The photos I have used and continue to use in this website and in my blog are a fruit of something very special and somehow a turning point in my life.
I know it might sound a bit overdone the whole thing of doing a nude photo-shoot, but this wasn’t about making ground-breaking work or engaging in politics of shock, or even trying to become someone I am not.
My whole idea for this blog stemmed out of the process and product of this photo-shoot, and I was waiting for a time that I felt was right to write a small reflection about it all. An aspect that fuelled me even more to write about this process was the reaction I got from people when seeing the photos. A much expected reaction in one side, but on the other a truly rewarding one.
I have had this idea in my mind for at least a year before I actually decided to manifest it. I think the reason it took me so long to go for it was that within myself I was not sure of why I thought something like this had to be made and what importance it truly had for me as an artist, but most of all as a person living inside my own body politics.
Because of that uncertainty inside myself, I sort of tried to seek approval from people close to me and it was in this process that the need to make it happen and the reasons for it started taking solid shape. In truth, I did not need anyone’s approval to do this, but my own. In conjunction, the varied reactions from people I discussed this with, made it clear for myself that this had to be my choice and decision, and could not be about what people thought of it, how the work would be read, how people think I should handle the whole process, who people think was ideal to collaborate with to make this happen, and how my public image would shift if I ever decided to make the images public.
All this was noise in my head; all this was a deviation from what I needed and wanted to manifest. And this is when I arrived at the perfect moment to manifest this, almost a year after the seed of it was planted in my mind.
I was at a period of self-transformation in my life, one of the many people undergo. This period in my life was truly a season of intense turbulence in order to manifest drastic changes within. It was a moment between “life” and “death”, in which even the very air I inhaled seemed to be trying to murder me. But I started shouting “life” with the very d(eca)ying lungs I seemed unable to heal. It was that clear moment when you are inside and within the lowest layer of a dark place; in fact, you are the dark place, and you decide to seek and to be light.
It was the beginning of a journey to take ownership of my life, my body and myself.
Up until that point life was overwhelming and the distance between me and my physical manifestation was that of a black hole. I seemed to be wearing each word, each look, each reflection, each representation, each classification, each stereotype, each breath, each thought that was ever created towards my body and female presenting bodies like mine in many life times. I had so many layers on top of my skin that I completely lost track of it. I did not know how it was to breathe through my own pores, I did not know if my skin was smoothened or hardened by the layers. I did not know what laid underneath it all. But above all, I could not look at myself and see myself.
I somehow lost track of the learning how to see myself, and could only see myself through the eyes of others, through the layers accumulating on top of myself, through politics in my context, through the heavy, sweaty, lustful, unforgiving, entitled, imposing, careless, thirsty, violent eyes of hyper-masculine performers within a patriarchal world.
I was ready to open up, to give it all up and begin shifting my gaze.
Shifting how I looked at myself, how I perceived myself, and thus who I believed I was.
This could only be realised from a place filled with love.
Love that comes with softness, with trust, with holding.
Love that is subtle but deeply rooted.
This love that yes, had to come from within, but also, and maybe most importantly, needed to be surrounding me and directed at me, simply because it is mostly through receiving and witnessing love that you can learn to love both yourself and others.
Most of us are taught conditional love,
a love that only comes if one performs good deeds,
a love that only comes when one has been a “good” person,
a love that only comes when one is within the accepted boundaries of the norm,
a love that only comes when one fulfils expectations of the other,
a love that only loves the good, the right, the safe, the pretty, the simple, the norm,
And that indeed is beautiful, it is true, it is genuine and something to be cherished. But what happens when one is navigating and manifesting the bad, the ugly, the wrong, the messy, the complicated, the marginal, the unsafe, the dark, the not-okay?
What happens, with the side of life we all experience where things go wrong, where things go messy, where things go absolutely mad and there is no morals, no logics, no straight lines, no path, no aesthetics, no binary, but just is what it is while it is and it shifts constantly? What happens to this side of things that every single living being has and goes through, and where most of the “good stuff” emerges from?
One is not taught to love those parts, one is not taught to recognise these elements, these moments, these selves. What happens when we are not perfect (what even is that and through whose eyes)? What happens with the dark side, the ugly spots and the unpolished bits of ourselves? What happens to all of this if we are not taught to love it all, to love the whole?
This was the beginning of deep self discovery and willingness to accept the darkest and ugliest beings that inhabited my being. And it started by taking back my body, taking back the physical manifestation of me. Taking back part of me that had been neglected by myself as simply a servant and obedient reflection of my minds’ fears and obsessions. Taking back the vehicle that allows me to navigate this plane and manifest fully and solidly the ways in which I choose to exist.
For me to begin learning I needed to investigate the loving ways and beautiful ways of perceiving myself, and I reckoned that photography would be an effective point of access to this learning. The eye behind the camera had to seek beauty beyond norm, beyond desire, beyond objectification and beyond sexualisation… the eye behind the camera had to capture me as a whole person, my body as a direct link to my soul, my presence as the resonance of artistic expression. The eye behind the camera had to see me, through the love lenses, and above all had to stay true and connected to who I was at that moment in time.
Mine was the role of showing up, of opening up, of revealing, of being, of moving and of being honest to myself. The gaze… for the first time in my life, I gave it with consent to someone I trusted would hold me through it. For the first time I had awareness and allowed a soft gaze to be directed at me, while opening myself up to receive it without letting it shape me.
I must say, more than the end product, the process of making it happen and of actually have gone through with it until the end, was the most important of it all.
I did a nude photo-shoot filled with love, truth and artistry. Yes, I was naked. I had nowhere to hide. I could not hide my skin, I could not cover myself inside the layers of perception, I opened up and revealed it all. But also, I could not dodge the love, and softness directed at me in the moment of capture. It was first a shock to have to just be there, to be present, to be and feel directly on my skin the soft loving gaze coming from outside towards me and growing on the inside from myself. I had nowhere else to hide, no excuse to procrastinate my arrival and rooted landing on myself. It was the moment of change, manifesting.
Besides Alessandra, the photographer, who was incredibly sensitive, holding, loving and who is the eye that could capture the faded beauty of showing up for oneself, I had with me two of my good friends, with whom I share a universal timeless connection with. Their presence was everything that made me show up and stay present. Their presence is what made me rescue myself from myself, their presence is what made me choose life, their presence is why I can perceive beauty in the ugliness of life… their presence meant I was held… in the past, was being held then, and am being held now. They created a soft web of smooth silk on which I could lay, and which would help me stand, find my feet, and rise up to the greatness that only I can be. They were the safety net, the supporting walking stick, but most of all their love became part of me, became the building blocks for loving myself and others. Their love, was part of the essential ingredient, part of all the moments where I have received and absorbed and manifested love. Their love was the reminder of that unconditional love I felt and had forgotten. Their love became part of my love for them and myself.
Once I’ve gone through this process, I saw myself shedding unnecessary weights, found myself becoming lighter and diving deeper to know the unknown and dance with it till it became as recognisable as my fingerprints. There was no turning back, and I have never felt so liberated by that realisation.
The beautiful result of the shoot took shape and came into being, and through that I finally abandoned my old lenses and began to build the new ones, from pieces that were light, soft, strong, fragile, beautiful and powerful. I began completing the puzzle of my image with pieces I liked and admired on the centre of it. And gosh… wasn’t it radiant! It was powerful, it was true and it was pure light. From then onwards, I could shift the pieces that would accumulate around the centre, but would only do so if it made the centre shine brighter than before.
I kept (and keep) saying:
“let no one obscure you, let no one dim your light, let no one plant hatred for hatred sake, let no one contaminate you with the lenses of ugliness, let no one… not even yourself!”
These are not simply images of me. They are mirrors of experience, mirrors of you, me, them, us… they are a snippet into healing, a taste of what art is in its becoming, a breeze of the intangible love that manifestation can bring to all of us. These images are not about me, really… all the reactions good and bad, are simply the pieces of you connecting the dots of your own existence. Ultimately, the fears that were mine before this, are the same fears I see around me, the same way that the love that grew inside myself, was and is the love that I received, receive, absorb, give, share, know, witness and chose to nurture within and without myself through myself and others.
These are more than just naked pictures made public. These are images of becoming…
… of loving and love, of creation, of resilience, of strength, of softness, of companionship, of motivation, of vulnerability, of beauty, of trust, of truly seeing, of acceptance, of recognition, of continual self-actualisation, self-discovery, self-nurturing, self-believing, of the greatness that exist in the world, of gratitude, of security, of holding and being held, of community, of love, of love, of love, of love, of love, of love and of supreme light… and I am not afraid to say it.
“Taking a portrait of someone can be a deeply intimate experience; while looking through the lens a barrier is lifted that can often allow you to see parts of an individual that they usually keep hidden, things that they do not need to communicate to you with words, and sometimes even things about themselves that they may not be aware of.
Ironically, the process of taking someone’s portrait is often a process of seeing passed the physical parts of a person and into the essence of what makes up their being- all it takes is one off-guard expression and I feel as if I’ve caught a glimpse into the most private thoughts of my subject.
Being a photographer on a nude shoot is on another level of intimacy. In theory, no good images will be made unless you are able to make your subject feel comfortable; but in practice it can often feel like the person in the room with the most power is the naked one. Allowing yourself to be nude in front of the camera, where all barriers are gone and there is nowhere to hide is an incredibly brave and disconcerting thing to witness, and there is such empowering strength in that.
Sharing this experience with Adriana taught me a lot about the relationship between the photographer and the subject and reinforced for me that the images you create are a result of collaboration- as a photographer, you can only work with what you are given and you would not exist without the beautiful people taking a risk and allowing themselves to be vulnerable in front of your camera.”
Alessandra Griffin email@example.com | @alessandragriffin