Glamour Photography's Comeback Is About Self Love

by Jen Marie

If you remember the glamour shots of the late '80s and early '90s, you may be surprised to hear that glamour photography is making a comeback. That's right, you know the ones. I'm talking about those overly softened, big hair pushed forward, grabbing the collar of a leather jacket glamour portraits that so many of our family members have secretly tucked away in a drawer (or, if they're anything like my mom, proudly displayed in a collage picture frame). Except this time around, glamour photography has adopted a much more classic, refined look, designed to compliment an individual woman's unique beauty.

In reality, glamour photography never really went anywhere — it just took a much needed chill pill for a few years while waiting to be reinvigorated by the right photographers. Because as solid as the concept of photographing women in soft, beautiful light with minimal distraction was, the genre needed to take a few steps back from shoulder pads and overly-teased hair. We all did.

Meanwhile, boudoir and pinup photography gained popularity, and in many circles, even became tied to glamour by definition. That is to say, the lines between genres became softly lit and blurred. However, glamour photography, at its core, is much more about capturing captivating beauty and much less about sexuality or implied nudity. And one woman has done much to champion the cause of glamour as a separate genre, fostering her very own modern glamour movement.

Enter Sue Bryce, a vivacious, tenacious New Zealand native (now enjoying life in sunny California), who maintained her love and respect for glamour as a photography genre through 25 years of shooting it. Bryce's approach to glamour revolves around empowering women and reminding us that we are all inherently beautiful. Her fashion inspired brand of contemporary portraiture has inspired a metamorphosis for the glamour photography genre.

But, unless you're a photographer, or have spent a lot of time hanging out with photographers, you may not see why that has much to do with you personally. Modern glamour portrait sessions are a fabulous fusion of fashion, beauty, and fun, and if you've ever looked longingly at the glossy spread of a fashion magazine and wondered what the modeling experience might be like, participating in your own modern glamour portrait session will come quite close. Except you're likely to be pampered more, and have a few less demands made of you physically.

From wardrobe styling to full hair and makeup and expert lighting, splurging for (and it will be a splurge — professional photographers come with bigger price points, and for good reason) a modern glamour session will get you the full benefits of a professionally created and enhanced image. Yeah, that's right, enhanced. Because for all of our pushing and prodding, there are some simple realities that still permeate the photographic industry, one of which is that photographers are trained to capture their subjects in their best light.

For many photography purists (who won't even touch Photoshop or digital manipulation software), this quite literally translates to choosing the best light and light modifiers available to flatter their subject. And there it is: flatter, a word that we attempt to use in a complementary style, when really it comes with connotations of insincerity. That word is dangerously close to home for many photographers (yep, myself included) who use both light and Photoshop to minimize the appearance of blemishes. One huge concern regarding glamour photography, for all of its genuinely sincere positive intentions, is the emphasis its practitioners put on creating flawless imagery.

But where do we want to draw that line? Because speaking as an artist and a professional, it is our job and passion to create imagery that not only focuses on the unique attributes of our subject, but also utilizes classic artistic principals, such as visual balance and movement? And while I'm not personally comfortable with warping or liquefying a woman's body to make her more visually appealing according to society's current notions of what feminine beauty might be, I will use Photoshop to remove pimples and overly dark circles under her eyes.

It's a line I cringe over, because while I fully embrace the notion that we should all learn to love our wrinkles and scars, I'm also a firm believer in using photography to instill confidence. And we all get pimples, have crappy nights of sleep, and encounter rashes or cat scratches — but those "blemishes" are temporary, and not truly a reflection of who we are, or what we envision ourselves being in our own minds.

And this, I believe, is where modern glamour portraiture does succeed. Yes, there is posing to appease the movement of the viewer's eye toward the assets we appreciate most. Photographers employ large, soft lighting and sometimes even software to reduce the appearance of smile lines and the occasional pitfalls of what it means to be human, eat potato chips and have healthy working skin that pushes excess oils out of pores. But in the end, we walk away with images that are closer akin to the dreamy versions of ourselves that we keep locked in the private recesses of our minds. The princesses, the rock queens, the badass bitches, and the warm, calm and confident women we sometimes see reflected back through our own eyes when we look in the mirror.

I'm not advocating perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards. And I'm not suggesting that we should feel as though we have to look dreamy every day. What I am asking you to consider is how having one day of pure beauty (your own brand of beauty — as you see it), followed by images that you'll be able to reference for a lifetime as a reminder, might just take you a few steps closer to the confidence we all struggle to find within ourselves. Once you have the opportunity to see your unique radiance, whether through someone else's eyes/lens, or in a simple moment of clarity, it becomes much easier to focus less on the little voice in your head that whispers about conformity or how you should probably "reduce your flaws" in order to find love, acceptance, friendship, the right job, etc. And that's a gift. The precious type, that truly impacts the rest of your life.

Perhaps Bryce says it best during her touching video entitled The Light That Shines , "Beauty... it's the light that shines out of people's eyes when they look at you... when you hold their gaze, and then everything else falls away... you see their true self and it's just staring back at you, and it's magnificent... and everybody has it."

Images: Author's Own; suebryce/Instagram