The Future of Boudoir Photography
In terms of female art – from paintings to pictures – boudoir photography has been around long enough to show evidence of its evolution. From the evocation of natural beauty and grace to promoting sensuality and sexuality, boudoir has taken on so many meanings and forms over the past four centuries, one wonders what message it will convey in the near future. But before we ponder what it will become soon, we must look back at what it was and what it meant back then.
Boudoir photography was considered taboo in the 1920s. Back then, the art of boudoir was shown through nude photos of women. It was a hyper conservative mentality (think old-school) that influenced people to think nude photography was pornography. This perception changed when Albert Allen Arthur, a French photographer, revolutionized the way nude portraits were taken. He favored plus-sized women as models, choosing to portray their plumpness as natural beauty, which is quite the opposite of today’s portrayal of women who need to follow the world’s standard of beauty (read thin and curvy features).
Past the 1920s, boudoir as a whole went through numerous changes in its meaning and message. The 1930s saw a shift from nude to glamour photography, thanks in part to the efforts of George Hurrell, the master of the Hollywood portrait, specifically for women. His clientele included iconic actresses like Mae West, Jean Harlow, and Rita Hayworth. The reason for the term “glamour” was because Hurrell captured intangible quality of class and elegance that these stars embodied. And it wasn’t lewd or gross, but very unique and captivating.
The 1950s saw the emergence of artists like Sam Shaw and Cecil Beaton (both photographers of Marilyn Monroe). These two chose to depict the blonde bombshell not as the sex icon that she was, but in a very simple, everyday-like manner. It not only made her accessible to the average Joe and Jane, but showed a different side of her outside the Hollywood glitz and glamour she was accustomed to. In Shaw’s and Beaton’s body of work, there truly was beauty in simplicity.
Then, today, and beyond
Once the period of the natural grace and beauty was over, a different roster of photographers redefined boudoir to what we normally see today. It was the era of over sensuality and sexuality. Helmut Newton and Alberto Vargas (famous for his pin-up works of art) styled or often drew women in very sexy poses and very revealing clothing, like underwear or lingerie.
Today, our views of sexuality and feminine beauty have been heavily influenced by this movement. Magazines like FHM, Playboy, etc., and even billboard advertisements glamorize this kind of “boudoir”. They have become our society’s norm on beauty. In a sense, it has been “pornified”. A very small movement of artists dedicated to preserving the origins of boudoir still abide, giving this art form a glimmer of hope.
In the future, there is a possibility that this “pornified” view in boudoir will still continue. It will no longer be about capturing the natural curves or simple beauty, but the proliferation of hyper sexuality and sensuality.
Or… more and more photographers will blaze new trails of art and present us with ideas so revolutionary, the only response can be that of silent awe. One such photographer is Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz. His exploration of different textures such as milk and water, coupled with high-speed sync photography has thrust him as one of the contemporary icons of photography.
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