Kimberly Gillett is a Vancouver photographer who specializes in erotic portraiture. Suggestive tones in her imagery extend across her commercial work and an ongoing project that documents women who visit her to work with erotic expressions. She approaches portraiture with ease and candour, and Gillett's interested in how personable, habitual details can appear within the homes of clients.

Q: How did you develop a passion for erotic imagery?
I have always been interested in the sensual and erotic side of life. My passion for the imagery started when I first saw posters of black and white nude images. I looked them up online and in stores, and over time I discovered specific artists and publications that were producing a lot of what I liked. I followed them for some time and simultaneously explored my own creative side through fine arts. I believe strongly in being what you want and doing what you love, so it seemed only natural that if I were to photograph anything I would photograph varying degrees of eroticism.

Related: 10 erotic portraits taken by Gillett

Q: What do you think of approaching your erotic work with women in Vancouver? 

I think every city has women that are willing and wanting to be photographed nude; Vancouver is no exception. It often seems on the tamer side of things compared to cities such as Montreal, Toronto, Los Angeles and New York, but sex is everywhere and I think over time that will become more and more obvious.

Q: How are the processes of naked portraiture different between models and non-models?
I’ve actually found a lot of models and non-models to be similar; they know they want a beautiful image produced and they trust me to bring them there. The differences come in the details of each shoot but overall the process is the same, only more or less complex with the addition of artists, stylists, etc.

Q: What do you think of the senses of intimacies rendered in your photos?
I only know the feelings I receive from my photos and those that people tell me; I like to believe they evoke a unique emotion in everyone because they allow each viewer to relate to them in their own way. We all have of our own fantasies and preferences. The same photo may make one viewer focus on breasts, another on the nape of a neck and another may see their ex-lover completely. We see what we want to see. I feel as though I start the emotion at the creation of the image and the rest is left to the world.

Q: What do you think of your erotic photos constructed in certain domestic structures, like the exposed girl looking for something in the couch?
Eroticism is everywhere and I love photographing it in the simplest of places to remind people of that. If you’re not turned on by seeing your partner on the couch (or in a chair or a hallway or a parking lot), perhaps a photograph will help remind you of all the fun and dirty things you could be doing to them.

Q: When I spoke to the photographer Richard Kern recently, he said he continually shoots exposed girls in bed. What do you think of how some of your models appear in bed? Are there certain sets that appeal to you?
I frequently photograph women in beds or within frames that have beds in the background. It’s a natural place for erotic imagery but also a very delicate way to affect the mood of an image by the style of the bed. I love Richard’s work [in that series] – each image is so different and yet they are all a girl and a bed. It’s a place we can all relate to, much like my second preferred set: the bathroom. I love having the option to use water, and find the unique tones of tile and hardware fun to play with.

Q: I’m curious about the image of the girl reclining on her back in lingerie who seems to be in erotic thrall, with a couple of suggestive photographs of women on the wall....
For me that photograph shows how we are what we are turned on by. The woman in the photograph looks equally as sensual and beautifully placed as the girls in the photographs on her wall, yet many women do not think that is possible. I look forward to each session where I get to show a woman how beautiful, sexual, erotic and empowering she herself is.

Q: Are you interested in how eroticized images of female forms are displayed in domestic or public contexts?
I am very pleased by the ever-expanding use of erotic imagery in public. It is exciting to see the freedom and acceptance of sexuality growing. I think erotic images are beautiful and the more they can be seen the better. Some of my work is for sale in limited runs including a new set that will be available soon and much is online on both my websites and others.

Q: What do you think of your images with women in underthings?
I really enjoy photographing women partially covered, especially in lingerie that can be sexy or playful or dangerous, because it allows for all kinds of emotion to be added to or taken away from an image. While I love a fully nude form as well, the aspect of a small article of clothing can really enhance an image; it leaves some mystery to the individual that I think can be very arousing.
kimberlygillett_inset.jpgQ: It’s often assumed that men want to see women in lingerie. Are you interested in how women have various subjective links to underthings? For example, what do you make of the image of a girl showing gingham through a rip in the seat of her jeans?
I personally like that image because I like that kind of girl. To me it’s playful and rough at the same time and that keeps things exciting. Lingerie is just another layer we use to express ourselves, it doesn’t have to be fancy but it can be – it can be anything we want.

Q: Are you interested in narrative qualities in your photo series, like the girl with the boxing wrapping?
I enjoy the storytelling ability of a series of images and would certainly like to spend some time on that. There are hints of personalities in my photos to date, like the kick-boxer you mentioned, but there is much left to the imagination. In the future I may delve deeper into the narrative aspect to expand some characters more.

Q: You’ve expressed interest in having the viewer feel as if they walked in on an intimate moment. It seems intimate appearances are subjective – are there certain of your image series you feel a closeness to?
I feel a closeness to all of my images because I was a part of their creation but I have a particular connection to the set of the girl in only black lingerie. She is in a dark room with tan bedding and accents. It’s very smooth and sensual while remaining dark and mysterious, delicate even in such strong colours. I feel that is how I may want to be photographed.

Q: When you’re working mostly with female forms, what do you think about the allure of female art nudes, differing from more graphic depictions of the female body?
I enjoy all variances of female body depiction, from very graphic shots to soft-lit black and whites; I find it all interesting. I’ve found graphic images to be somewhat reassuring to other females to see that more women look like them, whereas artistic images elicit a more dreamlike state where women can imagine themselves being. The same woman can be photographed in both ways, what we see as imperfections in ourselves can be accentuated or veiled, and we can produce the image we want.

Q: It seems you have many female followers. Have you considered if it matters in terms of the photo processes, that you’re a female photographer working with female nudes?
It is certainly more comfortable for some females that I am female as well; it helps break the ice and allows for an initial level of trust and ease. I consider myself lucky to be female in my line of work but know there are many successful males doing similar things.

Q: How do you envision your erotic photography will grow or change? Will this be a lasting interest?
Eroticism has been an interest for as long as I can remember and I feel it will last. I remain curious in my life and work and believe my exploration of sexuality and beauty will continue to grow. Each project is an opportunity to find something more; I hope to do that for all of my years.

Kimberly Gillett's website

Related: 10 erotic portraits by Gillett

4 Comments | Add a Comment
very interesting article well written and thoughtfulyou are quite talented
sweetly searing
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