Kiley Clagg got started in boudoir photography several years ago when she decided she wanted to have some sexy photos taken.
She had just turned 35 and had lost a lot of weight. Feeling good and proud of her accomplishment, she scheduled a photo session as a birthday present to herself.
But when she approached some local photographers, she said they acted as if the idea were taboo.
“I would equate it to what it was 10 years ago to get a Brazilian bikini wax,” said Clagg, an Olsburg resident. “Like, at a salon, people would talk about it in hushed tones.”
And photographers who were willing didn’t exactly inspire confidence. Clagg, married for eight years and the mother of two, expressed concern to one photographer about hiding her C-section scars.
“He said, “Don’t worry about the scars, but if you’re fat, I can’t make you skinny,’” she said. “That hurt for two or three weeks.”
Clagg eventually found a photographer friend in Oklahoma City, to take her photos. It was a positive experience. So positive, in fact, that she started taking boudoir photos for others.
A longtime photography hobbyist, Clagg did some boudoir sessions for friends. They liked the results and told their friends. In September 2010, Clagg officially started her business, Eye Candi Couture. Though she also works as a financial adviser, Clagg said photography is now her primary career.
She now has a full-time studio in Westmoreland where clients, mostly married women ages 30 to 50, pay $250 or more per session to show off their sensual sides. (They’re usually in lingerie — never fully nude.) Most of them start out wanting the photos as gifts for their husbands or significant others, she said. But often, they end up enjoying the photos themselves.
“They get woken back up,” she said. “They get kissed like they haven’t been kissed in 15 years because they forgot that they could feel that way.”
Clagg said the photos can have a similar effect for younger women, usually brides about to get married.
“You can be 28, 29 years old and never feel sexy until you find someone who makes you feel sexy,” she said.
Clagg, who is from Medicine Lodge and grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma, said her experience in front of the camera helps her to make women feel comfortable.
“If you’ve never had boudoir pictures taken, you shouldn’t be taking them,” she said. “You need to know what it feels like to bare it all. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for them to walk in the door.”
For most clients, she said, it takes about 20 minutes to get comfortable in front of the camera. But later, when they see the finished product, most are pleasantly surprised by the result. Many, she said have become emotional because they like the way they look.
Clagg also takes traditional studio photos of children and families. But she loves the niche she has found in boudoir photography.
“Eye Candi is a very personal baby to me,” she said.
Clagg said she has encountered some backlash from community members who think her work is pornographic or bad for marriages. She vehemently denies both claims. And though she tries to be respectful of fellow residents, she said she has no desire to hide what she’s doing. “I’ve always been very bold,” she said. “’Abrasive’ has been a word that’s been used for me, more than once. I think it’s more that I’m assertive and persistent. I think what makes me good at it, that I know who they are. I understand it.”
Clagg said she is looking forward to an expansion of her studio that she is planning with the Pottawatomie County Economic Development team. The space will extend 70 feet behind the existing building on Westmoreland’s Main Street.