In sensual portrait photography, the human body, both male and female, is raised to the status of art object in a way that is reminiscent of
the masters of paint and sculpture who loved to explore the relationship between light and form and have used the body as a medium for doing so.
The field of photography lends itself well to this exploration.
The subtle art of sensual portrait potography is exemplified by great names such as Herb Ritts
and Robert Mapplethorpe, to name
just two. It is a very beautiful form of photography as you can see from the photo below.
The couple in the picture show such tenderness
and love towards each other as they are about to kiss. The appeal is to the senses, particularly the sense of touch, which is
brought out by the wonderful skin tones and soft lighting.
Left: Photo by Andreas Reh
With couples, getting the pose right is the most important thing in sensual portrait
photography. Usually one or the other is facing towards the camera. This heightens
the sensuality of the photograph.
A photograph like this makes a wonderful momento as most couples only have images of either one person or the
other but if you are taking the photograph allow plenty of time to ensure they are totally relaxed with the camera for best results.
This probably means making the photograph in their own home so make sure you create a warm, relaxing mood before you start by using the right lighting, music
and so on. You can also try this kind of shot with your own partner if you have a tripod and use the timer on your camera.
Right: Photo by Giorgia Gruizza
Great sensual female photography relies a lot on imagination. It is important to leave a lot up to the viewer.
In the photograph to the right, the woman may or may not be dressed. Likewise, we don't know
why she is about to kiss her reflection - is it purely narcissism? Is her reflection in a dark
mirror or a deep pool of water?
Sensual body photography like this relies heavily on the photographer's imagination and
his/her ability to create a sense of mystery.
Sensual male photography is more common today and the next photograph is a great example. This kind of photography is mostly about
male physique, so the shoulders are a good part of the anatomy to concentrate on in your images (see also Body-Builder's Back by Jeff Strauss further
down the page).
Photographing just part of the body, without including the face, works well if you want to make pictures that show off the sculptural
qualities of the male body.
Left: Photo by Helice Studio
In fine art photography sensual images are often enhanced when working in black and white as skin tones are emphasised and the use of
black and white gives the photo an artistic feel.
The beautiful shot below is also enhanced by good lighting which helps to 'model' the
muscles of the body-builder's shoulders. You can almost feel the hard work that's gone into creating that amazing body!
If you want to study a master of the genre, you can't do better than Robert Mapplethorpe. His work is
unmistakably steeped in the classical tradition and often borrows heavily from the conventions of such masters as
Michelangelo. Although separated by the centuries, each artist has helped shape how we view
the world today.
Despite the political controversy that surrounded some of his later photographs, Mapplethorpe was an
artist obsessed with the human form first and foremost. No collection makes that as clear as Perfection in Form
which pairs his brilliant figure studies with Michelangelo's studious
renderings of the human body. This book is a must for Mapplethorpe fans, as well as anyone
else interested in the way the body has changed, and stayed the same, through centuries of
Western artistic tradition.
searching for "portrait photography" on Amazon using their search box - there are
some beautiful picture books!
Perfection in Form
explores the connection from both academic and aesthetic perspectives. Serving as
exhibition catalogue for a May 2009 show at Florence's Accademia, this volume shows how
these two artists used the body to illustrate the human experience and contains valuable
commentary by curators, as well as analysis from art and photography historians.
More recently, Herb Ritts created black-and-white photography and portraits which draw on classical
Greek sculpture for inspiration so some of his most famous images are in the realm of glamour photography.
He was probably the greatest master of celebrity and beauty photography. Until his death in
2002, the Californian genius created and developed an iconic brand of glamour across the worlds
of both editorial and advertising.
This retrospective presents the full range of photographer Ritts' work, with 240 signature images,
many published for the first time.
There are portraits of Hollywood stars, (Pfeiffer, Cruise, Loren) notable
artists, (Hockney, Haring, Martin) and world leaders, (Reagan, Mandela, Gorbachev), alongside fashion
shots, erotic nudes and African scenery. Appreciations by contemporary art experts and chroniclers of
fashion put the work in context.