Of the 229 posts in my Instagram gallery, this one has received the most likes and comments. At first I was surprised. It doesn’t include the quintessential “sexy” ingredients. There’s no lingerie, no fishnets, no saucy look. There’s nothing explicit. I’m not arching my back in a doorway or lying on a bed with my thigh-high-clad legs in the air. But after thinking about why this picture captured so much interest, I decided it’s because it’s more evocative than a traditional boudoir photo. It offers a private glimpse into a woman’s sexuality.
It conveys a lot because a lot is not shown. Only the side of my face is visible. I’m nude but you don’t see nipples or genitals. Because it’s not totally clear what’s going on, the viewer can project his or her own fantasy onto the shot. I could be post-coitally asleep, I could be in flagrante delicto, I could be masturbating. Or I could just be lying there, waiting for my lover to bring me a cup of coffee. I could also be snoring, but that’s probably not anyone’s fantasy.
I love any photographic genre that captures a woman’s sensual and sexual essence. But it is this kind of photo, the art nude, that has become my favorite since I launched this blog nine months ago. My early photos were classic boudoir photos: beautiful, elegant, but somewhat traditional. I had no idea how integral the photos would become to the blog. I figured I’d show a few of my boudoir shots and then graduate to stock photos.
But as I realized how much of a draw the personal photos were — and are — I knew I needed to keep doing shoots. So I scoured the Internet looking for inspiration. The more photos I looked at, the more my taste evolved from classic boudoir to the art nude. Classic boudoir photos are gorgeous, but are often more static and posed. Art nudes are dynamic. They involve movement and whimsy. And they tell a story.
For a photo shoot to be any good, a collaboration between the photographer and subject is required. But when you’re pushing the boundary from the conventional to the unknown, there’s a more intimate dialogue between the people behind and in front of the camera. And both people have to take more risks. A model can’t just thrust out her hip and look all come-hither, and the photographer has to create an atmosphere that allows the subject to be truly vulnerable.
With these kinds of photos, the dialogue is repeated between the finished product and the viewer. The photo above is enigmatic. It’s an indirect shot. Because things aren’t spelled out, the viewer is invited to finish the story, to use his or her imagination in perhaps a more imaginative way than would be the case with a traditional sexy portrait.
I have another shoot coming up with Nick Holmes, who I love working with because he makes it safe to “go there.” I don’t know where “there” is going to end up this time, but I have some ideas. Tess and bird.ee are two of my inspirations because of the stories they’re able to tell with their bodies. They’re also auto-portraitists which is a whole other level of amazing.
It’s exciting, and a little scary, every time I write a new blog post and feature a companion photo. I am constantly striving to test limits without going too far. But I love the process because it involves the same ingredients as great sex:
Trust. Risk. Creativity. And surrender.