Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be a part of something truly special. It seems odd to say that, given that the event was of my own idea, but it became something so much more than what I’d imagined. For the past couple of months, I’ve been thinking about and trying to plan a burlesque shoot. The idea for this came about as a result of my research into boudoir photography, which revealed a startling number of Penthouse-esque images of uncomfortable looking women in awkward poses that seem to over-emphasise the need for nudity in order for an image to be seen as ‘sexy’. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I needed to explore how seduction and allure can be captured by a camera. In order to do that, I needed to research the art and history of burlesque dance – an artform that encapsulates seduction without placing undo emphasis on nudity.
Feeling frustrated but motivated, I emailed Amanda Marini-Rohde, who teaches a burlesque dance class here in Cornwall, to see if she might know of anyone who would be interested in participating in my project. She came back with a positive response from her dancers and, after a couple of speed bumps, we had a date, time and location all set.
I arrived at the site expecting to take shots of their group routines and do a few individual shots of each individual. What I didn’t expect was the stories of increased self-confidence; the celebration of their derring do; the sense that each of these women had grown to be so much more at ease in her own skin; the woman who showed me the diamante breast cancer ribbon on her chest that was a tribute to her sister, who was always the daring one; and the sense that I was at a dance party, not in a room full of women who could be potentially uncomfortable with what I was going to be asking them to do.
This project was a personal one – it was “my” shoot. I wanted to learn how I could go about encouraging women to show off without being awkward. I wanted to see if I was capable of capturing charm and allure while making my subjects feel at ease. What I didn’t expect was the feedback; my email inbox and Facebook pages have been filled with messages of thanks and comments about how wonderful these women felt because of what clearly became “our” project. More than a lesson in studio work, this was a lesson in how to encourage and compliment women so that they are willing to let loose and celebrate themselves. My heartfelt thanks goes to those 8 spectacular ladies who made the afternoon a success and taught me far more than perhaps they realise. Their patience, sense of fun, and free spirited attitude were what made this project work.
Here are some of the results: