INTERVIEW WITH BOUDOIR PHOTOGRAPHER ‘SAMANTHA KAY’
We sat down with multi-disciplined Canadian photographer SAMANTHA KAY for an in-depth interview on everything from how she got started in photography to the crazy shoots she has ever done.
Originally born in Toronto, Canada, Her fascination with photography came from the love of rummaging through her grandmother’s old photo albums. Instilling a young spark of inspiration and eagerness to create from her own eye. She loved seeing memories captured by family before she even existed and the mark it left in history, as a visual marker of sorts. That is what ended up driving her, the ability to capture those moments for yourself and others to look back on one day.
Her most recent ventures have focused on a youthful eroticism and chic style of boudoir. She dropped a new editorial on us to share with all of you along with her thoughts today. So let’s get into it..
INTERVIEW by DUSTIN HOLLYWOOD
Can you tell us a little bit about you and where you’re from? Where did your fascination with photography start, and more specifically the boudoir influence, come from?
…My name is Samantha, born and raised in Toronto, Canada. My fascination with photography came from the love of rummaging through my Grandmother’s old photo albums. I loved seeing memories captured in time of my family before I was even alive on this planet. That’s what photography to me is all about, capturing a moment in time for yourself and others to look back on. This is why I find printing your images so important as well. I believe the boudoir influence with started with fashion magazines as a teenager. I loved the idea of everything that went into creating the image, from the clothing, to the hair and makeup and set. When I discovered boudoir, I realized I could work with every day women, and give them the experience of feeling like a super model for a day.
Who did you want to emulate as an artist/photographer growing up?
…I loved looking at photos when I was young, but never thought of becoming a photographer until my 20’s. I actually wanted to be a veterinarian growing up.
How would you best describe your style, your aesthetic? How important do you think it is to find that piece of yourself in your work overall and individual images that sets you apart from everyone else and why?
…My style is definitely dark and moody. I am an extreme minimalist in my everyday life, so I also reflect that in my photography. No elaborate sets or props. I really want my subject to be the focus of the image. I feel that it set me apart from most boudoir photographers out there. I’ve had my own body image issues, that is why I am so passionate about my work and helping women overcome those issues through the power of boudoir photography.
Tell us a little bit about the progression of your work and how it has changed from when you started until now?
…I started off thinking I needed expensive lighting equipment and top notch camera gear., Even my posing style has changed drastically. II found myself posing my clients in ways that were stereotypically ‘sexy’. I’ve now evolved to only shooting with natural light and my 35mm lens I almost never take off my camera body. My posing style has also evolved into a more natural approach…just a woman alone in a space being naturally sexy and embracing her femininity for herself and no one else.
What do you shoot with equipment-wise?
…I have shot Nikon my entire photography career. Right now I use the Nikon Z6 with a 35mm lens that I haven’t taken off my camera body in years, and natural window light.
What time of day is your favorite to shoot and where are your favorite locations?
…To me, nothing compares to the dreamy warm golden hour light in the evening. My favorite location to shoot was an old loft in Toronto called Studio Bon Soleil. It was a magical studio which had high ceilings, exposed brick, wood beans and vintage decor. You felt like you were in a different time period when you were there. It was a wide open space with so much room to move around and create. It was on the 5th floor of a super old building with no elevator. But lugging your gear up all the stairs was so worth it every single time. It was my first location that I started shooting boudoir seriously, and lead me to the photographer I am today. Sadly, this year it has been torn down to build condo’s.
What’s the craziest shoot story you have as a memory?
…I found a client doing cocaine and slicing up limes for tequila shots in my bathroom. I finished the shoot politely, but if that were to happen to me today, I would have ended the shoot and asked her to leave immediately.
What would you say one of your biggest challenges in life has been and one of your biggest successes and why?
…By far the biggest challenge my my life was losing my Dad to brain cancer in 2020 in the height of the pandemic. He was my biggest supporter. However that incident pushed me even harder to be successful and make him proud. My biggest success was getting my own commercial studio space in 2021. I had been rending Air Bnb’s or sharing studios with photographers before that. Getting my own space allowed me to not only take on more clients, but feel free in MY own space, on my own time. I am proud of myself for getting to this point, and making a career doing what I love.
If you could collaborate with anyone alive or dead who would it be?
…I would absolutely love to shoot Lady Gaga. I am a huge fan and just think she is the coolest person on Earth.
What’s one thing you can’t live without and why?
…My camera!! Without it I wouldn’t have the career and life I do today.
What’s your spirit animal?
…A cat for sure. I am super independent and selective with choosing my friends.
What do you think of the photography industry and technology nowadays? What would you say is the greatest challenge in adapting to new shifts in tech. and competition getting your work noticed?
…I think social media and the internet is a great way to view such a huge range of other artists work, and gain inspiration from others. Instagram is essentially a mini website for your brand, it is the modern day business card, and it can be very beneficial for your ideal clients to find you and learn more about you, rather than a tiny ad listing in the Yellowpages. Did I just age myself there? I totally did. It’s also a great way for women to see bodies that aren’t societies standard of beauty, to not feel so alone in a world that can be so vain.
Where is somewhere or someone you have always wanted to shoot and why?
…I’ve always wanted to shoot a woman on an old balcony in Italy. Out of the shower, having her morning coffee and cigarette. It’s just been a vision of mine for some time now. Maybe because I admire the slower pace of life in Europe, compared to here in North America where it’s go go go, hustle and deadlines all the time.
Can you talk to us about some of the themes that run through your work like the boudoir? How do you develop the ideas behind your shoots and then how do you go about producing them and find the right people to collaborate with to bring them to life?
…I shoot boudoir because I realized it was a way to work with everyday women, to help them feel confident and empowered. Some of my clients have never felt beautiful or sexy their entire lives, so opening this new idea that they can be confident as themselves, is really powerful to me. I’ve spent 6 years building my boudoir photography business. I’ve learned that just being myself and authentic online, helps to attract my ideal clients. All the women I worked with are amazing, have their own unique stories and reasons for booking a shoot. The photoshoot itself is fun, but seeing the fire that is lit in these women, and that changes their life forever, is the most rewarding part of my job for me.
Do you plan to release any books, or put on any gallery shows/exhibitions soon or in the future?
…Yes! I recently visited Montreal, and was amazed at how many art and photo galleries were along the street. So in the next few years, I would love to do some really creative shoots outside my comfort zone, and host a show in Montreal, or my home city of Toronto.
Obviously, in this day and age, being an artist has, for better or worse, become a multi-faceted job with curating social media feeds, marketing yourself, and essentially being your own agent as well. What is your best advice for building a solid photography business and going about developing your online presence?
… Just be yourself, and shoot the way you want.What feels right to you. I spent years trying to replicate the work of my peers, when it just didn’t feel right to me. Now clients come to me and tell me it’s because of my unique style. A lot of boudoir out there tends to look the same. So don’t be afraid if your work looks different than others. I am typically a shy person and don’t show myself online often, but I do find it important to ‘show up’ every now and then. People want to know who you are and who they will be working with. So if that means getting outside your comfort zone and showing your face every so often, it’s what needs to be done.
You’re alone on a stranded island or a week and can have only have three things, what would you choose?
…Chapstick, camera to take some sweet self portraits, and chocolate.
Does music inspire you creatively when working or developing ideas? Who are your top 5 music artists/albums/songs you love to listen to while creating?
… If I could listen to Portishead (especially Glory Box) during ever shoot, I would be very happy. I find their music so sexy and feminine. I actually ask my clients before their shoot, who a few of their favourite musical artists are. I make a playlist of those artists to help them feel more comfortable and relaxed during their shoot, so the choice is not always mine, but I am happy knowing my clients are comfortable with their favourite pump up jams playing in the background.
What is your hidden talent?
…I can fold my Tonge into a clover? Apparently that’s pretty rare.
What is something you hope to do or accomplish one day that you haven’t yet?
…My goal is to purchase a home that I can shoot from and have a home studio.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2022?
…Lot’s of shooting, and hoping to travel to Spain later this year.