"Capturing memories on film is forever, photographs keep you remembering when time passes you by. Every single photograph is taken with the utmost understanding, sensitivity and love. I have a deep commitment and love for what I do, and I am completely humbled that I get to call it a job."
Had you ever shot any boudoir before you started offering it as an option for your brides?
Jess Petrie: I had previously done some “lingerie styled shoots” when working for other portrait studios, and I had done some shoots for friends as well. I once modeled for a fellow photographer on her boudoir-training workshop (so I had that insight of being on the other side of the camera, too). But it all organically developed to where I now have a healthy boudoir photography business, and my clientele range is very diverse—not just brides-to-be, but also pregnant women, other photographers, and women of a range of ages and at a variety of times in their lives.
What is your approach to shooting boudoir?
Jess Petrie: My approach to boudoir photography is that of an artist. I studied fine-art painting and drawing back when I was at art college and regularly attended life-drawing classes. I learned how to see the human body as an art form; how the light falls onto the body and how shapes are formed by light and shade. I now use the same principles in my boudoir work, but this time using my camera. My color tones are muted and the images are delicate and luminous. As a woman I can recognize the vulnerability in my subjects and I approach these types of shoots with great understanding, respect and sensitivity. Vulnerability in these types of shoots is a wonderful thing; it’s real and it’s authentic, it helps to tell a story, a story of intimacy and desire. My clients also tell me that they feel more comfortable and confident about me taking their pictures knowing I have been drawing and painting naked strangers since my college days; they say it makes them also see their shoot as art, and it really puts them at ease.
Do you include your husband Rodrigo. Does he also shoot boudoir, or just you?
Jess Petrie: When photographing bridal boudoir, I insist that my studio is a male-free zone. I’m sure many women are perfectly happy with a male photographer taking their boudoir session but there are also some who are not. A boudoir shoot is extremely intimate, and many of my ladies are not professional models and have really plucked up the courage to trust in me to photograph them so that they can give their photos as a gift to their husband/husband-to-be/partner. They trust that I will make them feel as comfortable as I possibly can while still producing the images that they desire, and I do not take this lightly.
As a photographer it is imperative that you yourself also feel comfortable with photographing boudoir, and I know that my husband would not, which is totally fine, plus I feel having two photographers on a boudoir shoot would feel quite intimidating. Regardless of being a male or female photographer, the foundations of your shoot are based on your approach to these types of sessions, and when I’m photographing boudoir I see the body as an art form / a shape, and I look for the light and the shade, just as I do when life-drawing naked strangers. I don’t feel embarrassed, I don’t see the flaws, and it’s all perfectly normal practice for me; this is probably one of the most important assets I have as a boudoir photographer.
Is the boudoir you shoot mostly in clients’ homes or in your studio? Ever go outside to a private spot?
Jess Petrie: When I first started shooting bridal boudoir as a business many of my boudoir sessions were shot in the morning or night before the wedding in the bridal suite. When I started professionally offering my boudoir sessions, they would take place either in the client’s home or at a boutique hotel (which could get awkward when trying to explain why I wanted to book the room). Now I have my studio, which is flooded with natural light and decorated in neutral colors, and this way I have full control over the space I shoot in. I’ve also photographed boudoir sessions out on location, but this is very weather permitting, as it is the UK, and I still shoot in clients’ homes and bridal suites if this suits them better.
Are most of your clients from the UK?
Jess Petrie: Yes they are, and many are quite local to my studio base, although I do shoot destination boudoir, too, as I have done many times when traveling for a destination wedding. I have also photographed boudoir for women who have chosen specific locations for their shoot, be it the Spanish coast or the beach on Capri.