Standing Naked In Front Of Strangers
When you go to the gym there are always those women who wander around stark naked, confident as anything. I’m not one of them, tending more towards cowering in corners than brazenly strutting my stuff, and so when I decided to do a boudoir shoot as an engagement present to my boyfriend I was more than a little nervous about being on display.
It would have been so easy to let my nerves get the better of me and pull out, but knowing that my boyfriend sees something different than I do when I look in the mirror, I was determined to go ahead with the shoot in the hope it would snap things into focus and force me to see what he does – making me feel better about those impending wedding pictures to boot.
In the week up to the shoot I indulged in slightly panicky underwear shopping and increasingly desperate calls to my friend Vicky (who was also to be photographed) about what to bring, and almost had a nervous breakdown when I discovered I would need to turn up completely au naturel in the make-up department.
Fortunately none of this mattered and despite arriving bra-less (to avoid marks), not wearing a scrap of make-up or a dollop of hair product and loaded up with enough shoes and dresses for a week in Marbella, we found ourselves lulled into immediate relaxation by the warm welcome of the Alter Ego team.
The first hour or so of the day was spent having tea, chatting about fashion with photographer Martin Plant and his assistant Lola and being wonderfully beautified by hair and make-up artist Toni Perryman. I loved having my hair curled into soft, sexy waves with the hot rollers and seeing myself transformed by those magic make-up brushes, so much so that I forgot entirely why I was there – a sensation helped along by a glass or two of prosecco.
By the time it came to changing into my extremely sexy basque from Joanna’s Wardrobe I felt completely at ease with Martin and Lola, but perhaps not the camera. Fortunately Martin has a tactic for this and started the shoot with a few fully-clothed portraits by the window. He gave me a few tips on relaxing my face and by the time we’d captured the shots I felt much better about staring down the lens.
Now feeling much more comfortable with the idea of being photographed, I felt no qualms about being dressed in just a basque and heels and began to enjoy coming up with poses with Lola, who has a seemingly never-ending catalogue of ideas to draw on. We began with a few shots using a scene of trunks and suitcases, some of which are genuine articles donated by Martin’s mum, an ex-Wren. I wore a trench coat, open to reveal my stockings, in some and in others just the basque. I also climbed inside the trunk, kicking my legs in the air, hid behind a pretty pink parasol revealing just my stockings and naked shoulders and perched on a pink and white striped chest of draws in a silky dressing gown.
As the poses became more ambitious, so did I, and now really getting into it, time began to fly. For our next scene Martin and Lola changed the backdrop to blue and set up a picnic rug. Dressed this time in a full 1950s skirt and a tied-at-the-waist white blouse I posed for shots lying down reading a magazine and leaning over in front of the wind machine for a Marilyn Monroe-style cheeky reveal.
Back in the basque we did more shots lying down, some of my legs resting on a chair, some close-up stocking shots on a white fluffy rug. Now completely relaxed I was keen to do more but it was Vicky’s turn so I took the opportunity for a rest and had lunch and yet more prosecco as I watched Martin and Lola come up with slightly different shots for Vicky.
Seeing some of the shots I’d been doing from the perspective of the viewer made me realise how great I had probably looked and that there really was no need to fear looking unattractive. This realisation was fortunate because next up was a rather acrobatic shot on a metal chair. With both feet on the seat, Lola demonstrated how to push ourselves up with our arms and lean back, creating a triangular shape with our bodies. Harder than it looks this was tough on the thighs but probably one of the shots most likely to end up in the album. As Vicky had said on the drive up, the shots that feel the least sexy are generally the sexiest.
With the shoot drawing to a close Martin suggested we change into anything we had really wanted photographed which hadn’t been. A cream babydoll was the obvious choice for me, it being one of my boyfriend’s favourites, and I changed somewhat regretfully out of my now-much-loved basque for some shots on the sofa.
Vicky and I took similar shots lying down on the sofa, leaning on the armrest and looking straight into the camera but for me there was one thing missing. Feeling much more confident than when I’d arrived that morning, I asked Martin if we could do some bum shots. Dressed in far too much lingerie for this, he sent me to change and I choose what was probably the briefest underwear I had. After a shot lying down we ended on one I thought I’d never have the confidence to do – a full-length standing shot. Turned away from everyone and facing just the backdrop being nearly naked seemed like nothing to worry about and when Martin suggested that if I was feeling brave enough the shot would work better bra-less I found myself happy enough to be standing in front of three people I’d never met before in just a thong.
Feeling proud of my courage I was almost sorry to return to civilian clothes – as well as desperate to see the fruits of my new-found body confidence and start choosing my album. Returning a few days later, some of my previous niggles about how I might look had returned but a glass or two of wine and the candle-scented studio put me immediately at ease and took the focus off the big screen set up in front of me.
Viewing the slideshow of Martin’s carefully selected 70 or so best shots was a revelation. The details of the shoot somewhat hazy, I could hardly believe I had done some of the poses that appeared on screen, and was sure the woman in the photos couldn’t possibly be me. The hard part, it turned out, was not to be coming face to face with how I looked but loving too many of the shots. My album was meant to be a selection of 10 shots but after several rounds of edits we were still left with more than 30 images. Despite Martin pulling up the similar ones to help me pick the best and most varied bunch, in the end I just couldn’t delete any more and had to settle on 23 – a much bigger haul of beautiful pictures of myself than I ever thought possible.
Having seen the results I now know how much I would have lost had I chickened out. I may not quite be ready to wander around those changing rooms naked just yet, but I do feel a lot more confident about my body – and a lot more likely to be happy with what I see in the mirror.