Pole dancing portraits that purr

Interview with Nikki McLennan

Nikki McLennan, the owner of Lioness Photography, has a deep passion for creating an experience for women that leaves them feeling incredible, empowered and delicious. 

“Lioness Photography is about dressing up or dressing down – it’s about capturing a woman’s confidence and style, her elegance, and perhaps only your skin, if that’s your thing. Featuring timeless hotel boudoir shoots, the glitz and sex appeal of a glamour shoot, or the high-octane pulse of a pole-dancing shoot, this is about unleashing the inner woman in all her glory.”

I love nothing more than celebrating women’s beauty and fostering a sense of self-love through stunning fine art portraits. I live and breathe photography, am obsessed with it and have been taking photos for over 30 years – it was the spring of 1988 when I picked up a camera for the first time. Never mind that I was 14 years old, photographing my teenage friend’s bikinis at the beach in the morning before school on the NSW north coast.

Leaving the sunny North Coast at 18,  I moved to Sydney to study Arts/Law at Sydney University and absolutely adored learning about art history, but not at all law. After graduating and while working for one year with a corporate media company I went to an art exhibition at National Art School.  I realised I could study photography with all female teachers, so put everything into my portfolio and pitch to be accepted into the prestigious National Art School, Darlinghurst. This was 20 years ago when film & darkrooms were all we used. My final work was influenced by Nan Goldin and Cindy Sherman and was all about self-portraits and photographing my young friends, in our op-shop finds and knickers.

My first job after art school was with Men’s Gallery photographing their dancers to create posters to decorate their walls and for their very own dancing dollars. This where I met Bobbi and my mind was blown by her strength, performance, costumes and her pole tricks, which I had never seen before in my life. Here is one from back in the day from her classic cowgirl double act.

From then I assisted Richard Arthur who was a top Penthouse Magazine photographer, which meant lots of trips to the Gold Coast and more visits to strip clubs! Back in Sydney, I started photographing pole dancers in my first studio, Incubator in Surry Hills

Pole dancing has always been a way to stay fit, have huge amounts of fun and earn great money while studying to buy camera gear, but it came back into my life after having a son and wanting to get my groove back. Plus I needed to feel sexy again after such a monumental life event!   Enter Sydney Pole, and the incredible community of women, staff and instructors,  I have been photographing their instructors, students and showcases ever since.

I started Lioness Photography as a sister brand to Lion & Cub Photography (family portraits, weddings, personal branding) 6 years ago. The brands are aligned in many ways – I photograph maternity with sensuality and similar lighting as I do fine art nudes with plenty of skin and a focus on shapes, curves and lines. Similarly, the bridal lingerie shoots are a great way to get to know a bride before photographing their wedding, and my hotel couples sessions can be an engagement shoot. A personal branding shoot with Lion & Cub can empower a woman to present her brand story to show her true essence and personality in the same way that a boudoir session can show a woman how beautiful she is through another person’s eyes. And now quite a few pole dancers I know are having their first babies!! My next shoot is with Bailey Hart & Flynn!

Lioness shoots at Tortuga Studios in St Peters, Sydney, which is a unique artist-run initiative in a warehouse with incredible light and this is where my competition-grade brass pole is. I love taking portraits in and around the warehouse along with pole shots with spectacular, dramatic lighting. Being a pole dancer myself really helps with creating an atmosphere of trust, care and I am able to make great suggestions for poses, moves, resting poses and serious strutting.

My latest work is hotel shoots for couples which can be a  romantic declaration of love or a giant dress-up party with your best friend! Using natural light, crisp white sheets and enormous beds, the look can be high fashion to fine art nude. So much planning goes into my sessions starting with a survey followed by a phone or zoom consultation. We discuss what to wear; lingerie styles; art history themes; Pinterest boards, referencing the world’s best photographers – the process is collaborative and ensures a unique experience for each session. I also have a checklist of how to prepare for your shoot  – manicures, stockings, suspenders, and for pole students – a list of moves that you want to be photographed, remembering gripping aids or shaving cream and bringing a playlist of music that inspires you to lose yourself in dance!

Lioness Photography offers products as I am a firm believer in printing your photos and believe there is power and beauty in real photos hung on the wall for everyone to see.  I offer wall art collections, albums, fine art prints and metal prints. Studio dance sessions are a wonderful way to create a storyboard of three, five or nine images presented together as one sequence.

A shoot experience with Lioness Photography is a wonderful mood booster and a great way to celebrate coming together after so much time apart! Lioness is offering a free session with print enlargement with a digital file for the month of June! This is valued at $350. To enter head to http://lioness.photography/contact and in the message box tell me why you would like to win a pole or boudoir session with Lioness Photography.

Nikki McLennan

Love Letters

“Shooting with Nikki was a dream. From our planning discussions and phone calls all the way to the beautifully edited shots sent to me so quickly, I can’t recommend her enough. Nikki made me feel totally comfortable and her unique creative energy really allowed me to blossom on camera. I loved every minute of it! ”

Oryx Satie, Instructor, Sky Sirens, Sydney Pole


“My best friend & I had a really rewarding experience before, during & after our boudoir shoot with Lioness Photography. Shooting with Nikki feels like creating art from start to finish – her ideas, techniques, styling & equipment are all indicative of incredible skills & expertise. And the results further confirm this – the images we received (very shortly after the shoot!), were all stunning; some playful (celebrating our friendship), some creatively geared at our specific skills (as dancers), some moody & sensual shots (to share with our partners… or the entirety of social media! :P), & some timeless portraits (that made us feel like classic, Old Hollywood beauties). The experience was like one giant dress-up party, led by Nikki’s passion, & fueled by our laughing & ridiculousness. Wish I could do that every day!”

Alivia Nicholls