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What is Intimate Portraiture?

“Intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth when you can show yourself to them when you stand in front of them and their response is ‘you’re safe with me,’ that’s intimacy.”

~ Taylor Jenkins Reid

As the world of photography continues to transform and develop, a new genre of intimate portraiture has gained traction. But is it really new? Not quite. I would say that intimate portraiture has been around for centuries, and, just the last two, when it specifically comes to photography.

What is intimate portraiture then?

In short, I would say any depiction of a subject in a private, vulnerable, or open state. If intimate portraiture, or rather intimate art, has been around for centuries, how is it characterized? Intimate functions as a noun, verb, and adjective, and has various definitions assigned to it dealing with closeness.

Applying intimate to art, I look to its adjectival use. Intimate is defined as one, warm friendship or informal warmth or privacy, two, of a very personal or private nature, three, close association, contact, or familiarity, and lastly, belonging to or characterizing one’s deepest nature.

Considering that any art medium includes some aesthetic application, I would characterize intimate portraiture, or intimate photographic portraiture, as a style of photography that captures the beauty of an individual in an intimate setting and even a vulnerable or literally stripped state. It shows the subject in their private contemplation, meditation, and contentment.

It is in the intimate setting, where the subject is comfortable simply being. In a real moment witnessing a real self. Here, a genuine portrait is captured. Where the essence of a person can be seen.

Whenever intimate portraiture comes to the screen, it is often of women in lingerie or the nude. So, this style is closely linked to boudoir. It also weaves in and out of other photographic styles. Despite the link, I think intimate portraiture pushes one’s comfort zone because it forces you to drop pretenses, guards, walls, masks, and armor.

Intimate portraiture diverges from contemporary boudoir in that everything that we put on to face the world must be set down off frame, so only true self remains in front of the lens. This is a hefty and lofty task and for this reason, I think we see the common compositions of the sensual and sexual.

The style explores the multiple facets of womanhood and femininity, and promotes self-confidence, self-empowerment, and more. It is embraced as a form of female sensual and sexual freedom and celebration of the human body. Yet, it goes beyond this and is not only limited to women. This is but one aspect of intimate portraiture as we know people are multifaceted, and, as a result, intimate portraiture can have numerous aesthetics.

Who are you, what are you, what do you do, when there are no eyes to see? It’s an intriguing subject and, in this sense, more revealing than the removal of clothes because it is a removal of what the world interprets to be. It’s an exposure of your true most vulnerable self and this, for me makes intimate portraiture. The act of simply being.

What is intimate portraiture
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