Boudoir. History of Sensual Photography.

Although boudoir photography is gaining more and more popularity among women today, there are still some questions related to what it really is, what it is not and how it came about. Today, we are going to explore the history of boudoir photography and how it has changed over the last centuries to reach its contemporary form.

What is Boudoir?

The term “boudoir” (/ˈbuːdwɑːr/) originates from the French language and is considered a noun form of “bouder” which means to sulk. Back in a day, a public display of negative emotions such as anger or irritation was not socially accepted and one was expected to let go of frustration in the privacy of their own homes.  Separate rooms called boudoirs were dedicated to sulking. Over time, the term has evolved to reflect an intimate area in the house, such as a dressing room or a bedroom. Because early intimate photography was typically taken in a bedroom or another private room, the genre soon adapted a name of boudoir photography.

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History of Boudoir Photography

History of art demonstrates an incredible fascination with human form that dates back centuries if not millenniums ago. Ancient artists were genuine masters of sculpting human bodies that were often portrayed nude. Later art added a more erotic and sensual essence to its subjects especially when it came to painting. Nude artwork portraying seductive images of females flourished throughout centuries and remains a popular art genre until this day.

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Late 19th century marked the emergence of photography as a world-wide phenomenon. This new artistic tool provided an endless array of styles, ideas, trends and preferences that helped artists preserve their vision and understanding of the world. Among them, there was an idea to capture intimate, sensual images of women which had laid the foundation for early boudoir photography as a separate and distinguished form of art. The emerging art of boudoir during that time was an important cornerstone of female empowerment movement that continued to grow in the next decades.

Chicago portrait boudoir photo session

Early 20th century was a true turning point for boudoir photography. The era of prohibition of the early 1920s considered boudoir disgraceful, shameful and illegal. Nude or risqué images of females were considered pornography and were strictly prohibited by law. Despite severe legal ramifications including imprisonment, there were strong-willed artists who created their work against those odds. Among them was Albert Arthur Allen. Originally from France, the San Francisco-based artist was no stranger to controversy. He was arrested multiple times for his art and photography, however, the legal consequences did not discourage or stop him from continuing with his amazing work.

Chicago elegant boudoir session in the studio

Allen is considered a grandfather of boudoir photography. He focused on portraying women in their most natural and raw form. His phenomenal portraits reflected the natural beauty and sensuality of female body- regardless of size, shape or age. Although boudoir photography has been through several evolutions since then, the idea of raw, effortless beauty promoted by Allen survived and re-emerged as the one of the core principals of the genre today.

1940s and 1950s marked the era of pin-up girls in the artistic world. Pin-up girls were curvy, wore corsets or men’s ties, hats and stockings. As a result, they were the first ones to use props in boudoir poses. Images of pin-up girls appeared in the form of drawings rather than photographs, nonetheless played a significant role in the history of boudoir art.

1970s was the time of “boudoir glamour photography”. It was also the time when boudoir went through another evolution of style and instead of illustrated ideals of pin-up girls focused again on natural, raw, beauty of genuine women. 1980s further solidified the distinguished character of boudoir photography as an artistic mean to celebrate femininity and female body in its natural form.

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Contemporary Boudoir

Boudoir photography has come a long way as an artistic genre. Last three decades have marked an increased social acceptance of this sensual, intimate branch of photography. Aside from aesthetic and artistic value, boudoir seems to have a tremendous psychological power to transform the way women see themselves and their physiques. Unlike any other form of photography, boudoir helps women go beyond their perceived imperfections and transcend their insecurities to capture them as they really are. It is a compelling catalyst that has the potential to fuel emotional liberation and freedom hence becoming one of the most powerful tools in the women empowerment movement today.

Today women often use boudoir as a therapeutic and liberating form of building self-acceptance. It helps them make a conscious choice to connect with and embrace their physical body the way it is.

Most of all, through the lens of contemporary boudoir, women often learn to appreciate themselves and their beauty in a very authentic, genuine way. Boudoir has the power to capture the essence of femininity that sparkles in every woman regardless of her shape or size.

Chicago classy boudoir photography

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