Boudoir: Boorish, Bourgeois or Beautiful?

One of the hottest (no pun intended) new things in wedding photography is Boudoir.

Some brides, for a number of reasons, are asking photographers to produce glamour portraits that go much deeper than your basic posed photo. The resulting images may be for their husbands, for posterity, or possibly even as an exercise in exploring who they are before taking the step of commitment in marriage.

The best photographers willing to venture into this arena draw upon their interpersonal skills to create an image that can be a very sensual expression of the person being photographed.  It takes a special photographer to be able to handle this kind of request, and those asking should be very careful, ensuring they are working with someone reputable. 

It can also be a very touchy subject. Some people are offended by the images and find them boorish. Others consider them just ordinary photographs with a particular flavour to them - they are bourgeois in their minds. Still others find them a beautiful expression not only of artistic form, but of the inner beauty of the individual being photographed.

How the images come out depends a great deal on the photographer taking the photos, the one being imaged, the purpose for which the photographs are intended, and indeed the mindset of the viewer of the images. 


Boudoir photography is, at it's worst, boorish. It brings to mind Playboy magazine or the pin-up girl, or the fireman's calendar - images that can and often do reduce both men and women viewing them to their base instincts, drooling knuckle-dragging beasts hungry for the satisfaction of a little "meat". But just because something is often received the wrong way does not make it bad in and of itself. It does, however, mean it needs to be treated with a great deal more care.
Photo by: Simona Dumitru

Does the fact that boudoir photographs provoke strong base urges in some men make it less artful?  Does it mean these images are snapped without care? That they are easy to create, and have no value? Is there a way to treat the subject, avoiding these urges to some extent and accentuate the art?

Just for a moment, take a look at classical art; do we look at the Venus DeMilo or the statue of David as erotic and therefore write them off as pornographic? Apart from the titters of old ladies and school children (and maybe a few of us as well), who aren't quite sure how to process the provocative nature of the statues, most would say these pieces of art are an expression of the human condition - a faithful study and reproduction of the human form.


To write it off too quickly is to reduce the images to the bourgeois; that is to say, common place and irrelevant - middle class and not of high value. Tolerable, but somehow, not really of value good or bad.

This view demonstrates a kind of deadening of the spirit, where something becomes so commonplace that it becomes irrelevant. In our western culture, we have become so accustomed to sexual innuendo and indeed blatant sexual representation in the images we view that we largely ignore them and their message; they become bourgeois.

Similarly, when surrounded by incredible art, we can become so accustomed to it that it can appear commonplace. Imagine living in a roman palace with statues everywhere - they become part of the furniture and you hardly notice them any more.

But to take this view seems to simply ignore it for good or bad. That is simply avoiding the issues.


At it's best, Boudoir can be beautiful. A well composed, well lit study of the human form in all it's created beauty. And not just a reflection of the outer beauty of the subject, but of their inner beauty as well and of the artistic representation of the image itself.

Many of my friends would probably argue the images are too revealing, or are provocative, but when done properly, that is certainly not the intent. But where does that come from? Adam and Eve were created naked in the garden and it was only after they had "sinned" that this became a problem. Is the problem of beauty not an issue of the images in themselves, but rather of the base feelings of the viewer? 

Boudoir images are studies in shape and form, of light and how light plays on the human body. The same kind of study that can be done with much less controversial subjects such as waves crashing against rocks at an ocean shore, or snow covered mountains gleaming in the evening sun. But because the subject is controversial, does that make the art less beautiful?

It takes a special talent to be able to create Boudoir images without being entangled in the baseness or the controversy. (Because of that entanglement and controversy, I personally avoid doing this kind of photography). Perhaps it takes a special talent to view them as well. Done with excellence, these images can be quite beautiful, not just in the form of the subject, but in the creative art of the photographer.

A friend of mine does some wonderful Boudoir photography - Shannon of Discover Photography. When you speak with her, you realize she is not creating Playboy centerfolds. Far from it! Her message is about empowerment and helping women (and men) find in themselves a strength and character they never knew was there. It is a wonderful complement to the art that she produces. She manages to bring out and capture the outer beauty of her subjects and also the inner beauty. Yet somehow, some viewers still only see the skin.

In the end, if you find boudoir images boorish, or bourgeois, perhaps it is not the subject, or even the photographer that is the issue (though there are definitely some commercial ventures who continue to tarnish the art by using it for baser purposes). Perhaps it is how the images are viewed that creates the problem. Perhaps it is the viewer themselves. 

Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.

So, is there value in Boudoir? Is it Boorish, Bourgeois or extraordinarily beautiful? Is there a place for it? Can we appreciate it? Can we even learn from it?

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.

(c) 2014 by Gary Scott,


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