Photographer Christina Karst’s Instagram feed is a mix of smiling brides, happy couples and people lounging around in their underwear. Alongside brides and grooms saying “I do,” are men and women, alone or together, posing without their clothes. A departure from the boudoir photography of the past, these images aren’t “pin-ups.” There is no velvet, no tassels and no one channeling Betty Paige. Her style looks light, modern and friendly.
“I feel like most people have associated [boudoir] with Hustler,” Karst said. “To me, that is not what boudoir represents. When I shoot [boudoir] it’s to show the beauty of sexuality regardless of form.”
Since 2013, Karst has grown her boudoir photography business from an occasional one-off for a bride, to a sought-after and in-demand business. Now, she books multiple boudoir clients every month, many who are not tied to her wedding photography. She encourages clients to take boudoir photos at all different stages of their life, including mothers who have recently given birth and people in their 40s and 50s.
“Photos create memories and moments. They help us remember,” Karst said. “Clients can look back and go ‘I am beautiful.’”
While business is currently growing, Karst can still run up against old stigmas. Sometimes clients won’t tell anyone what they are doing or get cold feet. One client’s mother was so mortified by her daughter taking boudoir pictures, she asked Karst to delete the photos.
“My heart was broken because I felt like she missed the point. The point is to love and respect your body,” Karst said.
Recently, she hosted a contest on Instagram with a free boudoir shoot as the prize. The image she selected for the post had a tiny hint of nipple. The response was massive and ultimately reached 425+ likes. But even though the post had over 200 comments, after four to five hours, it was taken down.
“To me censorship is necessary on some platforms and Instagram’s censorship doesn’t bother me,” she explained. “It’s their platform! But what bothers me is the inequality. If I had covered her nipple with a mans, it wouldn’t have been taken down.”
Instagram allows for images of naked women but not of the female nipple. To make a point, some photographers have started covering female nipples with male ones, inverting nipples, or simply erasing them while still showing the breast. Those images are not considered “offensive” and are not taken down.
“Why does the female body evoke something that needs to be censored? Why does a man’s body not evoke that?” Karst asked.
Even for this article, Karst was unable to share images that contained nipples or even blurred out nipples due to requirements laid out by Google Ads.
Karst said she will continue to post images that walk the line of censorship in hopes that her images will encourage people to appreciate all parts of the human form — not just some parts.