Sébastien Rabøin is an artist based in Québec. With a large and loyal following on Instagram, his speciality is intimate sensual photography, usually shot in black in white. Creating distortion through long exposure, or by playing with various materials like glass or nylon, Sébastien’s photos manage to capture the raw sensuality of humans, the beauty in our animalism.

With a language barrier and the Atlantic Ocean between us, we work our way through the interview by video call and a shared Google doc that together we tap away at. But even through my screen, (and across the ocean) it’s clear that Sébastien is a sensitive soul with a pure, unaffected attitude towards his outstanding artworks of intimate sensual photography.

How did you get into doing intimate sensual photography?

Photography has always been in my life, my father was a photographer and he had a darkroom since I was a kid. I started photography at the age of 10. The first portraits by the young me were of the family, including my mother who died 6 months after my debut.

Photography then suddenly turned into a memory tool. A way to preserve life. Even today when I produce an image, I project it forward in time to when it will become an old photo where its subject will have a nostalgic look of its youth. You could say that I take old photos!

 

The sensual side in my creation is a personal desire to see life in a soft and erotic way. The body is a metaphor of art, a language, an emotion.

 

 

Growing up in the 80s, the French magazine Photo was in my environment. I discovered there the greatest art photographers (Newton, Sieff, Clergue, etc.) and this shaped my view of photographic art. My idols have therefore been great producers of sensual and erotic images.

Supported by the cinema, I worked for more than 30 years as a film programmer. I then wanted to make my cinema: movies of one image! I therefore consider my work as fictional cinema.

Now onto intimate sensual photography specifically. The sensual side in my creation is a personal desire to see life in a soft and erotic way. The body is a metaphor of art, a language, an emotion. The history of art is filled with sensuality: painting, photography, cinema. For each of these disciplines, from the start, the nude was there. I do not escape this eternal wave. My inspirations are the same as 200 years ago, the body magnified and sensual!

 

intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin
Intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin

Would you describe your work as boudoir photography?

I don’t really like the expression boudoir, I find it pejorative. I prefer sensual art or intimate photos, but let’s not get too bogged down with words.The expression boudoir is still useful as it allows photographers and models to understand each other when planning a photo shoot. It has entered common parlance. In old French, boudoir refers to a “private room” of a house.

I would describe my photos as intimate, private, seeking the essential nature of a being. Emotions such as surprise, boredom or joy are in the foreground; provoking them in order to direct the model and manage to capture the body, the vehicle of her sensuality! It’s also a quest for subtlety. Playing with shadows and lights to suggest without showing. Let the spectator imagine without being provocative.

 

What 3 words represent the mood of your photography?

– Freedom
– Creativity
– Sensuality

 

Can you present 3 favourite pieces of your work in intimate sensual photography?

 

Distortions II

I discovered the wonderful work of André Kertez a few years ago and his experiments made with distorting mirrors (Distortion – 1933) dazzled me! I was inspired by it because I love the confusion of the image. I like it when we don’t know right away what’s going on before our eyes! What is this part of the body? In this photo, I like the fact that we see the real feet of the model as if it were a self-portrait.

 

 

Giant Step

Again a question of perspective with this photo taken with a wide angle. There are two disciplines combined here; in addition to the wide angle low angle shot, I use a video projection as the only source of lighting. It brings me back to the cinema where images are projected on a screen, but here, the screen is the nude flesh. I like that the spectator feels very small under this threatening foot in front of this superb and dangerous body!

 

 

Nylon Skin

Always with an accessory (nylon), a series in low-key lighting, my signature lighting. I use props a lot because I have a very small studio with few backgrounds. This gives a very minimalist work environment that I enhance with objects. This light is suitable for a limited space and allows you to hide certain details. I use very little retouching, if any, apart from cropping, contrasting and light EQ.

 

Describe your process of a shoot- from the initial idea, the shoot itself, and finally the finished photograph.

You mention three steps in this question and that’s exactly how I approach my job.

– The initial idea comes to life in my head at any time of the day (or night), I always have a notebook with me. The projects are then drawn up. Visual art is a language in itself and can do without words. So I illustrate a photo idea with a drawing.

 From paper to photo: Sébastien Rabøin's intimate sensual photography.
From paper to photo: Sébastien Rabøin’s intimate sensual photography.

– Just before shooting, I describe the scene to the model using the drawing as an example. Sometimes the idea is illustrated with another photo that would have triggered the project. Most of the time, when I develop an idea, I already have a model in mind to make it happen!

– The third step is retouching and bringing the photo to life. It’s an important step that I do using the old ACDSee pro software which is perfectly suited to my needs (cropping, contrasts and a super light EQ). The bulk of the work is therefore done live in the studio!

This creation now has the potential to be seen and, perhaps, to touch people. This is where dopamine, often defined as the hormone of pleasure and reward, comes into play. This part brings us back to step 1, we take out the notebook and we start again!

 

I think you can see the light better in black and white, you can feel it! I do anyway, there was a period about 5 or 6 years ago where I removed the colour on my TV to watch certain films.

 

 

Why do you choose to shoot in black and white?

Newton, Sieff, Clergue etc… First the masters!

Black and white photography eliminates the distractions that colour sometimes causes. I can then concentrate on the shape and texture of the different elements of the image. I also prefer to work on composition with shapes rather than colours.

I started with colour anyway, for a few decades. Then out of curiosity I put my favourite takes in black and white! I think you can see the light better in black and white, you can feel it! I do anyway, there was a period about 5 or 6 years ago where I removed the colour on my TV to watch certain films.

The greatest colour movie to see in BNW is Cameron’s Terminator 2. Must try this! The contrasts are great, what light! Looks like Tarkovsky. I must say that the blue light, which reigns over this film, makes good BNW! Cinema in general has taught me photography and staging. Obviously some black and white films influenced me a lot, Dead Man (Jarmush), Manhattan (Allen), The films of Kurosawa and Tarkovsky … there are so many!

 

A photo taken today would not be the same photo if it had been taken last week. A photo shoot is here and now!

 

How do you create the mood of intimate sensual photography?

Intimacy is the basis of my creation because I work alone, with one model at a time. By being two in a small chiaroscuro studio, the climate of trust leads to intimacy. I always add music, preferably to the liking of the model to make her feel at home. Music is a territory and when you are not at home, listening to what you like helps you appropriate the place.

For the sensual side, it is not necessarily sought after, it happens by itself because the body is magnified. It is necessary to talk with the model in order to know her desires, her vision of the project and to know her state of mind of the moment. Complicity is essential.

A photo taken today would not be the same photo if it had been taken last week. A photo shoot is here and now!
Art history is filled with representations of the body and my favourite example is the sculptor Rodin. When he carved marble, the bodies looked so real, the movement so erotic, The Kiss for example. If we do not succeed in creating an intimate climate with the model, it can quickly turn into marble!

 

Intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin
Intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin.

 

Who is your typical client?

I no longer have “clients” because I no longer take paid photos and for me, the word client goes with cachet. I cannot conceive of a client guiding the way I work. I need freedom!

Of course if a client gave me the absolute freedom to express myself in my style for money I would say yes! But that never happens! During my collaborations, I quickly show the photos to the model and if she sees any that she does not like, I delete them immediately.

Afterwards, I work on the photos and send them to her for final approval. In general, they are all accepted with great pleasure! And finally, I occasionally sell prints, it’s my only contact with customers!

 

My mission is to magnify what I see and what I imagine so that the person in front of the camera finds themselves beautiful, within my artistic style. I have no social mission or particular messages to convey except the aesthetics and the emotion that can emanate from an encounter.

 

Do you have a mission with your intimate sensual photography?

My mission is to magnify what I see and what I imagine so that the person in front of the camera finds themselves beautiful, within my artistic style.

I have no social mission or particular messages to convey except the aesthetics and the emotion that can emanate from an encounter. Art remains useful in society, my inspiration does not take this route but the path that I create leads just as much to this inspiration of well-being.

 

video projection : Intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin
Intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin.

How do you make your clients feel comfortable in front of the camera?

Since I don’t have any clients, I don’t work much with strangers. But let’s suppose that I would have lots of requests for collaborations and that I would regularly have to deal with new people.

For a person to feel comfortable, everything is decided before touching the camera. The process begins through messages exchanged before meeting. I ask the models to show me examples of photos they would like to do, whether it is from my works or from others. I have to grasp the state of mind of the person in front of me, remain attentive to understand their desires.

Then the welcome at home (once my dog ​​has calmed down!). The first contact is imperative for the model to feel comfortable. She has to feel important because she really is! Then there is the music…

 

I like when the model is unpredictable, dancing, so that it is almost like doing sports or animal photography. Precisely, to bring out the animal in oneself…

 

What is your favourite thing about your work?

We were talking about the 3 stages of creation previously:
1. Before the session, 2. During the shoot, and 3. The life of the photo.

I much prefer the shooting part! It’s very exciting because we don’t really know what’s going to happen. I like the model to be in motion in order to give life to the work and make the final result less static. I like when the model is unpredictable, dancing, so that it is almost like doing sports or animal photography. Precisely, to bring out the animal in oneself, or the organic and raw side to touch the depth of the person and their emotions. Avoid the superficiality that we find from time to time in boudoir sessions.

 

What annoys me the most is the illogical side of Instagram’s censorship system. A naked woman with artistic lighting and a very classy pose is likely to be banned. On the other hand, an explicit painting or drawing will be accepted because it is a reproduction of reality… But a photo is also a reproduction of reality!

 

How would you differentiate sensuality from sexuality?

This is THE question I was waiting for! The difference is not in the image, it is in the mind of the viewer. A sensual pose or gaze can quickly become sexual or even vulgar. It depends on the intention of the photographer and/or the model. If you have something to sell, or if you have something to express, those are two different intentions. I also like to cultivate a certain modesty, a restraint to suggest rather than to show.

But at the same time, I don’t want to be someone who loves sensuality and criticises sexuality, I’m fine with sexuality too. André Breton said: Pornography is other people’s eroticism.

So it’s a question of perspective, a bit like a colour palette, there are so many shades. The human body is so many things at once.

 

I would like to discover new photographers to be able to exchange with them and share ideas. Sensuali would also be a great way to find models.

 

What’s your opinion on Instagram and other social media platforms trying to censor nudity?

I have been frustrated a few times with Instagram blocking some of my images. What annoys me the most is the illogical side of Instagram’s censorship system. A naked woman with artistic lighting and a very classy pose is likely to be banned. On the other hand, an explicit painting or drawing will be accepted because it is a reproduction of reality… But a photo is also a reproduction of reality!

Intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin
Intimate sensual photography by Sébastien Rabøin.

 

Do you think we live in a sensual society? Could we make the world a more sensual place?

Oh no! Not in America. It is a hypocritical society that consumes sensuality in secret as something dirty. In America, there is a collective shame in sensuality. On the other hand, on the news on TV, we see people dying live at 6 p.m. while eating our hamburgers.

If we manage to make a difference between sexuality and nudity, we will have come a long way. We can then live in a more sensual society. I hope that the young people of today (the TikTok generation), when they are in power tomorrow will change society’s view of the human body. Hopefully in future people will see that the naked body and what it exudes is not always synonymous with sexuality. But it has been instilled for so long through religion, cinema among others that it will take a few more decades before we see it as it is: aesthetically magnificent!

 

If Sensuali create a space for sensual photographers, what would you like to see?

I would like to discover new photographers to be able to exchange with them and share ideas. Sensuali would also be an opportunity to find models. In fact Instagram already does this, but Sensuali would do this with a freer spirit!

Is there anything you want to talk about that we didn’t cover?

An important question is rarely addressed: The place of the spouse in intimate sensual photography. How do they react when
their lover works with other bodies, be it the photographer or the model? In my case, I mainly work with my wife and a friend. We had a lot of discussions my darling and I to talk about our personal limits, both when we work together and when I work with others. I also make sure that if the model has a life partner, he is comfortable with the sensual art so that the sessions are relaxed.

 

Discover people seeking and offering art experiences like intimate sensual photography today on Sensuali.

Interview
art
sensual photography
Iso

Iso

Author

Iso is a writer and filmmaker based in East London. She is passionate about all things erotic and leads a sexy, shame-free life in hope that she can inspire others to do the same. Originally from a Northern seaside town, she is naturally drawn to the best things in life: candyfloss, trashy karaoke bars and heart-shaped sunglasses.


Discover related Experiences

Sensual photography

Sensual photography

Turning pixels into passion.

Explore similar articles

Art in the context of sex work: In conversation with Circe

Art in the context of sex work: In conversation with Circe

Iso
Posted by Iso

Thursday 20 April 2023

As an artist sex worker, making art about your sex work experiences is not unheard of, but what about the other way round? What about bringing your artistry into the realms of your sex work? I chatted to Circe about her journey as an artist and a sex worker, and how her artful erotic photoshoots allow her to express her creativity whilst also bringing in clientele.

The most famous fetish illustrators through history

The most famous fetish illustrators through history

Iso
Posted by Iso

Friday 13 October 2023

Welcome to the world of fetish illustrators. Let's explore the most notable characters, their unique styles, artistic journeys, and the cultural impact of their evocative works.

Sensual photography: a short introduction

Sensual photography: a short introduction

Iso
Posted by Iso

Monday 24 July 2023

What is sensual photography? Well, it's not simply all about sex. Sensual photography is about creating visceral pictures that feel intimate, sometimes alluring and often charged with emotion. Here's a short introduction.

Cute kink illustration: meet Rebecca Lightbody

Cute kink illustration: meet Rebecca Lightbody

Iso
Posted by Iso

Friday 4 August 2023

We chatted with kink illustration extraordinaire and lingerie lover Rebecca Lightbody, about her fetish zines, the eroticism of lingerie, and her overarching mission to bring kink out of the shadows and into the light.

Meet Ewa Żak: The Graphic Design Goddess Behind Sensuali

Meet Ewa Żak: The Graphic Design Goddess Behind Sensuali

Jules
Posted by Jules

Thursday 16 February 2023

I sat down for an amazing convo with Sensuali’s illustrator to learn about her creative journey and what inspires her both in art and in life.

On queer erotic photography: meet Imogen Cleverley

On queer erotic photography: meet Imogen Cleverley

Iso
Posted by Iso

Friday 13 October 2023

Sensuali chatted to the London-based artist making queer erotic photography, Imogen Cleverley. We spoke about the influence of 80s DIY punk queer-core on their work, the misconception that art and porn can't overlap, and the need to make more space for difficult conversations and anger within the queer art scene.