Exploring the empowering effects of boudoir photography
Christine Beyleveldt // Campus Life Editor
Vancouver-based photographer Liz Rosa has always admired the female form, and she insists that her style of boudoir photography is a genre of expression that lets women feel con dent in their own skin. While she began her career in the fashion industry shooting swimwear and lingerie, Rosa quickly diverted down an alternative route.
She travels to Paris for the city’s Fashion Week every year with hairstylist and makeup artist Thuy Dinh, to photograph models from all over the world in their underwear. On their first jaunt to the fashion capital over five years ago, they stayed on Rue la Bruyère in the ninth arrondissement – the street they named their photo agency, Bruyère Boudoir, after.
Although Paris was the birthplace of this particular style of photographic expression, boudoir photography is a popular trend worldwide that dates back to the Victorian Era. Postcards featuring provocatively-dressed women first emerged in the late 19th century.
While modern boudoir photography is a staple wedding gift many brides bestow upon their husbands to be, it’s become equally commonplace for women to model for their own empowering reasons. “I think half of them do it for themselves but they say they’re doing it for their husbands,” Rosa joked.
In a day and age where 90 per cent of young girls are unhappy with their appearance after being exposed to images of the hyper-sexualized and digitally enhanced female form portrayed by the media, Rosa aspires to make women feel beautiful in their own skin.
“I like the whole idea of empowering women and making them feel amazing in their bodies,” she said. “[But] a lot of women get deterred because there are a lot of models on our site and they don’t think that we shoot real women per say.”
Getting undressed is nerve-wracking for even the most confident of women, something Rosa never fully understood until a year ago when she set up her camera, disrobed, and had a friend photograph her for her boyfriend. A lot of her clients, she explained, complain about needing to lose weight or get in better shape, which she admits can be exasperating at times, but at the end of the day they look at their photos and feel beautiful inside and out.
An entire day’s worth of work is poured into creating an album that is the end product, containing 10 to 15 of her client’s favourite photos. Their model will spend an hour-and-a-half being professionally made up and having their hair styled, usually by Dinh in the stylist’s home dressing room.
Rosa sets up her camera and arranges the boudoir with downy bed sheets and white lace curtains, serving champagne and strawberries to her client while Dinh works her magic. “They need direction really badly, because a lot of these women [have] never modelled, they’ve never had a photoshoot in their life and you kind of just need to talk them through,” she said.
A lot of her clients bring their favourite lingerie to change into. For up to two hours, Rosa directs them through a series of striking poses, designed to accentuate their curves and show off their best features. “You just need to encourage them, coach them, tell them they look beautiful, you know just keep the energy going the whole time so there’s no awkward silence.”
Rosa will take between 300 and 400 photos in a single session. She also noted that after a few glasses of bubbly, the women tend to unleash their inner Sasha Fierce, sometimes fully undressing if the photos are for a significant other.
The photoshoots are private, an intimate secret to be shared between two partners. At the end of a long session, Rosa and her client pick their favourite photos, which she’ll edit and retouch and compile in an album they can either gift or keep as a memento. Although it’s almost inevitable that she’ll have to touch up her photographs, she doesn’t like to do it.
“Women look at magazines and always compare themselves to these women who do not look like that in real life. Every single image in every single magazine has been retouched,” she said. “That’s just not realistic, and you know their husbands know what they look like.”
Photoshop has been blamed for fostering a culture of self-consciousness. Whether a pregnant model wants to be reminded that she is still sexy despite her rapidly changing body, or a girl who has struggled with eating disorders wants to reclaim her figure, at the end of the day Rosa revealed that it’s a transformative experience that can be looked back on years later.
Sex and the City’s darling Samantha Jones said it best. “I want to look back at this when I’m 80 years old and think I was damn fine,” Rosa joked.