexual suggestion, is the tamer, goody-two-shoes sibling under the women’s portraiture umbrella. It is exactly this — the suggestion — that separates it from pinup and actual erotica.
I find this an important distinction to make because many people still seem to feel that there is something shameful or to hide about boudoir photography, like it deserves to be shelved away for no one to see, ever.
Take, for example, this photo from my Art of Seduction shoot:
I love this photo for several reasons. Not only is it boudoir, but I also love that it is appropriate for almost any audience. (So much so that I’m having it printed to frame and made it my Facebook profile pic!) While you see very little of my body, I believe you see quite a bit of ’tude — perhaps Argentina’s nod to the late and great Michael Jackson.
The suggestive nature of the riding crop and the absence of pants make this a boudoir photo. And for those of you still under the impression that boudoir must be super-revealing, here it is.
What makes boudoir the tamer sister to pinup is that it implies more than it actually says. This makes it a very difficult type of art that many guys have trouble with comprehending — if you’re in your underwear and you’re in photographs, surely, it must be pornographic? Not so.
A little-known fact: Most of the “nude” photographs you see from a boudoir studio are only pretend. This is called “implied nude,” and while I am not going to post my own for everyone on the Interwebs to see, I think this fact embodies exactly what boudoir is about: putting together a fantasy to celebrate a woman’s beauty, and the lingerie is a means to an end. How better than to glamourize her but by putting her in touch with her own femininity?
Now, there is a lot of crossover when it comes to intimate portraiture. Argentina is not necessarily strictly a boudoir photographer, as she will also venture into nudes and couples shoots for those who are adventurous enough to do it. But ultimately, know that there is a huge difference between boudoir and actual erotica that one prefers to keep locked up in a safe.
Another major characteristic of boudoir photography? The option to “zoom in” on some playful details — some kickass stilettos, a beautiful ribbon detail on the back of a corset, the gentle curve of a woman’s spine, a hipbone. It’s far more about artfully capturing the beauty as opposed to turning an everyday woman into a poster meant to adorn the inside of someone’s locker.
Your boudoir photos are meant to be seen. Perhaps not by the entire world — for this we never publish images that were not expressly released to us for this purpose — but perhaps in a handcrafted album for you to flip through next time you’re feeling a little blue or disempowered . . . or printed on a big canvas to hang in your bedroom. It is absolutely personal and can be kept as private as you’d like, as a wonderful gift to a special someone in your life, maybe, but it definitely is a unique expression of you.