A look inside Vancouver’s burgeoning boudoir photography scene

And the not-so-timeless art of seduction

February 17, 2016

By Max Fawcett / Photo: Ellen Ho

Masika May, a Vancouver Island-based photographer, had posted boudoir photos to her professional Facebook page for three years. But it took a set featuring a scantily-clad and mischievously-minded man to get them flagged for being too provocative. The pictures, in which a client named Brendan Williams re-enacted some of the most archetypal poses in the catalogue of boudoir photography (and paid homage to George Costanza in the process) were supposed to be a semi-private joke between May, Williams, and his wife. Instead, they ended up getting shared all over the Internet before eventually getting removed from Facebook for being—apparently—too racy.  “I expected it to get attention within our friend circle, because he’s done funny stuff before and he’s hilarious,” May told The Huffington Post B.C. “I couldn’t believe it was a half-naked, hairy man that made [my work] go viral.”

But while so-called “dude-oir” photography—also known as “boy-doir” or “bro-doir”—is still very much a niche product, the business of boudoir photography is blowing up in Vancouver. Ellen Ho, who’s been doing it for the better part of a decade, is at the forefront of that trend.

“In the beginning, it wasn’t really that popular,” she says. “But I feel like I made it more acceptable, just because of the style that I have. It’s not too raunchy—more sexy but also classy. And once I started doing it, other photographers started doing it as well—and not just in Vancouver. Wedding photographers started to pick up on that and now everybody’s doing it.”

dudoir

They’re doing it, she says, in part because of the fact that the moral case against showing skin has all but disappeared. That ongoing relaxation of the cultural taboo around nudity, combined with the fact that Ho’s pictures don’t necessarily use it, means her photography strikes a sweet spot between class and, well, ass. “In the past, it would be too much and too revealing, but now it’s less of that. And the photography style is less revealing—it’s not just nude.”

Less revealing probably sounds good to the vast majority among us who don’t look like models, but Ho says that most people show up to her studio with their fair share of insecurities. “When most people think about boudoir photography, they think they have to be fit and confident. But the funny thing is that it’s only a small percentage that are actually very confident. Most of them are just okay, and a lot of them have experienced some trauma in life like a breakup or something like that and want to do something that will honour themselves.” Doing that something, she says, is almost always an enjoyable experience for both the shooter and the subject. “It’s nice to make them feel good and let them discover that there’s something in them that they probably don’t even know about. Sometimes, life can get kind of boring, or you’re in a stale relationship where you don’t really tap into your own sexiness. I feel really good when I can evoke that in them. They walk in not knowing how it’s going to go and walk out feeling really good about themselves. That’s what drives me to do boudoir photography.”

boudoir2

But it’s not all serious introspection and self-discovery. The full package, which costs $700 for one private session and includes makeup, hair and the photos, is also about having some fun. “It’s really just like a girls hangout,” Ho says. “You come in, you have some drinks, and we get you dolled up and chat with you. It’s interesting, because a lot of times I feel like I’m a therapist at the photo shoot. You’re chatting with them and talking about their lives, and there’s a level of comfort. It’s like when they get a manicure or get their hair done and talk to their stylist—I feel like boudoir photography is the same thing.”

>> Click here for more Love & Sex stories

Get the Newsletter

Own your city with Vancouver’s thrice-weekly scoop on the latest restaurant news, must-shop hotspots and can’t miss events. Rest assured your email is safe with us.