(image courtesy of Sue Bryce)
The Evolution of Glamour Photography
“Beauty… it’s the light that shines out of people’s eyes when they look at you…
when you hold their gaze, and then everything else falls away… you see their
true self and it’s just staring back at you, and it’s magnificent… and everybody
– Sue Bryce
Modern glamour photography maestro Sue Bryce speaks beautifully in a video on her website about the beauty that exists in all of us. She speaks poignantly about her experiences as a photographer, where she experiences that moment where she sees a light that shines out of
her subject’s eyes. This light and beauty that she witnesses in her subjects is ordinarily hidden and concealed, but surfaces and breaks through when they are photographed. Today our lives are so busy. So full of things that require our time and attention. Particularly
for women who have to juggle the seemingly never-ending and exhaustive list of tasks to make it from one day to the next. Amongst wrangling the children, school commitments, working and work at home, where, one may ask is the opportunity for these women to feel
special, beautiful and feminine. Trapped inside each one of these busy women is someone beautiful waiting to be revealed and explored.
Right here lies the beauty of glamour photography. That is its power, to bring out and capture that light, that essence and that beauty that lies within all of us. In years gone by, in a golden era glamour photography was the preserve of the rich, powerful and influential, the stars of Hollywood or people who were making a name for themselves in some important sphere of human life. In later decades glamour photography became more risque and perhaps more controversial as it became tied to sex and sexuality. During the 1980’s and 90’s glamour photography died away, lost in a wave of hairspray and shoulder pads. In the process the genre lost much of its elegance and appeal. But this is not glamour photography today. Things have certainly changed.
Today glamour photography has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts thanks to artists like Sue Bryce, Christa Meola, Mario Testino and Lara Jade. It is no longer the preserve of the rich and influential and no longer is it solely connected to sex and sexuality. Owing to its rich
and varied history, (think icons of the genre Ruth Harriet Louise, George Hurrell and Bruno Bernard); glamour photography has many throw backs and connections to its earlier forms but today’s glamour photography is much more than a reproduction of the past.
It’s all so simple – no one believes me … you strike a pose, then you light it.
Then you clown around and get some action in the expressions. Then, you
– George Hurrell
Today a glamour photography shoot can represent much more. It represents an opportunity for a woman to move outside her comfort zone, generate self-confidence, celebrate her femininity as well as celebrating her individual beauty. Today this can be achieved through a
tasteful and elegant glamour shoot that takes all the hallmarks of those black and white beauties from a bygone era and presents them with a modern twist and sophistication. Others may opt for a retro-style pin-up photoshoot that borrows from the rich legacy of pin-up models
of the past, while others may choose to do something more sensual and seductive like a modern boudoir photography shoot. Other contemporary artists like Bryce and Liebowitz have brought an artistic approach to the genre, taking the portrait picture and transforming them into works of art and beauty in their own right. Whatever a woman chooses a glamour shoot has the potential to make every woman feel like a star, for every woman to be able let her light and her beauty shine and capture that forever on film.
Modern glamour portraits – a work of art
‘The more I photograph women, the less it is about transformation. Women
are beautiful. All that matters is enhancing that.’
– Mario Testino
In its purest form, in its golden age the glamour photograph relied on the vision and artistry of the early pioneers of the form to capture captivating and enduring images that had a power and beauty all of their own. Their approach to the portraiture, lighting and staging was artistic and innovative; as much about the artistic process as the subject themselves. Over time due to a number of factors this focus on artistry was lost, replaced by the type of imagery that proved more popular, commercial and lucrative. Today artists of the genre like Mario Testino and Sue Bryce are returning to a more contemporary, creative and artistic approach to portraiture, signalling a return to the past whilst simultaneously moving the field forward in leaps and bounds. Testino in particular creates individual pieces of art whose work has
graced everything from glossy magazines, advertisements and billboards to the collections of major museums and galleries. If you have ever flicked through the pages of Vogue or Vanity Fair and been captivated by the striking imagery blending fashion, beauty and modern
glamour you have probably encountered the work of Testino. He is one part of the modern resurgence of glamour photography that calls on all the hallmarks of the past to capture images that are beautiful, striking and timeless. Testino’s iconic Vanity Fair shoot of Princess
Diana shortly before her death in 1997 is testament to the enduring quality of glamour photography to capture a moment in time and preserve it for prosterity’s sake. Bryce’s style centres on the empowerment of women. She uses her art as a vehicle to explore the beauty that lies within all women, this she states is her goal. Her approach to glamour photography is inspired by fashion and couture clothing, and uses these to enhance the natural beauty of her subjects. What Bryce is able to create are individual works of art, pieces that can stand alone as captivating, enduring and glamorous masterpieces all of their own. Her models if you can call them that are those everyday women, mothers, grandmothers, daughters, wives and partners who are transformed through her contemporary brand of
portraiture. This is the reality of much of the glamour industry today, photographers aim to accentuate a woman’s beauty in a classy and sophisticated fashion.
Modern glamour portraiture photography is the closest that most women will get to looking and feeling like the women that they see in the pages of magazines and websites. For the busy mother or career woman the images in these places seems so far removed from their reality and experience, they find it hard to envision themselves looking like that. A glamour photography session today is a wonderful blend of fashion, beauty, and fun. It is fun that is at the heart of good modern glamour photography. It allows any woman to transform themselves
for a day into a model. It allows any woman the chance to embrace her body and her beauty and capture that forever in images.
Cultivating sex appeal and looking great naked is not about crash dieting or Photoshop, but rather is about a woman’s attitude, confidence, playful personality, and feeling good in her own skin.
– Christa Meola
Glamour photography originated in the golden years of Hollywood as a byproduct of the publication machines of the major commercial studios as they looked to market their major commodities, their stars – the actors and actresses that would define the era. Over time
portrait artists would seeks to create idols of their subjects; living, breathing embodiments of style, elegance, beauty and glamour. Over time as the glamour photography grew and adapted to society’s expectations and appetites a new and exciting photographic style
emerged as an offshoot of glamour; boudoir photography.
A modern boudoir photography shoot is a blend of intimate, romantic and sexy where any woman can transform herself into a desirable lingerie model. One of the major differences of the boudoir style is that the women who commission these images are normally far removed from lives of glitz and glamour. They are mothers, daughters, grandmothers. They are the working women who want to experience and capture their own sensuality. For many women this is a private expression of their own femininity, captured for themselves or given as intimate gifts to a partner. One of the modern glamour photographic maestros specialising in boudoir photography is Christa Meola and she describes a modern boudoir shoot as being about ‘transformation’. She goes on to explain, that a boudoir shoot is ‘for each woman to recognise her individual beauty, provide an opportunity for her to break through her comfort zone, honor her body, and celebrate femininity.’
Lingerie is my next love after clothing; I think it is what is worn underneath
that really inspires a woman to feel beautiful in her clothes – that inner, secret
Boudoir photography gets its name for the French word for bedroom and here in lies the allure of boudoir photography, it takes the sensual, intimate elements of the bedroom that normally remain behind closed doors and captures them on film. A modern boudoir
photoshoot will capture intimate and romantic images of the subject in a tasteful and classy way, it is reliant more on suggestive intimacy rather than the overt or obvious. Where erotic imagery generally involves nudity, boudoir photography typically involves lingerie and implied nudity. As the model is typically also the person commissioning the portraits they are only ever exposed to the degree that they feel comfortable. They are able to guide the process and be dictated by their own limits and boundaries. This type of photoshoot revolves around fantasy making for the person or people sitting and then later for the person viewing these intimate images. These final images are often kept for personal use or given as a beautiful and timeless gift to a loved one. The gift in turn gives the sitter the ability to know and
recognise her own beauty, to celebrate her body, her spirit and her femininity.