Intimate, sensual and an unexpectedly deep dive into my feminine side.
Alright, so here’s the scope: I am a lot of things, but I am not a very traditionally feminine or sophisticated woman. I am pretty, cute or adorkable at best, and this is not me being self-conscious here, because I’d say I have a pretty good self-image, it is just the truth – we can’t all be classically beautiful and effortlessly refined like Audrey Hepburn and I am about as graceful as a bull in a china shop and equally clumsy. Again, not self-deprecation, just how I am and important for context here, because most of you reading this don’t know me in person.
As a mechanical engineer I spend a lot of time on what could be called the male energy spectrum (see a related post here) and even before that I’ve always been all bluster, wildness and hard edges. That’s not to say that I don’t like to dress nicely, wear make up and do my hair and nails, but even now I tend to accidentally tear my stockings before the end of the day, my natural movements are closer to erratic than elegant and no one who has known me for more than 5 minutes would ever worry about my sensibilities. It is what it is, complete with a resting bitch face. Luckily enough, I have been blessed with a full curvy figure in all the right places and a fair bit of confidence, so I can definitely do sexy, but my version of smooth and seductive is rather like using a hammer where a gentle pat would do.
I wouldn’t have it any other way, because the traditional image of feminine perfection is a rather confining concept, which has long overstayed its welcome as a societal expectation… and yet, it does have its charm. Just like everyone wants to be loved, I believe there is a part in every woman that wants to be beautiful in the most archaic, glamorous and sensual sense of the word (and also wildly sexy, but if you are lacking in that vibe, try burlesque).
Enter boudoir photography.
In French, a boudoir was a woman’s private room in the 18th century, and the word has been appropriated for a very intimate, sensual genre of portrait photography. Boudoir photography is focused on embracing your body and all of its imperfections, on authentic emotions and owning your intimacy and sexuality. It can be sexy, but it is erotic rather than vulgar, and any nudity is implied and tasteful, rather than a pornographic focus. It’s all soft lighting, shadows and flattering curves and should feel like an indulgence.
You can think of it as a sort of a fashion lingerie photoshoot, but the majority of boudoir subjects are regular clients instead of fashion models, and most of them, like me, couldn’t pose to save their lives. Which is exactly what makes boudoir both special and tricky, because in order to make the clients feel beautiful enough for good photos, you need a good photographer who not only knows how to shoot, but also how to connect to people and get them out of their shells.
Boudoir photography was one of those things that I wanted to try at some point, but it was never very high up on the list. Certainly not in the middle of a very stressful renovation and PhD life phase and with 6 kilograms left to lose from my pandemic weight gain. But somehow, it seems it was exactly the right time.
the photographer: nina vidmar
I had been talking to Nina Vidmar on Instagram on and off about our home renovation and her awesome photos for a while now, so when she announced a special spring boudoir discount for a very affordable price, something made me decide to book a session. I paid for my photo session, so this post is not sponsored, I just wanted to share my experience and support Nina at the same time.
There was only one problem – the spring boudoir scene Nina had envisioned was very soft, floral, gentle, all around feminine and also completely out of my comfort zone. In her guidebook for the photo shoot she suggested that white, beige, pink or pastel lingerie pieces would work best for this scene and I don’t really own much of that. My preferred black ended up working just as well though…
Since this was my first boudoir photoshoot, I have nothing to compare it to, but I can tell you that Nina knows her stuff and the photos speak for themselves. She made me feel at ease, took her time and helped direct me into flattering poses and told me all the tips and tricks to make sure that the photos turned out well, but most importantly, I had fun and I left feeling beautiful. Not pretty, not sexy, but like a sensual, beautiful minx. Granted, I did choose all the lingerie pieces I own because they make me feel good, but if you had told me beforehand that I’d ever feel relaxed and gorgeous in front of a camera I wouldn’t have believed you, because taking a nice photo of me tends to be an ordeal.
Well, 2 hours later there I was on the camera screen: gentle, fierce, playful, sexy and as gracefully feminine as possible. Even though they show a side of me that I don’t often bring out into the world or acknowledge much at all, the person on the photos doesn’t feel like a stranger, which was something I was a bit worried about. I knew the photos would turn out beautiful, because I trusted Nina as a photographer, but on some level I was afraid that they might end up being too posed and not authentic. But, it is all me, complete with stretch marks, bulky fingers and all my other imperfect bits, as Nina only does minimal editing to keep the photos natural. You won’t see much of these promised imperfections in the photos in this post because we also made some steamier photos, but I am not one to put my naked pictures online and it is almost a shame.
In terms of the process, Nina took a lot of photos and sent me the previews so I could choose my favourites. I ended up choosing 12 on which she put her final editing touch and the price and number of finished photos you’ll get depends on the photography package deal she has available at the time. She also has different background options and can arrange for a make up artist, but I did my own, because it was all very natural and minimalistic. Like I mentioned earlier, I also got a boudoir guidebook beforehand so that I knew exactly what I was getting into and how best to prepare, which I really appreciated.
At the end of the day they are just pretty photos and I don’t even have a very good justification for spending money on a personal photo shoot like an apparent total narcissist, but the whole process and the photos themselves got me thinking deeply enough about my relationship with the social constructs of beauty and femininity that I ended up writing this post. And isn’t that the measure of art – to illicit a response? In this case I feel like I lived through an experience of art as a participant instead of as a part of the audience or the creator, which was certainly interesting. So if you ever have the opportunity to treat yourself to a boudoir photo shoot with the right photographer, I say go for it even if it feels like a useless or frivolous expense – who knows what you might end up learning about yourself.
All photos by Nina Vidmar.