Whether you call it erotic photography, topless photos, pinups or nudes. What’s for certain is that the glamour model industry has been around for hundreds of years. Despite recent changes like the decline of the ‘lads mag’ it still shows no sign of disappearing.

A quick glance through magazines like Cosmopolitan and Maxim, or probably even scrolling through your own Instagram feed will give you a good idea what glamour modelling is all about. Whilst clothes can be on, off or anywhere in-between, sexually suggestive or erotic poses are a must – as is the sensual and ‘arty’ style of photography.

The glamour model industry is full of men and women who aren’t shy of showing off their bodies. However, we are now in a world of changing cultures and a more enlightened outlook on sexuality. So what does the future look like for tomorrow’s glamour model?

The Old Masters

To understand how glamour modelling might look in the future, it’s good to understand how the changing cultural norms have shaped it into what it is today. Glamour modelling is nothing new. Although perhaps not glamour modelling as such, examples of erotic art have been found dating back to Palaeolithic cave paintings and carvings.

Even before the days of photography, the Old Masters were using models who would pose for nude paintings, and the Renaissance painters were well-known for producing erotica to amuse the aristocracy. In more modern times, artists such as Picasso, Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec threw censorship to the wind with their famously suggestive works of art.

The Invention of Photography

With the invention of photography in 1826, the realm of the glamour model moved primarily to film.

Due to the social climate at the time, the only nude photography legally allowed was for the benefit of artist’s studies. There are some surviving examples of some of the first nude photographs which are far more sensual than their official use perhaps required them to be. This suggests that they were intended to be erotic images rather than as a substitute for a life model.

At this time, photography was limited in its capabilities. Its images were monochromatic, which lead photographers to move away from the standard pornographic image of a group of people engaging in sexual acts, to a solitary female in an erotic pose – much more like the glamour photos of today.

Photographs were also very difficult to mass produce and were incredibly expensive, limiting their appeal to just that of the very wealthy. In 1941, the process of making photographs with negatives was invented, meaning that photos could be re-produced. The market for commercial photography exploded overnight and, by 1855 there was a booming underground market for erotic photography.

The Rise of Victorian Glamour

Looking back at the late 1800s the then saucy photography is certainly tame by today’s standards. Associated with photographers such as Eadweard Muybridge, they depicted nude or semi-nude women in very functional poses. Models would pose with everyday props like fishing poles or shopping baskets – not so cheeky. The photos would be printed and distributed to ‘subscribers’ through the post in plain wrappings to keep the contents discreet.

At the same time, the so-called ‘French Postcards’ became popular. Violating the social norms of the time, they were distributed secretly and surreptitiously by street vendors. These glamour models were often photographed in more playful poses – no more fishing rods! Often looking startled or surprised by the viewer.

Star-Studded Pin-up Models

The advent of the Second World War saw pin-up girls reach a wide audience. Popular film stars posed for the scantily clad photographs. And just like that erotic photography started to look much more like we know it today.

Promoted as sex-symbols, these Hollywood starlets posed in swimming costumes or with short skirts and bare legs; but it wasn’t until the ’50s that bare breasts started to appear.

The term ‘glamour photography’ was first used in the ’60s, suggesting a more widely held acceptance of the genre. Although glamour modelling in advertising remained highly controversial, and the first male glamour models didn’t appear until well into the ’70s.

The Rise of the Boudoir Photoshoot

Today, glamour photography is very much in the public eye – and not just as consumers either. Since the 1990’s, glamour portrait studios have opened their doors to the public. Creating experiences for people who want to put an album together for their other-half or for themselves.

But even now, with what seems like a more open acceptance of sexuality and the naked body. The rules and acceptable norms of glamour modelling is still changing.

Making glamour Instagram-able

Nowadays everything is Instagram-able, and it seems that glamour is going that way too. A genre that is well and truly flourishing on Instagram. The modern world of the glamour model is equally about making positive social statements, as it is about being cheeky.

And, much like the censorship of the Victorian Era, the super-strict community guidelines mean that there’s not so much as a nipple in sight in the Insta-friendly version of glamour modelling. What’s for certain is that whatever form it takes, the glamour model industry is definitely here to stay!