The woman in the photograph is naked except for a thong and a riot of pearl beads hanging to her navel. She stares brazenly at the camera, her hands on her hips.
"Oh my gosh, you look just like a stripper," I say. "Keep it." I'm talking to my friend Gina as she stares rapturously at the image on the oversized computer monitor. "You're right," she says. "Steven is gonna love this picture." She looks at the photographer. "Keep it."
I've tagged along with friends Gina and Stephanie for their sessions with photographer Laura Boyd (www.ownyoursexy.com) during our stay in New York City. Laura has made a career of photographing women in their skivvies and compiling "little black books" of artfully shot intimate photos that can be gifted to significant others or stowed away until the day a dispute erupts over whether Great Grandma really once had boobs that hung above her waistline.
The studio's in a swanky high-rise in the heart of the financial district, and it feels a little odd when we arrive with bags stuffed full of lingerie and ask the doorman to ring apartment 27-A. I can't help wonder if he can tell by our sheepish expressions that we're up to something — something a little ... dirty.
Upstairs, Laura's studio brims with tulle, maribou and backdrops papered with prints you'd expect to find in a Paris bordello. Enormous windows provide ample lighting and a voyeuristic view into an office across the street.
"You just know that office was a big part of his promotion," I say, watching a man work at his desk. "Unfortunately, sir, we can't increase your salary, but we can promise you one of the best views in New York!"
Laura chats with Gina about the photos she wants, and begins pulling lingerie from her bag. My neck prickles when she says, "I've got to wear this thong. It's Steven's favorite." I love Gina to death, but I could have done without knowing that tidbit. Hastily, I excuse myself and spend the next hour roaming the city so she can take her photos in private.
Next, it's Stephanie's turn. She's recently lost weight and is far more body-conscious than Gina, but Laura seems unfazed. Gina and I leave to give Stephanie some privacy. We return an hour later, and Stephanie emerges, wide-eyed.
"It went fine," she says, "but you won't believe it. I put on that thong for the shoot, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I totally freaked out. I couldn't go out there like that! To me, it looked like it was on backward because the string was in the front and the triangle was in the back, but I knew the triangle had to go in back, because that's where the tags were!"
"Stephanie," Gina says dryly, "The tags go in the front. It's a g-string, not a v-string.""Oh my god," Stephanie says, putting her hands to her face. "I almost had my photos taken like that." We laugh until we have tears in our eyes.
After a leisurely lunch, we return to Laura's. Stephanie's pictures are up first, and Laura has done a fabulous job. The photos tastefully highlight her lovely face and ample cleavage. They're sexy, but not too revealing — the kind of thing that wouldn't cause trauma if the kids came across them.
Gina's photos, on the other hand, look like something straight out of a Victoria's Secret shoot, before the naughty bits are edited out. At first, I'm a little uncomfortable seeing that much of my friend, but I soon begin examining them with the jaded air of Hugh Hefner.
"I like the third picture best," I hear myself say. "Your butt looks really round in it." I realize this has become a rather odd bonding experience: You can't openly critique the roundness of your friend's bare butt without feeling closer as a result. Try it some time and see if I'm not right.
By the afternoon's end, I have to admit part of me is a little envious. Their photos are amazing, and their husbands will be suitably overjoyed. But at a $750 starting price, Laura's services don't come cheap. With four kids and a mortgage, I don't think "boudoir photography session" will get priority on the expense list.
I could probably find a Nashville boudoir photographer for cheaper, but my initial investigation turned up an ad with a photo of a matronly woman wearing only a fishing net, cradling a plastic fish in her arms. I'm now scarred for life. Perhaps some things really are better left to New Yorkers.
Read more Suburban Turmoil at www.suburbanturmoil.com.
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