By Kenneth Miller
The female body has historically been a subject studied by many. Whether you’re looking at Greek sculptures that depict Aphrodite and her ever-present sexuality or one of the many Francisco de Goya female nudes that seamlessly detail the softness and curve of the hip, you’re speculating a woman’s granted beauty, even power.
Yet, it wasn’t until the 1920s–when female sexuality began to rise–that women were truly able to use their bodies for their own empowerment. Despite American laws at the time that deemed photographs of the naked body pornographic, women still searched endlessly for ways to reveal bodily affirmation. In France, a sect of these rebelling ladies translating their cause into an aesthetic trend: boudoir.
Fast-forward nearly a century and women are still seeking validity in their form through boudoir. Although prohibiting laws are no longer in existence, boudoir photographer Jen Rozenbaum continues to fight in favor of the stigmatized medium while simultaneously destroying the patriarchy.
“Boudoir isn’t always about being sexy to turn someone else’s eye,” Rozenbaum tells me. “By shedding her clothes, my client sheds her inhibitions. She steps outside her comfort zone and in that discomfort she is discovering things about herself and growing.”
It’s euphoric sounding–an approach that many critics would easily shun. As such, negative reactions still spoil out. From sexist pigs, to criticizing feminists, the art form is viewed as objectifying, rather than empowering at large.
Within this critique usually lies the mistruth that boudoir is meant for one sole beauty type. Rozenbaum is a firm believer that anyone–regardless of age, background, or figure–is deserving of this constructive embrace, claiming she has never seen two of the same body types in all of her career. In the end, these women are not doing it for the male gaze. So stop your staring, you old geezer; this is for the model, and just her.
The boudoir aficionado assesses that those who judge the genre are painfully unaware of the limitless positivity a single photo session can give a model.
“My clients often tell me stories [after] shooting with me, [about themselves] breaking up with a dead-beat husband or boyfriend,” Rozenbaum shares. “They quit jobs they are over qualified for. They take risks in their lives they never would have–all because they see their worth and feel powerful.”
These feelings of female inadequacy are engrained in our very soil; traditional societal norms instruct us to think men are inherently better than women, after all.
Rozenbaum says she was disturbed by the idea of women having to take on masculine characteristics in order to be taken as equals in the world. She launched the multimedia campaign #ShamelesslyFeminine a few years back to encourage females to embrace whatever “femininity” means to them. She also worked to end the judgements that we may place on others who deviate from our own definition.
In an attempt to further spread body and gender positivity, while trying to dismantle the stigma held on those who partake in boudoir photography, Rozenbaum began a video instructional series with Sigma Pro to guide DIY fanatics on their journey with the medium. If she could have it her way, she’d shoot any ol’ female-identifying person who needed a boost of confidence.
“You see with me, boudoir is about the experience,” Rozenbaum adds. “The images are simply the souvenir.”
All photos courtesy of Jen Rozenbaum.