I remember seeing my news feed flooding with posts about singer Colbie Callait's song "Try," which carried on for a few weeks. Who was this Colbie anyway? It was causing quite a stir, with people celebrating her "just be," no makeup approach to both the song and video. It was honorable...rare even... for any celebrity to do such a thing.
But it's not just Colbie. It's my own industry, too. In a niche that was designed to celebrate beauty, passion and empowerment for women (and some men), this trend is growing by the day. I find that some clients are drawn to the idea, while others are downright frightened by it. And, in my opinion, both are entirely justified.
Mystified by this trend, I turned to two hot AIBP members, and two of the biggest "Photoshoppers" I know in our boudoir industry... North Florida photographer Jennifer Tallerico, and New Jersey photographer Cate Scaglione.
Both of their work goes well beyond the aesthetics of "makeup" and steer into the territory of "made up."
In fact, they've created an entire art form around "made up," creating alternative fantasy worlds for women's boudoir. They are changing the common vantage point of beauty, with imaginative landscapes, ethereal features, and otherworldly glances.
Recognizing some tension between this emerging "purist" trend and their otherwise "processed" creations, I posed them with the question...
"How much fabrication of women's beauty is going too far?"
"As boudoir photographers there is a huge misconception that we are simply taking sexy pictures. For many women, this is an appreciation of personal art, a healing process, a fulfillment of desires and dreams in their mind, or a combination of all these things. We are able to bring this to fruition for them, through imaginative work," says Cate Scaglione.
"I don't think women are any less noble because they choose to wear makeup or are enhanced in Photoshop. That's so unfair to assume. I think for many of these women, they are NOT trying to met a societal standard, they simply want us to help them fulfill their own personal standards or desires," she continues, "The intensity of that feeling is different for every individual based on their life experiences."
What does this mean for boudoir photography, I wonder? Are we taking the purity out of the art form?
Not according to Jennifer Tallerico:
"I love the look of modern SOOC (industry term for Straight Out Of Camera) images, but for the argument that it the only way to truly work in photography, I think that is oppressive to the art form. There is so much more I can offer a woman as an artist from my post-production work in Photoshop. To me, it is where I belong, because I can recreate a story we spoke of, a time in her life that she wants to hold onto indefinitely," said Tallerico.
"I want to create a timeless piece of art that my client can surround herself in and know that only she is in this scene. Each one I do is different and my clients know they have a one of a kind story for themselves. Creating a place that may not exist in reality, but in a dream world she can hold onto forever. It is the ultimate fairytale."
In an age of iPhoneography and Instagram, where every detail of reality is infinitely shared, I can certainly see the draw of these intimate fantasy worlds. We are losing our own fairy tales.
I think this new emerging niche of fine art boudoir artists (I said artists not photographers), do return us to an old tradition of art patronage. Those who once commissioned personal art to honor and celebrate a female, were pure aristocracy. In today's world, boudoir makes this idea accessible to the everyday woman.
"Throughout art history, aristocratic women have famously been patrons of the arts, and have commissioned incredible personal and public works of art, always in the style of the chosen artist's interpretation, with her input as muse. Today's women have the same intentions when they hire us, we just happen to use a digital medium," says Scaglione.
Is it a debate of a Moment vs. being Monumental? Perhaps.
"There are certain times where it is absolutely appropriate to be pure about capturing specific life moments," said Tallerico, "But there is so much to be said about creating something that does not truly exist, and melting your clients session into a dream world. They cannot get that elsewhere in their lives and I am happy to offer this to them. I am selling dreams, not simply photos."
As an au naturale kind of woman who is seeing both sides of the equation, what it boils down to is that the interpretation of beauty and sensuality is clearly a personal perspective. A healthier trend for our industry is to psychologically understand our clients better. We should not be defining how beauty "should" be seen, but rather how they wish to see it for themselves. And whether it's makeup, no makeup, or even "made-up," which is totally OK.
And yes, Colbie Callait, I still do promise I'll "Try" every once in a while.