If I could express feelings about this project, it might look like a mix of
halfway through the shoot i stripped down and jumped in and obviously have no makeup on BUT ISN'T EVERYONE GORGEOUS AND SO HAPPY
I can’t believe this project is done. I can’t believe it happened. I can’t believe the right group of people came together and made it happen.
Because it was absolutely the right people at the right time in the right way.
This is part one of a three-part series on the photo shoot. For those who are new to Bluestockings, welcome. This is a queer owned, queer-inclusive lingerie and underthings boutique, and we just had our first ever photo shoot, which (as you will learn) is a big fucking deal.
This is what we're gonna cover in today's blog post:
- The foundations of the photo shoot: the "why"
- How it came together
- The (feminist) principles of the photo shoot - like representation but also collaboration
PLUS what you're really here for: the first series of photos. We shot two groups of photos: some product shots and lookbook/environmental shots.
Today, we're featuring product shots. Tuesday's blog post will feature lookbook shots. Wednesday, we'll look at behind the scenes.
Photoshopping & Retouching Policy: None of the models' bodies have been altered or edited ("photoshopped") in any way, with the exception of the removal of one tiny bruise from one of the models' legs (which our photographer explains further on in the blog post!).
You ready? Onward!
Lore Graham in Superstar Boxer Briefs by Play Out
If you've been reading the Bluestockings Blog, you know why we did an entirely LGBTQIA+ lingerie photo shoot. (All models are LGBTQIA+ identified, along with the photographer, makeup artist, and myself, the boutique owner/photo shoot organizer/art director/something.)
One of Bluestockings' major tenets is that representation is not an idea - it's a practice.
As a queer-identified business owner who believes in a diversity of representation and living out intersectional feminism, I was really super duper keen on launching the business way back in April with the most diverse imagery imaginable.
This, I soon learned, was a bit of a pipe dream. (Or what my dad would call "champagne taste on a beer budget.")
Erica Pitcairn modeling the Fishnet Bra in Rouge Noir by Claudette
The How: Money
After I actually bought all of my starting inventory back in April, I barely had enough to pay my web developer, so there wasn't really money left over to produce new imagery for the website. So, I used the existing imagery from the brands who I was stocking.
(This upset many, many people.)
As a super broke business owner, there just wasn't the money for the photo shoot. But basically I saved my (Bluestockings') pennies. In August, four months after our launch in April, there was enough money to hire a photographer.
Luckily, I met a good one.
this is michelle
Michelle Davidson-Schapiro and I were introduced via a mutual friend who was like "you need badass feminist, queer-friendly photography. you are a badass, feminist, queer lady photographer. YOU SHOULD MEET."
Thank you, mutual friend.
Ever since Michelle's and my first phone call, we've basically had an agreement in our souls. The photo shoot was 100% a collaboration.
I felt like we were in each others’ heads the whole time and I don’t think it’s possible to have a more ideal relationship with your photographer.
Also also also. Since Michelle is the absolute best, she wrote us a super-special explanation of how she edits photos:
- First, I want to make sure eyes are open and mouth is not. People were talking during our shoot, which is lovely, but I don't want a shot with anyone gabbing.
- Then, I want to judge the images as they relate to the others. For example, is this the best smile of the three Erica gives while wearing this outfit? Is this expression the most genuine?
- And finally, I want to make sure it's an image I can work with--if I wasn't paying attention and there's only white backdrop behind half of the model's head, I'm not going to be able to use that one for a product shot, even if I love Alexis's expression.
How do you recruit LGBTQIA+ identified people willing to volunteer to model underwear?
It was surprisingly easy, though I didn't think it would be, especially since I had a pretty long checklist for the shoot:
- All the models had to be LGBTQIA+-identified. Non-negotiable.
- At least one POC, preferably more.
- At least one person who identified as plus size.
- At least one trans or nonbinary identified person, preferably more.
- One IRL couple, to do normal couple-y things that couples do.
- A range of presentations: feminine to androgynous to masculine presenting. You’re never going to get everyone, especially when limited by numbers (Michelle kept telling me that it was 5-6 models maximum -- and oof, by the end of the photo shoot, I see why she was saying that)
- All models would preferably be Boston local.
This was a tall order, but it worked out. One of the models is my IRL partner (yay), but everyone else came via the social media channels.
Everybody also had to fill out a pretty intensive survey, which asked them questions such as how they identified, how they would describe their everyday style, and what kind of underthings they wore on a daily basis. This was critical for styling (more on that later!).
All of the models, Michelle, and I also met at Diesel Cafe (a queer-owned coffeeshop here in Somerville), so that we could meet before the shoot, talk about what we wanted to get out of the shoot, and also establish our “hard limits” (aka, no lace, no pink, that kind of thing) and special requests (like, let’s have nerdy board games as props! and maybe puppies? okay no puppies but that would have been SO COOL).
After endless searching for a location where we could do both product shots and homey lookbook shots, we got lucky: Abby and Sylvie, the co-founders of Play Out, had a queer lady friend in the Boston metro with a badass house. An incredible host, she thought nothing of letting a bunch of mostly naked people have the run of her house for an entire day. Rad.
When it came to styling, I made two lists:
- What the models said they wore in their everyday lives (and, in some cases, what they’d actually purchased from Bluestockings -- like, Erica loves Claudette bras, Alexis loves Sophie Hines bras)
- The products I wanted to feature
It was essentially like doing a bunch of mini Venn Diagrams and then sending each model a bunch of emails to check in and make sure they were okay with their outfits because, you know, Consent and Collaboration.
And that’s how we ended up with what everyone wore.
I found our fabulous makeup artist, Mathieu Vetere, through a mutual friend. The models did their own hair.
**It bears noting that no brand asked to be featured or was given the opportunity to be specially featured in the photo shoot. After the models, Michelle, and I had finalized the looks, I reached out to a handful of the selected brands and asked if they would loan some items for the shoot. AnaOno, BlackBird Underpinnings, and Play Out all graciously sent items on loan for us to shoot with -- many thanks! (I didn’t request items from any of the handmade brands that were featured, as production times vary wildly for them.)
So... you wanna see more pictures?
Here you go, friends! Enjoy!
Lore wearing Bamboo Packing Briefs by Origami Customs
Lore wearing the Superstar Boxer Briefs by Play Out
Erica wearing Slinky Black Satin Ballet Wrap Robe by RavenDreams
P.P.S. Support Bluestockings and shop with us! We're a small, independent business and rely on our badass customers to stay up and running.