My name is Jay Farrell, a Nashville, Tennessee-based journalistic wedding, portrait, and fine art/boudoir photographer, and it’s almost been a year since I decided to switch to mirrorless exclusively. It all began after buying my first Fujifilm X-T1 with a battery grip and the 18-55 kit lens in May 2014. After shooting my first wedding with it, I added a second X-T1 with the battery grip that I found used at my local camera store with only 300 frames on it. Soon after I bought the two Zeiss Touits, the 32mm 1.8 and 12mm 2.8, and not long after, the 56mm f/1.2. Recently I picked up a 23mm 1.4, which will be a major player for wedding photography and boudoir sessions, especially in confined areas.
In this article, I will discuss my process for boudoir/intimate photo sessions, but will keep the content safe for all audiences.
Sometimes I work in my studio, other times I favour abandoned buildings and houses. I really like the textures, the peeling paint, and the overall distressed appearance of these kinds of buildings and how they contrast with the softness of the female body. Those who watched the sequel of The Hangover movie might remember the fancy hotel in Bangkok, and how beautiful it was. You also might recall how run down the apartment building was where the main characters’ friend stayed. The world perceives beauty and character in different ways. Sure, that hotel is beautiful. But anyone can photograph an attractive woman in a beautiful hotel and make a pleasant photograph. I’d rather use that run-down apartment as a canvas, because it is like a well-seasoned wok; it takes time to develop that kind of character. Moreover, it leaves the possibility open to do some conceptual photos that embrace a darker theme or “life after people.”
Sometimes in-studio or boutique hotels fit the needs and styles of certain private clients, and even models I work with to update my portfolio. Often clients want that personal touch of using their home, and I have worked in some amazing homes as a result. When clients contact me, most are career women who do not want their photos used online. Some are okay with it, but most prefer that only bodyscapes be used that can’t identify them. Typically, these private sessions are gifts for their spouse or significant other. Most of the time, I make flush mount albums for them–that way they can present a timeless gift to their partner, a gift that is made in part by them. It preserves time and the inevitable effects of it.
The particular shoot, showcased below, was in a boutique hotel. I met the client prior and showed her my process of choosing angles and compositions to get the most flattering look. I also emphasized that the session should be fun. We had a makeup artist come to do her hair and make-up, so that also helped lighten the mood. There’s no better comfort than credibility that gets built up time, and showing these women that you understand their needs, how they feel about the shoot, and know what the desired result is.
I also did a shoot at an abandoned farm house that belongs to the family of a friend, soon to be razed. Although some might not see the beauty in places such as this, in my opinion, when captured right they can be just as beautiful as anywhere else. When it comes to any abandoned place, I check for vagrants or any sharp objects or other hazards before placing my subjects there. It’s important that they go in knowing the risks, since these places are not for everyone. Personally, I love the feel of the distressed buildings and how the beauty of my subjects contrasts with the location. It tells a nice story and creates points of interest for the viewer. Some might think, “Wow, that is a lot of trust you are asking for, bringing a lady to a remote abandoned location for a photoshoot.” Maybe. But as I said, these special locations aren’t for every subject or every shoot. I can ask for that trust because if they didn’t trust my work, my reputation and discretion, they wouldn’t consider it to begin with. Here are some photos from the farm house.
I don’t know how much of an effect using a mirrorless camera had on these shoots. But to some they could be a conversation piece because they are different from cameras they are used to seeing in the hands of professional photographers. To some they may seem less intimidating and more casual, though I have not heard reports of this on any of my assignments.
I will finish up with a couple of images from an abandoned apartment. This model has been a good friend and muse for 10 years, one of the few who with a phone call, will agree to meet despite the 250 mile distance and make magic happen just as if it were yesterday that we last worked together.
If you are interested in seeing more of my wedding photography and head shots, please visit www.jayfarrellphotography.com. If you are interested in my intimate work, please visit www.farrellgallery.com. I keep the two entities separated for the benefit of my more conservative wedding and portrait clients. This also helps prevent one very different body of work from watering down the other.
All photos used in this article are property of Jay Farrell.