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petra doesn't retouch sexiness

posted by sitre team
petra doesn't retouch sexiness

Picture by Petra Kleis

sitre is here to make sexy more honest, inclusive and mindful. For too long  sexiness has been portrayed as something for the selected few - and we believe everyone is sexy.

Danish photographer Petra Kleis is a pioneer when it comes to taking honest pictures of people, bodies and sexiness. So of course we asked her to take photos for sitre (thank you Petra).

But ‘real’ still isn’t the norm when talking sexiness and nudity, so we were eager to hear how and why Petra pushes for a more honest approach to photography. Because if we were all a bit more like Petra, the world of sexiness would look a lot more inclusive…

Hi Petra. You take very raw and honest portraits. How did that become your approach to photography?

I don’t know if I think I take raw photos, but definitely honest. We’ve all gotten so used to the pictures we see in ads and magazines, which are all extremely retouched. So when you do very little or no retouching, you achieve a much more raw look. I try to keep my photos as honest as possible. I think it’s cooler and it speaks more to me. It’s not because I have a rule that says I am not allowed; I still have a lot of commercial projects where retouching is a must, sadly.

That makes sense. You’ve taken a lot of photos portraying nudity and to some extent sex. How and why did that become such a recurring theme for you?

Nudity is very interesting and beautiful. I often think that a naked or barely dressed body, is a lot more interesting than one that is covered up. It’s the same as a smile. We are our most authentic and honest self when naked.

I really do think all bodies are interesting and beautiful in their own way. I’ve met a lot of women who feel so awesome in their own bodies - and it’s often those with the less “perfect” bodies who are the most confident in their own skin. That’s my observation anyways. And that’s thought provoking!

Do you think it’s important to create a more real picture of sex and nudity?

Absolutely. I think Instagram has really helped me broaden my horizon. Suddenly you could be a fly on the wall and observe so many cool women, and a lot of them aren’t afraid of showing their body or sexuality. All types of women; yellow, green, black, white, fat, thin, big boobs, small boobs, no boobs and so on. Each and every single one had their own sexuality. That did so much for me… to see all these different women, considering I was a fashion photographer who was used to only seeing tall skinny girls. To find out you are totally ok even if you’re not tall and skinny was wonderful.

Suddenly it was okay to just be yourself no matter what turns you on or how you look. The more real, the better. Instagram can really enrich your life... and break it down too; it’s about following the people that’s right for you.

The more we can break down the illusion about sex and bodies having to be a certain way, the more we make room for everyone to just be themselves, honestly.

petra kleis self portray
Petra Kleis self-portrait

Yes, totally agree! So how do you manage to create such honest portrays of people - including people who might have never been modelling before?

Thank you for the compliment. I think I’m good at creating a safe space where everything is allowed, and it’s completely ok to be exactly who you are.

I always try to make a plan and tell the people I photograph about it. I’ll tell where we’ll start, where we’ll end and what I would like to do - I think that makes them feel safe. Maybe that’s it?

You are doing something right. So what do you think we can all do to create a more honest and real take on sexiness?

We can portray the more authentic and real. The more nuanced, the less clean and pretty. I think we’ve gotten a lot better. Diversity is real and it’s so freeing. So support those who are the odd ones out and are different. Be curious instead of judgemental!

Thank you Petra. Go follow Petra on Instagram @petra_kleis or look her up at

Please share with anyone who would love this article - because the more we talk, the closer we get to a more honest, real and inclusive take on wellness.

If you know anyone you think we should talk to? Let us know at


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