In what may be the greatest assignment I’ve ever had, Resource asked me to curate a collection of vintage boudoir photos for the website. Since boudoir photography has been around as long as photography itself, I expected to turn up no less than five steamy terabytes in the first second of searching.
After all, it’s common knowledge that 90% of human innovation has gone into developing new ways to ogle other naked humans. But early on, I ran into an unexpected problem. More often than not, the “vintage” photos I found were as young as Photoshop CS2.
I could have taken ten minutes, selected a few of those touched-up images of modern beauties and called it a day. But my editor asked for risqué pictures of the now deceased, and I’m a purist, so I was going to find them. Before taking on this assignment, if you had told me that I would spend several work hours at a coffee shop Googling boudoir + vintage + sexy in every conceivable iteration and found the process frustrating, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Yes, I did this assignment in a coffee shop rather than in the privacy of my home office. See, I live a simple life. My apartment lacks basic utilities like Internet, running water on even calendar days and a small but noticeable section of roof. All of which is fine, as it’s primarily the space I use to do pushups and practice throwing my pens like ninja-stars—should the need for such a skill ever arise. Therefore I do all my work in coffee shops.
While I didn’t find terabytes of turn-of-the-century legs, backs and the occasional nipple, I did find a lot of things I wasn’t expecting like hundreds of studios offering boudoir photography packages. I’m a little embarrassed to say, given my enthusiasm for this topic, I had no idea that vintage boudoir had become so popular.
I had never imagined that it would become so common that when Googling boudoir photography, dozens of local studios would overshadow scans of old magazines. Nor that the studio’s sample would so heinously clutter up my image search for the genuine thing.
Which brings us to the question: why are so many amateurs seeking out professional photographers for vintage style racy photos of themselves? Especially considering that their intended recipients would have been thrilled with a naughty selfie. And if anyone is interested in learning how to take a selfie, I’m something of an expert (the normal, not naughty kind).
Sure, everyone likes feeling attractive and boudoir photography implies nudity, perhaps even wallows in it. So this is a great way for people to feel desirable without feeling over-exposed. America has long since had a stick up its ass about sex; perhaps boudoir photography, burlesque and something else that probably starts with a “B” are the sex-positive reactions to that.
Even when boudoir images are explicit, they’re showing subjects who are comfortable with their sexuality and embracing it. So maybe it’s not such a mystery after all: especially in an era where 34% of adults admit to sexting and the rest lie about it.
At least, there are words here, so you can say you clicked the link for the article and not just to ogle Victorian hotties. But if you’re called out for looking at porn at work you can say, “Porn? No. This is a Tom Kray article. Have you seen his website? Man, it’s full of erotically hilarious stories.”