Boudoir Photography. Not something I ever thought I’d be modeling for… especially in a studio classroom setting and streaming live on the internet. But I did, and it was a pretty amazing experience.
Let’s just stop for a second and point out that I never thought I’d be modeling, period… for a whole host of practical, logistical, and (honestly) self-deprecatory reasons. But the opportunities have presented themselves a few times now, and there’s some more scheduled for this month! So… who am I to walk past the open doors to new ways to build characters and worlds?
First of all, I initially responded to a casting notice from CreativeLive for a pin-up model to model for a workshop with the fabulous Rachel Stephens Photography. Pin-ups are a whole different thing –in my mind, at least–from boudoir. They’re sassy, they’re not trying to be sexy– they’re cute and a little naughty with a wink.
So I gathered all my personal and borrowed potential pin-up gear– polka dot bikini, cute little red tennis skirt, and an awesome vintage one-piece swimsuit. But then I mentioned to the producer of the shoot that a French postcard look could also be fun. Game changed. The producers, the photographer, and I all loved the idea, I created a pinterest board full of French postcard images for inspiration and posing ideas (Warning: Several on the board are slightly NSFW, with implied and actual nudity), and on the day of the shoot we chose the corset and peignoir look.
Here’s what I love about the images I found: For the most part, there are props, it’s a set scene. The women are mostly doing something. That’s what I like about pin-ups too. And yes, as the husband pointed out, that’s part of how they got around classing it as pornography at the time. But still–I like the scene. Reading a book or writing a letter. Fixing a car sometimes. At the dressing table putting on make-up or pulling on a stocking (so many of these are shots of actresses and dancers “backstage”). They are more direct than the 1940s & ’50s style pin-ups; they let you know they are being interrupted.
Here are some of the ones Rachel pulled as poses we could do with her available set pieces and lighting:
And here’s how some of ours turned out. Of course, allowances need to be made for furniture, modern costuming, and the fact that this was never intended to be a fully authentic vintage shoot, but rather boudoir photography inspired by that look…. and I think we got the spirit of it!
This whole process took a lot of nerves on my part, I don’t mind telling you. To submit in the first place, to pick out the clothing options, to walk into a studio in thigh highs with my skivvies on display, to pose in front of people, to have video cameras floating all around the room, and the decision of whether to even post these photos anywhere– here on this blog or on facebook… it was all nerve racking.
But I’m so glad I did it. I decided early on to make it a useful thing. To make it an acting exercise– more practice getting comfortable in front of a camera and working with technical aspects like light and frame. To make it a character exercise, to just be someone who is confident and sultry and leaning into those uncomfortable poses. To be the women in those old pictures who stared down the cameras, holding forever while the photographer got it just right.
I also decided to make peace for the day with my parts I know are not perfect (all of them), and the parts that I am always hyper-sensitive about. Rachel’s philosophy of boudoir photos–and a large theme of this workshop– is to create images that highlight, but don’t hide the features of the women in her pictures. I heard her say over and over to other models and to me, “You’re going to look amazing. You’re going to look like you.” And that was really affecting to hear from someone I just met.
And frankly, I was really surprised by these photos. I had no idea how long my legs and neck could look (5’2″doesn’t go very far in the leg department). Apparently I must tilt my head in all my photos, because I had no idea that’s what my face looks like head-on.
I honestly had no idea I could look like this particular incarnation, that I could send out this kind of vibe. That I do look like this… with a little help from great lighting and a fabulous make-up artist, but still… it’s a realization that gives me a lot to think about, in terms of how I present myself, and what kinds of acting parts “make sense.” It’s great to feel sexy, sure, but more importantly… it makes me feel versatile. It makes me feel brave.
Lastly, here’s my favorite one.
Rachel pulled out all the stops, and did some awesome editing magic that mimics the look of the old tin-type processing used in the early 1900s. Check out the faint imprint of writing, and the stamp that would be used on the reverse side!
I love it. It looks amazing, and it looks like me.