This is an article written by Amelia Burger for One Small Seed Magazine, Issue 08, 2007, pages 46 through 53.
SA Photographers Leah Hawker and Michelle Prinsloo are constructing a fuller, more multi-faceted understanding of female sexuality through their personal and provocative interpretations of the female form. Amelia Burger tries to bear it all.
While both these female photographers have their own philosophy which influences their approach to their work, it all comes down to expressing all of who you are. Their work rings true for women universally, but this is certainly the work of two young South Africans breaking through the visual barriers of female photography in ths country.
Leah interprets being a woman in South Africa objectively and almost as if from a distance, addresses the communal generalisation of the female archetype. There is a “very strong compartmentalisation of our supposed gender responsibilities, be it African, Afrikaans, English or Muslim communities, we’re all so aware of what is expected of use. Women in South Africa are becoming a bit more open-minded and educated about our sexuality and gender, and I’m trying to facilitate this in some ways in my work.”
Michelle goes even further in dealing with some aspects of female stereotype liberation and is more intense, raw and personal in her approach. “I feel we have a stength within us, but we still have a lot to prove in society within these conservative constraints. We need to be ourselves and allow ourselves to be heard clearly and express ourselves as individuals…I want to provoke my viewers, I want them to have their own individual perception of the image”
Artist and photographer, Leah Hawker incorporates concepts of beauty, seduction, gender stereotyping and restriction while working primarily with the female nude. She aims to get women thinking and questioning their own archaic, set ideas about their sexual identity. “I think that some ideas are so ingrained in our social and cultural genes that we don’t question whether they should even apply to us reasonably anymore.”
“The patriarchal base from which much of our thinking and actions are situated doesn’t suit both genders , so women are begining to develop more feminine approached and so balance society.” As seen in these pictures, her work is sensual but never crosses the line into explicit. It’s feminine, beautiful and celebratory.
Shooting provocative images is a starnge thing really,” she says “because in one way or another, the model agrees to play out and pose for an idea or concept which is initiated by the thinking and fantasy on the part of the photographer. I always find this fact somewhat disturbing. Maybe thats why I deal with the subject matter so conceptually and detachedly.”