Photographing Friends: Day #9 of my Self Portraiture Project

During my Self Portrait Project I invited 20 friends into my studio to be documented with the same lighting set-up that I was using on the day. Here are a selection of some of my favourite female “posers” from the one and a half hour shoot…

This is Tiffany Marx. Tiffany is an independent jewellery designer who after studying at the Cape Peninsular University of Technology branched out on her own and has been creating strong and beautiful work ever since. I chatted to her a few days before this shoot evening and suggested she bring a selection of her tools along with her to create a kind of environmental portrait which would imply her trade.
She dirtied her hands and held her tools, standing with a strong stance, and looked directly into camera. I wanted to bring across her strength and femininity.

Tiffany Marx - Jeweller   photographed in studio during the self portrait project by LeahHawker

Tiffany Marx – Jeweller photographed in studio during the self portrait project by Leah Hawker

This is William Kentridge. Yes, William. She is an artist who has just moved to Woodstock in Cape Town and who I met for 5 minutes before she undressed for her portrait. To give some background, here is what the Mail and Gaurdian had to say about her:

After years of obscurity, William Kentridge has had her big break.

That’s right—“her”. The 24-year-old female artist from Johannesburg legally changed her name from Roelien Brink to William Kentridge in 2008. And she opened her solo exhibition, America Made in China, at the Johannesburg Art Gallery last Sunday.

Kentridge née Brink’s motive for the change was quite simple—fame. “I wanted to find a way to become as famous as [William Kentridge],” she said. “His work — is far more recognisable than mine and more accessible to the public. This makes it harder for the public to view and appreciate my art; thus, it would take me longer to become famous and recognised.

“I chose his name not as a personal attack or comment on his work, but because of his status and popularity in South Africa.”

She encountered little resistance from home affairs officials, who barely noticed that she was taking on a male name.

Artthrobs’ Michael Smith did a very interesting interview about her here. When I mailed her image from the shoot to her I asked her why she had chosen to strip down for her portrait (considering that there was a rather large gathering of people in my studio and I had only met her minutes before). She said:

I went naked because you photographed for playboy! There is no way I will wear clothing if a playboy photographer takes my portrait.

I put up a few more poly-boards for privacy -that of the rest of the gathering of guests actually- and she stripped down, trousers around her ankles and shoes still on. I love the image, I like the calm serenity and simplicity of her form in the picture space, also the colours coming from her lips, earrings, tattoo, nipples and yellow finger nails.
Another thing which was very intersecting to me was that I usually have a chance to interpret the woman I’m going to photograph and in this case I had to work with her character and body very spontaneously.

William Kentridge - Artist  photographed in studio during the self portrait project by Leah Hawker

William Kentridge – Artist photographed in studio during the self portrait project by Leah Hawker

This is Ivonne Meyer. Ivonne is my brilliant dentist, she is also my friend and arrived at the studio with a selection of her dental apparatus on my request. We (myself and by then a group of other women who had gathered, drinks in hand) all agreed on the “sexy dentist” look with black leather jacket and implements. While there were many fun and laughing images from her portrait “sitting” I really like the tone of this image.

Ivonne Meyer - Dentist  photographed in studio during the self portrait project by Leah Hawker

Ivonne Meyer – Dentist photographed in studio during the self portrait project by Leah Hawker

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