Monday, 17 June 2013

Stripped

I've been finding more and more lately that I'm photographing Kitti wearing fewer and fewer clothes.

Upon my request, Sian Pearl made these wonderful bracers (full mech arms make me nervous), and when I came to photograph them, I found that they actually looked best when Kitti wasn't wearing anything else at all. "I'm going to take this picture," I said to Sian, "And then bury it." I knew I had to have something somewhere within my inventory to go with the bracers, and eventually I found it - though, admittedly, the outfit is still a little on the naked side. Somehow, posting the nude wasn't an option, despite the fact that it is still, even after I found an outfit I was happy with, a better photo.

Braced
A couple of weeks ago, I took photos of Kitti on the shore at Winter Moon wearing, once again, only a necklace and a pair of pointed elf ears. I wasn't trying to create a fantasy pin-up, only something that seemed ethereal and beautiful. I only shot from the waist up, and had to summon all of my bravery to post the pictures on Flickr (you can see them here - here!). When my mum saw the pictures (Hi Mum!), she posted a comment saying "Hmmm", and when I spoke to her on the telephone, I laughed, a little sheepishly, and asked if she disapproved. I can't remember what her exact words were, but they were basically to the effect that it was unlike me to post images like that. When I told her how difficult I'd found posting them, she laughed and asked why - "it's not your real body, it doesn't matter!"

Does it matter? I think it does. This is the only body that many people are ever going to associate with me, and I'm not sure that I want to show all of it to everyone. On the other hand, why should I hide my body, virtual or tangible? Is my reticence based on archaic, patriarchal, Adam-and-Eve-esque self and sex shame? Is nakedness reserved only for sex and porn, and thus can I only be naked when I intend to arouse? Is there something wrong with wanting to take pictures that do or do not arouse the viewer? Can I not be naked for the sake of being naked? Is my picture somehow lesser if I want it to arouse you? Is my nakedness a gift I can only give to a few before it gets worn out?

I don't think that the pictures I took at Winter Moon are particularly arousing, and when I took Kitti's clothes off this morning and realised she looked beautiful and powerful and vulnerable all just as she was, it wasn't to create an image that I would label as pornographic. I appreciate that this is the internet, and Rule 34 of the Internet states that if you can think of it, there is porn of it, and I accept that arousing images and pornography are subjective. What I am trying to say it that creating something pornographic was not my intention. Can I honestly say, however, that I didn't want Kitti to look sexy? That I didn't want her to look beautiful? No. I wouldn't even try. It pleased me that Kitti looked beautiful, and, as I have said, strong and vulnerable all at once. Combined with that Jessica Rabbit -esque hairstyle, Kitti did look sexy.

The atmosphere of the naked picture is soft, and I could imagine that it was taken mid-stride as Kitti made her way over to a wardrobe to don the rest of her gear. In the images I have posted here, I tried to keep that strong/vulnerable aesthetic, but I lost that sense of movement, of direction, of intent in the bargain. Kitti's lacking attire is now on purpose, her outfit already complete, and it looks as if she has paused to consider something, rather than having been caught mid-stride. The tunic with its red buttons forced me to bring more colour into the picture, tying in the red with the blue that had previously been the focus of the picture. Now the blue pops because the red makes it - which, don't get me wrong, I love, but it all adds up to make a different photo. And has, arguably, a much more sexual agenda.

Braced II
All because I didn't think it was right to post a picture of my virtual body naked on the internet.

Feminism isn't, truly, about papering the streets with images of the naked female body and expecting everybody to simultaneously notice and appreciate but not be aroused, and just accept it. Sometimes, I think the feminist message gets confused in that way, and it's not helpful for anybody. Feminism is about having a choice, and being able to make it and have others judge you on the merits of you and the choice, not their pre-defined idea of what you ought to do based on what you have between your legs. It is also about feeling confident and stable enough to defend your position when challenged, and to not let the opinions of others sway yours without your consent. If somebody else came to me with this conundrum, I would tell them to follow their instincts and their heart, and only do what made them comfortable. Whilst I don't think I am the kind of person that lets others beat me with pre-conceived notions about my gender, I don't know what makes me comfortable in this situation. I am stuck in a limbo between guilt and more guilt. 

And as you can see, I have not posted the picture here. Perhaps I will yet. I honestly do not know.

2 comments:

  1. I think the issue of clothed or not, naked or not, is really a fraught one because there are so many judgements attached to women's appearance and it's really outside of our control. I feel the same way with Deoridhe, though; I am reluctant to show her showing a lot of skin, and I'm still not completely sure why.

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  2. Hi Deirdre - thank you for your comment :). I agree with you as far as one point: I think that we are the only ones that can control and change this. It's not easy, and it's going to take a lot of us being brave and getting involved to do it.

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