While I wait excitedly for next week’s photo shoot with my first volunteer model, words that encapsulate this new project continue to formulate in my head:
THE NUDE has been admired, studied, and discussed for over two millennia, having made its noble debut in sculpture in Ancient Greece. During the Renaissance and later, painters took up the subject with fervour, but in 1838 the invention of photography enabled artistic explorations that had never before been possible.
Oil Painting, 1814, by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Original by Myron, 440-450 BCE, Roman copy from 2nd c. CE
Salted paper print from glass negative, Franck–François–Genès Chauvassaignes
In recent times, attitudes about the female body have been shaped by the overt sexualization [objectification] of women and girls in advertising, media, and the entertainment industry. Consequently, women have internalized unhealthy societal constructs regarding beauty and desirability, leaving no room for flaws, wrinkles, or aging.
The reality is that natural signs of aging have been consistently maligned [especially for women] since the advent of corporate advertising in the 1950s and 60s, with its endless brands of facial creams, hair dyes, and other age-defying products. Cosmetic surgery and photoshopped images in glossy magazines underscore our obsession with maintaining the outward appearance of youthful immortality. As a consequence, we are deeper in denial, more insecure, and more dysfunctional than ever as a society.
My intent with this project is to challenge contemporary notions of feminine beauty and the fallacy that it is the sole domain of the young and nubile. My subjects are mature women – mothers and grandmothers – with no experience in front of a camera. The poses are seated, and all compositions are from the neck down with special attention paid to the placement and character of the hands (which are closest to the camera’s lens). The body therefore becomes secondary, offering only partial views of itself with a softness resulting from the shallow depth of field. By not photographing their faces, the women are more relaxed and able to be themselves. Their humanity, strengths, and frailties are communicated through their hands.
In creating and editing my images, I explore shape, texture, and composition as a vehicle to a meaningful narrative. There is no shame in aging because the experience and wisdom that accompany it are truly wondrous and beautiful gifts. Besides, we are so much more than our outer shells.
In viewing the body at its barest and most honest, we are given a mirror with which to contemplate our own vulnerabilities, and ultimately the impermanence and mortality that we all share. My approach to the nude is considered and modest. It does not push the boundaries, nor does it demand to be “in your face.” It is quiet and meditative. It transcends the carnal and hints at deeper ponderings.