Art nude and boudoir photography: reflections, the male gaze and the sexual self | Velvet Thyme

Beginnings as an art nude photographer

I first started creating what is usually called ‘art nude photography’ – using more traditional white, black or plain studio backdrops. Despite this label, my subjects ranged in attire from being nude to partially clothed. Some of the photographs even looked closer to what is often called boudoir.  This isn’t to say that a studio is important in defining art nude photography, but it’s often where we often see these representations of the body.

Boudoir: a more accessible term

The idea of ‘Art Nudes’ can be intimidating, because it seems to infer full nudity. This makes you instantly think that ‘if I want to do this shoot, I have to be nude’, but that’s not true – full nudity is entirely optional! Nude photography can be easily censored with lighting, clothing, props or positioning so that it becomes implied (even if you are wearing nothing you can still show very little). 

This is why bringing in the term ‘Boudoir’ to my photography practise was helpful, because its associated with the idea of being either clothed, partly clothed or ‘implied nude’. This meant I could offer a more broad and comfortable way of finding these types of photo shoots.

Boudoir and the sexual self

Boudoir is also often understood to be more of a representation of your sexual being, however, as we all know – sexuality is very complex. I think what feels ‘sexy’ is a complex an individual thing, interwoven with personality, intelligence, humour, style and the very essence of being. Feeling sexual is often associated with feeling good about yourself, and this usually happens when you feel in harmony with both body and mind. 

The shoots that I offer are a process of exploring different parts of you, so that you can build confidence and feel more empowered and connected to body and self. I see the sexual self as an element of you – part of a much greater faceted whole person. So I realised that, if I was really going to find terminology for this type of photo shoot it would be something like; a boudoir, art nude, portraiture and lifestyle photo session plus a good chat!

Boudoir portrait of a woman in a tartan shirt

Being mindful of the male gaze in my work

I’m passionate about trying to avoid the male gaze in my photographyIf you don’t want to jump to the more comprehensive linked article, the male gaze in simple terms assumes the viewer as a heterosexual male, the work objectify’s women. This means that the women is represented as a sexual object for the male viewers pleasure. To be clear, this is something I try to avoid and continue to question if it inadvertently sneaks into my work. This is not to say that if your significant other/s is/are heterosexual men they won’t love these photographs too – far from it. If you are represented sensitively as an exploration of you, body and soul, and on your own terms – both yourself and partner/s or friends will deeply love this.

Why predominately choose the term boudoir?

I still refer to what I do by some of those other terms, however, I currently think that boudoir is the best way for you to find what I’m offering. To be honest I think it’s more like ‘you-doir’! It’s not what might be understood as a ‘traditional’ boudoir shoot, but I think we really need to evolve the term to be more broad anyway. 

So… what would your shoot look like?