Shooting Godiva: Lynette Bester’s Whole Body Print and the nude documentation of the act

I properly met and first photographed artist Lynette Bester in 2008 while she was preparing to print her entire body with printers ink for an art work to be showed at the Association for Visual Arts in Cape Town.

A detail from my visual diary of the time. A working page with test strips created while I was processing "Shooting Godiva" images of Lynette Bester.

A detail from my visual diary of the time. A working page with test strips created while I was processing “Shooting Godiva” images of Lynette Bester.

Lynette  tells the story…

I had just come out of a long abusive relationship that had left me questioning my own body confidence and self acceptance. Serendipitously Leah, who had been a student of mine was now my colleague and for the first time we found ourselves in the little staff room talking about art, body politics and our up-coming bodies of work. I knew Leah had for a long time explored, quite successfully, the photographing of the erotic female body and most importantly I understood that she sought to empower the women in her photographs. Her photographs were meant for the women who posed for her to cherish and not for any implied male viewer. Leah and I were not friends yet, that was still to come.

Lynette Bester's whole body print titled "Godiva", 2008 for the Association of Visual Arts group show "Baring"

Lynette Bester’s whole body print titled “Godiva”, 2008 for the Association of Visual Arts group show “Baring”

I had been invited onto a show at the AVA, Church Street, Cape Town, called Baring curated by Eunice Geustyn. For the show I wanted to do a nude body print of myself on a single sheet of paper. An aggressive act: dirty, naked, confident. My sister was going to roll me up with printer’s ink and print me onto a single large ream of cotton paper.

Leah was interested: she wanted to photograph the process. That was the first time she came to my home, meeting my mother and sister, and the first time I was able to be naked in front of anyone for the better part of a year. My body print was called Godiva – a nick-name my father had for me because as a child I enjoyed being naked so much. My father had passed away in the previous year. Leah’s photographs were called Shooting Godiva, there close up details revealed an ambiguous sexuality and tautological strength. Leah was also curated on to the exhibition Baring with three photographs of my body covered in ink and in the process of printing.

I hadn’t looked at these images for years and found the negatives again the other day. Below are a selection that I had rescanned.

Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--01

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It was a new experience from two perspectives: Its not often you get to witness somebody acting out such a scenario, including all the logistics that go with actually landing on a giant sheet of (expensive) paper to make a perfect print first time (which Lynette did) but also (second perspective) because the way the light hit the printers ink and highlighted the details of her skin and shape was remarkable and very very beautiful.

Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--12

The element of nudity is played down by the ink coverage but the tactile nature of the images is highlighted….

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Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--07

Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--02

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