Photo: Self-portrait by Vera Biryukova.
Photographing the female form is a delicate thing. Done incorrectly, the images come off as cheap, hokey, or staged. Done correctly, they are a thing of beauty. Striking the right mood requires a balance of subtlety, lighting, and knowing how much to leave to the imagination. These eight photographers have mastered the art of capturing women in all their erotic splendor without stooping to obscene levels.
If you recognize this photog’s last name as belonging to Josh Tillman (the musician also known as Father John Misty), props to you. Mrs. Tillman is his wife and longtime photographer. Her Instagram follows her travels around the world, occasionally including pics of her brooding, bohemian man, but more often focusing on her lovely flock of female friends. Some of them you will know, like Lana del Rey, while others you’ll just wish you knew. Perfectly blurred or darkened so as not to get flagged by the family-friendly app, the photographs on Tillman’s Instagram are tantalizing yet understated. Her Tumblr, however, is blatantly NSFW…or for any kind of viewing, really, except the solitary kind.
Part boudoir, part people-on-the-street, Kat Irlin’s Instagram reflects the reasons why people fall in love – with one another or with the Big Apple. Background scenery and collage techniques showcase iconic views and venues of NYC paired with gorgeous models. In a style reminiscent of Nan Goldin, Irlin captures women in intimate moments – be it alone or with a partner or a friend – and gives the viewer the sensation of looking in without disrupting the scene (or feeling like a creeper). It’s portraiture pretty enough to be seen in high-fashion magazines but just gritty enough to be relatable.
Russian photographer Vera Biryukova is instantly recognizable by her black, blunt bob, trimmed bangs, and a pair of bird tattoos on her chest. A mistress of the self-portrait, Biryukova shows off her sinewy figure and back dimples with a playful eye towards shadows, light, and reflections. There’s nothing conceited or contrived about these images; they’re quiet, authentic, and unapologetic. One could imagine Biryukova as the star of an art house film, the elusive muse of a painter, or the doomed protagonist of a novel. Like Tillman, she keeps her naughtiest pics on Tumblr, but her Instagram account is follow-worthy not only for the portraits but for its stripped-down, lonely depiction of the world.
French photographer Elödie Le Gåll has an affinity for lace, panties, backsides, and black-and-white. Opting to show just enough to titillate, she makes her followers feel like the recipient of their own private pic. Some of the images are shot in such high detail that you can see the texture of the subject’s skin. And, no, she doesn’t appear to airbrush anything. This provocateur isn’t just into figure photography, either: on Tumblr, her landscapes come alive, quite literally gyrating. If you prefer the writhing variety of captures, check out her Flickr, too.
If an old-school camera were tripping–and happened to be in the hands of a rebellious Tinkerbell type–Edie Sunday’s Instagram shows what the images would look like. The fine art photographer based in Austin, Texas, seems to be constantly catching herself and other subjects in motion, or double-exposing them. In addition to her fixation on the female form, she explores the state between dreaming and waking in her colorful, kaleidoscopic style. You’ll want to keep your eyes open because this analog artist is one to watch.
Magdalena Wosinska is a natural woman, and by that we mean she has a predilection for posing au naturale outdoors. This Poland-born, California-dwelling shutterbug has flaunted her birthday suit everywhere from the Princeton University campus to the shores of Sweden to the fields of Plévenon, France. Though she isn’t always naked (a cowboy hat and boots = not naked, right?), she is consistently elegant. And, no, the public nudity isn’t a shtick; this lissome-figured lady clearly catches rays, often, as evidenced by her waist-up tan line.
Lani Trock loves you (or so says her Instagram bio) and we have a feeling you’re going to love her back. The Los Angeles-based artist from Hawaii studies the relationship between people and environmental elements, particularly flora, in multidisciplinary formats. If that sounds overly intellectual, it’s probably because this sun-kissed brunette majored in philosophy during her undergrad years at UC Santa Cruz. In layman’s terms: this chick digs things that grow and she’s going to show you how seductive botany can be. After seeing what she does with her green thumb and a camera, you’ll never again forget to buy your girl flowers.
Lauren Carlyle Smith only wants what’s true. That means saying no to Photoshop and yes to what might otherwise be referred to as “flaws.” The result is an unabashed display of women’s bodies as they actually look in real life. (Shocking, we know.) Here’s the thing, though: reality and sexy can totally co-exist. So can motherhood and hotness. Another surprise? Boudoir photography doesn’t have to be sullen; many of Smith’s subjects are caught smiling. And with body confidence like that, why shouldn’t they be?