In our last February issue, I wrote of burlesque dancers – those brave and sultry performers, women (and men) who take to the stage in their skivvies or pasties or less. Unlike their predecessors of the 1940s, today’s performers care significantly less about fame and significantly more about sexual self-expression, a value that’s manifesting mainstream in a notable rise in boudoir photography.
Taken wearing lingerie – or nothing – the shots capture women in bedroom attire as the French term implies. But don’t confuse boudoir photography with Playboy. These portraits tell a pinup tale that’s teasing yet tasteful. Still, it begs the questions: What would it take for you to remove your clothes in front of a camera?
For many local ladies, it’s Julia Juliati, a White Plains-based Russian photographer whose perceptions extend beyond the lens.
“I also have a psychology degree,” she says. “Combining (that and photography) actually gives me a power of transformation.”
We’re not talking the kind of transformations that comes from Photoshop, but rather from the way women view themselves. Beyond taking stunning and sexy images, Juliati aims to rid women of their self-doubt.
“When a woman comes to my studio, she wants to create something beautiful, but she’s unsure; she’s shy,” Juliati says. “But when she gets the final images, they’re fully transformed; they’re loving themselves; they’re feeling beautiful, feeling special. Their self-esteem is jumping through the roof. That’s why I do it. I love this whole transformation.”
To ignite the change, Juliati begins with a consultation, a conversation that’s part icebreaker and part creative brainstorm.
“We talk about everything, her likes, what she loves to do,” she says. “I customize each session for the person in front of me. If she wants to go more glamour, we’ll go there. If she wants to go more nude or fine art, we go there. If she loves to dance, we incorporate dance with the shoot. I just go with the client.”
Women are photographed in their pearls, painting at easels, in masks and feathers, draped in sultry fabrics and gracefully mid-air in a (well-supported) leap.
“If we’re combining glamour and boudoir, we’re doing beautiful sexy dresses and ending up in lingerie. If we’re combining boudoir and nude, we’re starting with lingerie and then I add different beautiful fabrics, and I do completely nude as well.”
In fact, she says, most of her boudoir clients opt to bare all.
“I explain to them that I do a lot of nudes, and if they’d like to go that way, we can do (that), or we can concentrate on something else,” she says. “Once they talk to me and once they feel relaxed and comfortable, many of my boudoir clients will pose nude as well.”
Exposing just enough skin and emphasizing the eyes – a key to boudoir, she says – each portrait also shows Juliati’s characteristic drama and classicism.
“My style is nude fine art,” she says. “When you look at my style of nude photography, I hope you get a sense of classic portraiture and nudes.”
Her penchant for recognizing and capturing beauty is in her blood. She picked up camerawork from her father, also a photographer. And though she photographs for all types of clients – couples, mothers and daughters and more – she’s honed her work with boudoir and artistic nudes (shots you won’t find on her website) over the past six years. Her artistry not only shows in the quality of her images but the visible ease of her clientele.
“I feel that my clients feel very relaxed with me, that’s why I can create these beautiful images,” she says. “That’s the most important. You have to feel comfortable with your photographer.”
Juliati, who is also a tango dancer, notes that throughout the shoot, it’s vital not only to compliment the woman’s body, but also the character, the whole woman, to enhance her confidence and comfort.
“Everybody who comes to the studio has some kind of self-consciousness,” she says. “We just don’t concentrate on that. They just need to come and enjoy themselves. That’s my job to make them look and feel beautiful.”
She encourages shoots for women of all body types and ages. Her younger clients in their 20s and 30s tend to take photos as sexy gifts for their partners. But Juliati is partial to working with women of a certain age who come to the studio for an even more empowering experience.
“From ages 40 and up, women come to me to do boudoir for themselves. And I love that. This is my favorite,” she says. “I think this should be the main goal, and the gift, of course, is secondary. The whole transformation and experience is for the woman.”
And just when you think you’re too old for boudoir, take note: Juliati’s oldest client is in her 80s.
“When these women come to my studio, I don’t even have to turn on the lights,” she says. “They are shining. They’re glowing. I love that!”
Juliati Photography is at 151 E. Post Road, Suite 108, White Plains. Photo sessions start at $275. To schedule a consultation, visit juliati.com or call (914) 484-8444.