In Defense of Boudoir Photography: Lynn Michelle on Sexy Wedding Shots (NSFW)
For awhile, Lynn Michelle considered altering her body. Like so many women, she's successful -- well-educated; a small business owner; an award-winning, peer-recognized career woman -- and beautiful, funny and personable. But she believed there was something missing.
All photos courtesy of Lynn Michelle
"There were things I wanted to change," she says. "I considered a breast augmentation, but when I saw myself, I realized I am proportionate. I didn't need it."
Now, she says, helping other women "see themselves" is a day at the office. She got her start in wedding photography 13 years ago, and while that practice has remained successful, she was contacted about seven years ago by a pleased client who had a slightly less traditional request: a provocative pre-wedding photo shoot. Since then, Michelle has incorporated so-called "boudoir" sessions -- which caused a minor internet dust-up this week -- into her repertoire, setting up a private home studio, aptly named The Eye Candy Studio, replete with four distinct shooting rooms: The Runway, The Loft, The Boudoir and Vintage Glam.
Over the years, she learned techniques that made her clients feel natural and sexy and, as a result, made for the best shots. It meant listening, learning which insecurities are hindering a client's happiness and determining ways to light and position the client to emphasize their strengths and highlight their idiosyncrasies in a new and pleasing way. But when she turned 30 and decided to do a shoot of her own, she had no idea the experience would be so illuminating.
"I'd brought several outfits, but I was naked so quickly it wasn't even funny!" she says, laughing. Michelle had chosen a photographer who she trusted to do what she does for clients: make her feel safe and empowered. When she looked at the results, she realized her body -- even the areas she'd considered problematic -- was wonderful without alteration.
A burgeoning trend, boudoir photography has received a lot of buzz this week, some of it as unflattering as the big hair and sequined shoulder pads we tend to associate with its 1980s predecessor, the Glamour Shot. The Daily published an article on Saturday, immediately picked up an regurgitated by Jezebel on Sunday, disingenuously emphasizing relatively small aspects of the trend's appeal.
Michelle was quoted in each -- and then misquoted, as some of her statements were incorrectly attributed her happy client, Carlie Rose -- about some of her more conservative clients' motivations behind the shots: "A lot of women do boudoir because they're afraid their fiancés are looking at porn," Michelle said, "and they'd rather them be looking at her."
Courtesy of Lynn Michelle
But while there is certainly truth to boudoir photography's titillating qualities, she says that her statement about women fearing their husbands were looking at porn -- which received the most popular interest and sneering analysis -- were taken out of context.
"It's such a minority," Michelle says. "Mostly it's about empowerment. I'll have a mother of three who hates her stomach and she'll be overwhelmed both by the way she looks and how it feels just to be pampered."
That's not to say that every women who enters Michelle's studio is immediately (or ever) ready to shimmy down to her skivvies and stilettos. Her clients come from varying walks of life and comfort levels, and many of them are church ladies and wives of ministers -- this is Texas, after all.
But Michelle says that for the majority of them, those whose photos are geared for their husbands or finances are less about anxiety and more about staying connected. Her first boudoir client had used Michelle for her wedding the year before and, since the first wedding anniversary's theme is "paper," she thought it was an excellent way to keep the honeymoon alive.
Besides, Michelle's work would hardly be considered a "safe" alternative to pornography. In fact, the majority of her clients are comfortable enough -- and delighted enough -- with their shots to allow Michelle to use them on the Eye Candy blog. In essence, that means racy and seedy are not synonymous, and looking lustfully at the female form is not inherently shameful. But Michelle does note that, when it comes to her shots, "I always say nothing Hustler-style, nothing gynecological!"
"People tend to think of Dallas as very conservative," Michelle goes on. "And many of us do present that in our daily lives. But I think Dallas is glamorous and a little saucy at its core. All I can say is, even with ministers' wives, I've never had a husband complain. Mainly, they say, 'When she comes back you should do this!'"
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