Irving’s Woman


Clothes make the man.

Naked people have little or

no influence on society.

Mark Twain


Irving Penn and Lisa Fonssagrives


The month’s iconic birthday boy is Irving Penn, born June 16, 1917.  He spent 66 of his 92 years at Vogue, creating an unprecedented 165 covers—more than any other photographer in its history.  He is remembered for luminous couture compositions shot in natural light as much as his portraits that seemed to reveal hidden selves of sitters from famous celebrities, indigenous folks and people next door, to local tradesmen. For his iconic backdrops, he worked with a discarded theatrical curtain in the studio and random scenes around the streets of Paris.

It was at Vogue’s historic shoot of the Twelve Beauties, the first group portrait of the popular models of the era, that he met the fabulous woman considered to be the original supermodel who eventually became his wife and muse for 42 years, Lisa Fonssagrives. How can a woman resist a man who chooses her over several other lovelies?

What is most remarkable about this artist famous for his fashion portraits is that he didn’t even like fashion. He wanted to be a painter but when that didn’t pan out, his friend hired him to work at Vogue’s art department. When the reigning Vogue photographers of the time could not deliver the modern look that he sought to give the magazine a fresh look for the next generation of women, he picked up the camera himself, diligently applying his technical and artistic skills to successfully deliver his aesthetic. Aside from paid assignments, he constantly pursued his own personal projects shooting flowers, still life, etc. This is an essential practice to consider when we feel stuck and uninspired. Very useful, too, for those who are confused and made lame by the pandering philosophy of “follow your passion” when there’s no obvious passion in plain sight.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share how you keep your heart’s fire burning.


All photos on this page are from Google Images.

Twelve Beauties, Vogue 1947


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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman







Jeff Masters Louis


Mona Lisa’s smile hints at embarrassment

that all these people bother coming so far to see her,

when really she was nothing special.

Allison Pearson

At a Halloween party this year, everyone arrived in costume except for a woman who wore the pedestrian all black clothing with this Mona Lisa purse on her shoulder. She began to apologize profusely for not having had time to think of a fun outfit. I assured her, “Don’t put your purse down and if anyone asks what your costume is, say ‘I’m the Louvre, of course!'”

Can you imagine how much fun Jeff Koons had collaborating with the ever evolving Louis Vuitton for its Masters Collection? It features the King of Pop’s favorites in renaissance art from the landscapes of Monet and Van Gogh to the literally cheeky Reclining Girl by Boucher. Which one might your Santa have on the list?

Titian’s Mars, Venus and Cupid 1550

Van Gogh

Monet’s Water Lilies 1916

 Boucher’s Reclining Girl 1752

All photos on this page from Louis Vuitton

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share what iconic painting you’d love to wear and how.



Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess Gift Certificate

for a two hour photo shoot of up to three people:

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© Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman


A Poet’s Birthday

Most plain girls are virtuous

because of the scarcity of opportunity

to be otherwise.

Maya Angelou




An ancient soul with a powerful voice that resonates long after her passing, Maya Angelou blessed this world on April 4, 1928, sharing what wisdom she gathered over her difficult childhood yet joy filled life:

Just do right

Though it may not be expedient or profitable, doing so will satisfy your soul and make the world better right where you are.

Be courageous

Without courage you can’t consistently be kind, fair, humane or generous.

Love yourself

Another way of saying this African proverb “Be careful when a naked person offer you his shirt.”


If you don’t laugh, you will lose your sense of humor and die of self-defense.

Be a blessing

Maya confessed, “I’ve had a lot of clouds in my life, but I’ve had so many rainbows in those clouds… Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

Turn struggle into triumph

The 7 year old Maya had to identify her rapist who was soon found kicked to death by protective adults.  Blaming herself of this, she chose not to speak a word for the next five years, spending this period completely immersed in books.

You are talented

 Use what you’ve got for good.

Learn to say NO!

 Keep a place within you that is clean, sacred and inviolate.

Always do your best

  If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.

Keep Rising

   The video below memorializes her in her poem And Still I Rise

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share which woman has been a rainbow to your cloud.









Photos on this page courtesy of Google Images


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of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

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Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman






The Man Named Slim

Never give a woman

anything she can’t

wear in the evening.

Oscar Wilde



Slim Aarons wasn’t born photographing beautiful people. He started as a combat photographer during World War II. After years of witnessing death and destruction first hand, he vowed to live on the sunny side of the street and determined that his mission would only be to photograph “attractive people in attractive places doing attractive things.” Sound like my kind of life!

His first stop was the farthest from reality he could imagine getting: Hollywood. Aaron’s pictures of high society introduced the world to all sorts of gorgeous locales, deliberately standing far from his subjects so his camera captured their surroundings. He thought of himself as a photojournalist and a storyteller so his subjects are usually seen in their milieus–their gardens, offices, living room, with their books and pets. Despite all the glamour, the opulence, however, Aaron remained detached, never wanting to be a member of the jetset.

His archive (including those on this page) is now owned by Getty Images so the public could enjoy how he documented society during his time, allowing the likes of us from the reality TV generation, the relief of revisiting my favorite stylish and gracious eras. Thank you for the inspiration and lots of good fun in the sun, Slim!

Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your favorite iconic inspiration.








 Credit: Hulton|Archive by Getty Images

Credit: Hulton|Archive by Getty Images


Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

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Sharon Birke

Managing Member, DoubleSmart LLC

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

The Art of Arousal

I don’t know the question,

but sex is definitely

the answer.

Woody Allen

Inspiration for my work comes from a variety of art, friends, fans of this blog, as well as the women I photograph who share their enthusiasms. A surprise gift that warmed my winter is this  delightful book that celebrates sex as a powerful creative force. Dr. Ruth Wertheimer’s The Art of Arousal is a collaboration between a serious art historian and a woman who was converted to the religion of art late in life, proving to herself that there is no deadline for pursuing new directions.

Among the features in the book is a favorite painting, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ Odalisque with Slave. Of all Odalisques, I love this for her relaxed and carefree abandon.


Like me, 18th century French painter Jean Honore Fragonard sought to indulge his client’s whims and fantasies. When the baron de Saint Julien commissioned him for a painting of his mistress: “I should like to have you paint Madame on a swing. You will place me in such a way that I would see the legs of this lovely girl.” Fragonard responded, “Ah! Monsieur, it is necessary to add to the essential idea of your picture by making Madame’s shoes fly into the air.”

The mere sight of a décolletage, the nape of a neck, the curve of a woman’s back can give intense and satisfying pleasure. In Admiration, Degas lends humor to the ridiculous positions a voyeur doesn’t mind being in for a glimpse of his goddess of the moment.


Robert Colescott, a contemporary American artist, portrays himself as the great Henri Matisse painting The Dance. Colescott asks the viewer “What if Matisse were a black American and if Matisse’s models were thick of waist, long of leg and with shocking bleached blonde hair, would we consider them beautiful?”


William Wegman is a contemporary artist who dresses up his family of Weimaraners to photograph them in humorous situations, challenging our stereotypes of human behavior. This photo is named after Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Posed as a slinky studio nude, with one leg coyly lifted to suggest s sultry modesty, she bares not one breast but eight. She knows, as does her master, that eroticism is largely in the mind of the beholder.


If my photography isn’t obvious yet, seduction and flirtation are my favorite pets: Longing fueled by chivalrous courtship and restraint. Imagination and playfulness used to stoke desire.  Thoughtful creativity and surprise employed in the pursuit of one’s beloved. Today’s teens would do well to learn the art of conversation in creating an engaging intimate space amidst a crowd. But before you think I’m a prude…

Octave Lassaert’s lithograph Don’t Be Cruel! shows how intimacy provides a safe space for exploring fantasy–or as an exercise in empathy? Here, the woman makes an advance lifting his skirt while he implores her to take it easy.


Above all, I am a romantic so the business of kissing is my favorite subject, next to gazing into the partner’s eyes and tender touching– with clothes on!  The Stolen Kiss painted by Margaret Gerard (Fragonard’s sister in law) tells the urgency of a moment when someone can walk into a situation that should not be.


Click on “Leave a Comment” (top left) to share your Valentine gift inspiration.


Give the women you love the most unique gift

of elegant and timeless portraits

with  a Powerful Goddess portrait session Gift Certificate:

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Woman

The Goddess of Creation

Live your life

as if it were

a work of art. 

Rabbi Abraham Heschel


L’Shanah Tovah!  The Jewish New Year brings to mind the quote above.  I love the metaphor that like art, I create my life from chaos, messiness, not knowing better, with an eclectic mix of influences.  In honor of some of my favorite people whose birthdays and new beginnings seem to cluster at this time of year, I dedicate these musings on their life choices that have inspired me as I create my own work of art–some realizations, some questions that I’m sure has echoed in the beautiful mind of Goddesses through the ages:

What’s the fun in life without our imperfections?

Must happiness depend on owning whom or what we desire?

If we must wear “busy, busy, busy” as a badge of pride, what does such busy-ness cost us?

Whom do I allow to decide what is enough for me to want and need?

When we feel like jumping in to rescue someone in apparent hell, is it possible that (s)he may actually be in his/her version of heaven and have no wish to be saved?

Alone is not necessarily lonely.  Just as being in a relationship is no guarantee against loneliness.

A day without laughter is wasted.

True love is the gift we give ourselves. And may the giving of it be satisfaction enough so we need not become beholden to the binds of ingratitude, lack of appreciation, or unrequited love.

When fairytales spare us the details of “happily ever after,” it leaves the HOW to our imagination.

Anyone who insists you owe them your honesty simply wants to control and judge you–for your own good, of course! 😉

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share what you’ve learned from your favorite people.







© Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother

Beyond Fashion


You can never be overdressed

or overeducated.

Oscar Wilde


Iconic photograph by Cecil Beaton of 10 of Charles James’ designs

© Conde Nast


Charles James, the most influential couturier of the 1940’s and 50’s, is largely unknown to the general public though his revolutionary designs have graced the covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Town & Country.  Recognized for his genius in the magical use of color and artistic drapery, he started out creating the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee’s breakaway striptease costumes and is best known for his gloriously sculpted ball gowns.  I share his great love for the theatrical, the grand and the magnificent!

This week, the Met’s Costume Institute launched an exhibit of his life and designs:  Charles James: Beyond Fashion. Curator Harold Koda describes James as “one of a handful of designers to have changed the métier of design. Christian Dior has credited James with inspiring his New Look. And Balenciaga said, ‘James is not America’s best couturier; he is simply the world’s best.’ When you have the two perhaps most important male designers of the mid-20th century endorsing you, you can understand that it’s something of a lack that the general public is not aware of this man’s work.” James invented the spiral-cut taxi dress, the figure eight shirt, the puffer jacket, the no cup bra, and a waistline that expanded with your meal. Koda told, “[He] was really radical. He treated the creation of clothing as an art”–combined with the exacting precision of structural engineering it seems.

Admire the genius of Charles James at the Met’s Beyond Fashion until August 10, 2014.

Click on “Leave a Comment” (above left) to share how your life is an art.


Elettra Wiedeman in Charles James four clover gown at NYC Met Costume Institute

Elettra Wiedemann in James’ Clover Leaf Gown at the exhibit’s opening night

(Photo by Hannah Thomson)


Charles James haute couture gowns



Charles James Tulip Gown

The Tulip Gown


Nancy James in one of her husband’s creations

 Charles James by Cecil Beaton 1943

Charles James pinning a model

photo by Cecil Beaton © Conde Nast



Sharon Birke

201 697 1947

Glamour Portraits of the Goddess in Every Wife & Mother



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