Tag Archives: nude photography

“The Housewives”, Private Commissions:
This is Elloise

(Please note: “The Housewives” was a term I fondly coined in 2006 after I started getting shoot requests from private individual women. The folder in my archives is still called this and so I’ve stuck to it, in part just for the irony. Most of these women are not “housewives” at all, but strong independent and forward thinking women who I have had the honour of documenting. All are private commissions, some I’m still in contact with, others I’ve totally lost contact with, some have become friends, some may wish not to have their real names used, others don’t mind, some may have their faces obscured for privacy reasons, others have generously shared their experiences of being photographed. When posting under “The Housewives” it means I am choosing some of my favourite images from one of these shoots publishing them here along with my and or her  experiences and memories).

Private-Commissions-Nudes-Boudoir-Cape-Town-001-Photography-Leah-Hawker-

Private-Commissions-Nudes-Boudoir-Cape-Town-002-Photography-Leah-Hawker-

This is Elloise, one of my beautiful cousins. We shot one Summery afternoon in 2007 at Roodebloem studios in Woodstock, a time before I had my own studio. The shoot comprised of three different looks over about  an hour: “Domina”, “Nurse” and a bedroom-y looking series in pretty lingerie on crumpled sheets.
I’ve selected a few of my favourites, with her permission, to share here.

Private-Commissions-Nudes-Boudoir-Cape-Town-006-Photography-Leah-Hawker-

 

This was one of the first times I shot with this super fun vinyl nurses outfit. I had the stethoscope in my collection from a time when a friend of ours had been in South Africa studying obstetrics.

Our shoot was kind of like a social get-together: during the same session I also documented her sister and a friend of hers. All four of us giggled and drank bubbly in-between piles of lingerie and lighting gear.

I asked Elloise about her sense of body identity during the shoot and now, since becoming a mother:

Since becoming a mom I am more self aware of my body but the cool thing is: I don’t care!!! I felt awkward about myself when we shot together for sure! Thats why I had to drink so much champagne!

Private-Commissions-Nudes-Boudoir-Cape-Town-004-Photography-Leah-Hawker-

I remember being very nervous when I walked into the studio to have the shoot session with you. The nervousness didn’t last long though… You were so professional, I felt at ease very soon. In fact, I felt as though I had been doing this sort of thing for years!
It turned out to be a really fun afternoon and the results were amazing! I still look at those photos! I would repeat the experience in a heart beat.

Private-Commissions-Nudes-Boudoir-Cape-Town-007-Photography-Leah-Hawker-

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“The Housewives”, Private Commissions:
This is Nicola

(Please note: “The Housewives” was a term I fondly coined in 2006 after I started getting shoot requests from private individual women. The folder in my archives is still called this and so I’ve stuck to it, in part just for the irony. Most of these women are not “housewives” at all, but strong independent and forward thinking women who I have had the honour of documenting. All are private commissions, some I’m still in contact with, others I’ve totally lost contact with, some have become friends, some may wish not to have their real names used, others don’t mind, some may have their faces obscured for privacy reasons, others have generously shared their experiences of being photographed. When posting under “The Housewives” it means I am choosing some of my favourite images from one of these shoots publishing them here along with my and or her  experiences and memories).

In 2007 I documented Nicola. The shoot was an interesting one- I worked with three friends, all in their mid twenties. It felt like a social gathering, a party and a shoot all at once. The shoot was initiated by Nicola and two more of our friends joined at the tail-end of the shoot, so that by the end of the afternoon I had documented a series of images for each of the three women (the other images will each be posted separately at a later stage though).

This was at a time before I had my own studio and rented a small space with gear from Roodebloem Studios in Woodstock.
We set about producing three different looks for her shoot, some are the ones selected and posted here.

Cape-Town-Nude-Studio-Photoshoot-005

I asked her to share a bit about her experience, her feelings about her body and about the images that were created on that day, 7 years ago…

My friend and I had seen a lot of your beautiful photography over the years and we thought it would be fun and memorable to do a shoot together. You being a friend, made it all the more appealing, as there was no sense of awkwardness and the idea of having a set of sexy but tasteful images of ourselves was a nice idea .

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I have not ‘used’ the images, but I look at them from time to time, and, it is worth noting, that looking at the pictures now reminds me of how hard we can be on ourselves, as I think now that I looked lovely in the pictures, but I did not feel confident about my body at the time, so it’s a good reminder of how warped our perspectives can be!
It was a great experience.
I enjoyed dressing up, it was fun to be ‘directed’ by someone – and learn a few little tricks on how you can manipulate your ‘look’ by making a few subtle changes to your pose, for example.
I came away from the shoot excited and feeling good about my body.

Cape-Town-Nude-Studio-Photoshoot-001

At the time of the shoot, I was feeling a little uncertain about my body. I had recently lost quite a bit of weight, an achievement I was quite proud of, but I was still very self conscious and unsure of how I would come across on camera. Through out the shoot however, I was made to feel totally at ease and as if there was no question that I could be gorgeous.

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I am now 32 and feel much more comfortable in my skin. Although I do have wobbles every now and again, I think overall, I feel much less concerned and am quite happy with myself.
I like to look back at the pictures- it’s fun and a nice reminder of a really good day with friends!

Cape-Town-Nude-Studio-Photoshoot-004

From the variety of images we shot together that day, the last one, the one posted above with the apples, is my favourite, it reminds me of some Renaissance paintings, especially the lighting and colouring.

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Corporate Commission: Alan Walt Architects & Ass.
The Client Christmas Card 2011

 

Be Cool

If there’s one rule to this game
Everybody can name real plain
It’s, be cool!
If you’re worried or uncertain
If your feelings are hurtin’
You’re a fool if you can’t keep cool
Charm ’em
Don’t alarm ’em
Keep things light
Keep your worries out of sight
And play it cool
Fifty-fifty
Fire and Ice

Joni Mitchell

I had worked with Alan Walt in 2007 when I produced our first collaborative end-of-year card together. This would be our 3rd collaboration (our second was unsuccessful in 2008).

Alan had a reference image which would be the basis of his 2011 card; it was an image of a woman’s bum after she had been sitting on a woven chair for quite some time. The seat of the chair had left an imprint on her skin and it was the combination of the mark-making on a private area of the body, which Alan was interested in.

I eventually found these references Alan sent me...

I eventually found these references Alan sent me…

We had the “Alan Walt Architects” logo cut out of black perspex and I asked a friend who had posed for me before to come into the studio to sit on it for half an hour before I took a photo of her bum, now branded, for Alan’s card.

Alan-Walt-Architects-2011-New-Years-Card-by-Leah-Hawker

The idea of branding or ownership is interesting, especially in the sense of this being a corporate commission. There is a play here on elements of the private/public sense of identity which, combined here by Alan with the Joni Mitchell lyrics “Be Cool” make for an expressive and personal statement from my client to his.

Elements of this commission left my head bemused with ideas about “branding”: branding cattle, branding clothing, brand advertising, branding my friends bum with my clients logo, etc.
The other side of Alans commission which also interested me were the elements  of the business game which he points out quite unabashedly: being visible, sensationalism in marketing, staking acclaim to material objects or property/ownership all connected to, again, private/public notions.

Below is the laid out document he mailed to his clients at the 2011 year end.

Alan-Walt-2011-New-Years-card-by-Leah-Hawker- 

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Pregnancy Portrait: This is Ursula

Pregnancy-Portrait-Cape-Town-Maternity-Photography-002-by-Leah-Hawker

I met Ursula a number of years ago and was thrilled to be commissioned to shoot a series of pregnancy portraits of her as well as capture some family moments afterwards with herself, her daughter and her husband.

Ursula was pregnant with her second child, and in her third trimester when we worked together. The pregnancy portraits we shot were very simple but bold. I lit her with one light, set back, to just highlight her silhouette plus  a little bit more detail created by a poly board on her other side.

Pregnancy-Portrait-Cape-Town-Maternity-Photography-001-by-Leah-Hawker

There is a decadence in the profile of a pregnant women which I love. The shapes are so beautifully abundant. Every line of the female body becomes enhanced so that a series of interconnected spheres take over the body.

Heavily pregnant women, especially when shot in this style, remind me of the Venus of Willendorf, a paleolithic sculpture associated with fertility and childbearing (picture below).

venusofwillendorf

Ursula and I also shot a few images with her young daughter in an embrace, the  resulting image I find to be a special reflection of motherhood.
Together their bodies become a knot of warmth, love and nurturing.

Pregnancy-Portrait-Cape-Town-Maternity-Photography-004-by-Leah-Hawker

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“The Housewives”, Private Commissions:
This is Louise

(Please note: “The Housewives” was a term I fondly coined in 2006 after I started getting shoot requests from private individual women. The folder in my archives is still called this and so I’ve stuck to it, in part just for the irony. Most of these women are not “housewives” at all, but strong independent and forward thinking women who I have had the honour of documenting. All are private commissions, some I’m still in contact with, others I’ve totally lost contact with, some have become friends, some may wish not to have their real names used, others don’t mind, some may have their faces obscured for privacy reasons, others have generously shared their experiences of being photographed. When posting under “The Housewives” it means I am choosing some of my favourite images from one of these shoots publishing them here along with my and or her  experiences and memories).

Louise-IMG_1055-Photographed-2006-by-Leah-Hawker

I met and shot beautiful Louise in September 2006.

She may have been the first private commissioned job (in this genre) that I photographed on location.

Louise inspired me then and she inspires me still. She had a strong sense of self and a confidence about herself and her body that I admire.

Louise-IMG_1038-Photographed-2006-by-Leah-Hawker

We started her shoot on Witsands beach early in the morning. It was overcast and freezing, a few surfers were braving it out in the swell, we began in the dunes, a little way back from the beach. Louise must have been quite cold but she was also determined and absolutely accommodating to each of my ideas. Her goosebumps show the temperature but also add to the vulnerability of the open-air environment and therefore to the tone of the resulting pictures.

I brought a handful of natural props to the shoot but focussed more on highlighting the moody ambience of the morning and the beach textures in contrast with her femininity.

Louise-IMG_0998-Photographed-2006-by-Leah-Hawker

We shot a series of different bedroom-type looks later.
This part of our shoot together was a creative medley of props and looks we had pre-discussed. We used lingerie, accessories and backgrounds to create variety, some playful and fun tones, others more sensual or themed. The below images are a few examples.

Louise-Photographed-2006-by-Leah-Hawker

Louise had opted for a more outdoorsy feel overall and so, towards the end of the day, we left for Llandudno beach to catch the sunset, set against giant granite boulders there.
Just to the left of the main beach are a small series of mini-beach-alcoves which are beautiful and very secluded for shooting in, it depends of course on the time of the year, sand and the tides but we were lucky- the rock was perfectly exposed, tide was out and the light was magical.

Louise-IMG_2034-Photographed-2006-by-Leah-Hawker

We brought and used minimal props,- just a few items such as cloth and oil which complemented the textural quality of the environment.

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Louise-IMG_2078-Photographed-2006-by-Leah-Hawker

Looking back 9 years on work I shot at the start of my journey is gratifying. Each interaction with a woman I document is like a peek into the nature of women, femininity, their/our vulnerability and strength.

These images of Louise remind me not just about how much I’ve learned since I worked with her but about how each experience I’ve had has moulded my own understanding of our individuality and identity within the culture we reside.

Louise-IMG_1980-Photographed-2006-by-Leah-Hawker

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“The Housewives”, Private Commissions:
This is “Amiyra”

(Please note: “The Housewives” was a term I fondly coined in 2006 after I started getting shoot requests from private individual women. The folder in my archives is still called this and so I’ve stuck to it, in part just for the irony. Most of these women are not “housewives” at all, but strong independent and forward thinking women who I have had the honour of documenting. All are private commissions, some I’m still in contact with, others I’ve totally lost contact with, some have become friends, some may wish not to have their real names used, others don’t mind, some may have their faces obscured for privacy reasons, others have generously shared their experiences of being photographed. When posting under “The Housewives” it means I am choosing some of my favourite images from one of these shoots publishing them here along with my and or her  experiences and memories).

Cape Town Photography -Nudes - boudoir  09 by Leah Hawker 2006

I met Amiyra (name changed for privacy) during the time I was studying in 2003. She approached me to shoot a few years later and we shot in the photographic studio at Ruth Prowse which I had access to at the time.

I had put together a few reference ideas for the shoot; we went with two quite moody and low-key set-ups; one utilising a designer chair and lingerie as props and the other with only lighting to highlight the form of her body.

Cape Town Photography -Nudes - boudoir  01 by Leah Hawker 2006

Cape Town Photography -Nudes - boudoir  08 by Leah Hawker 2006

I asked her to bring along a selection of her own heels and lingerie. Even though I already had options for her from my own collection I’ve always found it sensible for clients to bring a selection of their own which could cover any gaps in taste preference and fit. Amiyra was also particularly petite; a pair of knee highs stockings worked as thigh-highs on her.

Cape Town Photography -Nudes - boudoir  02 by Leah Hawker 2006

Amiyra was the only woman I’ve ever worked with who had piercings surprisingly. Notably only because this was during a time when genital or nipple piercing was pretty trendy in South Africa.

She struck me as someone who was self-contained, reserved yet uninhibited; with a strong sense of self. Her own perspective was then interesting to learn:

I considered myself to have a very plain appearance and even though I prefer to not stand out I needed a reminder of my sexy / provocative self. To some extent it was a confirmation to myself that this side of me exists.

Not having done a professional shoot prior to this, I do remember it being a very exhausting experience. Leah played a big part in making me feel as comfortable as possible and this discarded any fears I had of bearing myself in the manner in which I did.

Cape Town Photography -Nudes - boudoir  05 by Leah Hawker 2006

Over the years and since the shoot I have grown emotionally and am now very comfortable with both my body and my appearance.

Even though I am pleased with the images it does hold two truths for me. It is not only a reminder of my insecurities at the time but is also a reminder of my personal growth since then and how much happier and confident I am within myself now.

Cape Town Photography -Nudes - boudoir  04 by Leah Hawker 2006

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“The Housewives”, Private Commissions:
This is Therese

(Please note: “The Housewives” was a term I fondly coined in 2006 after I started getting shoot requests from private individual women. The folder in my archives is still called this and so I’ve stuck to it, in part just for the irony. Most of these women are not “housewives” at all, but strong independent and forward thinking women who I have had the honour of documenting. All are private commissions, some I’m still in contact with, others I’ve totally lost contact with, some have become friends, some may wish not to have their real names used, others don’t mind, some may have their faces obscured for privacy reasons, others have generously shared their experiences of being photographed. When posting under “The Housewives” it means I am choosing some of my favourite images from one of these shoots publishing them here along with my and or her  experiences and memories).

Cape Town Photography - Studio Portraits - Nudes 06 Leah Hawker

I met and worked with lovely Therese in July 2010. She was on holiday in Cape Town when we did her shoot.
She was clear and decisive about the look and creative orientation of the project from the get-go. I think she may have referenced some of my older commercial and graduate work from which she directed and singled out two specific looks,- two which were more elaborate and one more classic.

I was newly in my own studio and totally independent from all lecturing positions I’d held up till that point. I had stopped producing my own work (for personal reasons at the time) and was focusing almost solely on my commercial photography and private clients like Therese.
These kinds of shoots have always been an education in that there are so many elements which feed into my conceptual work and understanding of South African women and their very varying identities.

Cape Town Photography - Studio Portraits - Nudes 05 Leah Hawker

You never stop learning (in any industry I suppose) and looking back at older work can be a strange and awkward experience. Naturally I can’t help seeing how much I would now do differently with five more years of experience, but it is also exactly this perspective which is so rewarding.

Therese was self assured about her intentions and all these years later, when I mailed her about working with her images again, she came forward confidently to express her experience.

Cape Town Photography - Studio Portraits - Nudes 02 Leah Hawker

 This was the first time a posed nude and I was nervous. I’ve always been more reserved and this was completely out of character for me.

For the first time in my life I felt good about my body image and wanted to have photos taken to emulate that. Once into the photo shoot I relaxed.

There are many reasons why I feel the way l do towards nudity: the way one was raised, morals, comfort level with oneself and with others.

I think some people feel as if they are going to be judged or they feel that being nude transfers to something sexual, but it doesn’t really.

Cape Town Photography - Studio Portraits - Nudes 03 Leah Hawker

I remember my mother bathing in front of us being totally comfortable with her body and I always admired her beautiful breasts.

This photoshoot was my way of celebrating my image as an older woman, after having two boys. The photos are beautiful and it was a really cool experience seeing my body as art.

Cape Town Photography - Studio Portraits - Nudes 04 Leah Hawker
Most of the women I’ve photographed privately are impressively self-confident  about their bodies, even if they may not necessarily identify with this. The fact that they are in my studio is already a sign of this.

This exact fact is one I find so compelling about women’s identities in our currently very “polished” world.
South Africa, in my experience, is conservative when it comes to any matters linked to the body/sexuality/nudity, and so when you work up close and personal with individuals the findings are surprisingly often the opposite.

Cape Town Photography - Studio Portraits - Nudes 01 Leah Hawker

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A Nude Creative Studio Photo-shoot in Pink

Nude-Portrait-of-a-Girl-in-Pink-photographed-by-Leah-Hawker-2012

This was one of the few personal projects I shot in 2010. Lexi, a dear friend, was visiting from the states and I asked her if she’d pose in studio for two creative portraits using a one-tone colour palette of pink.

I’m not quite sure anymore where or why I thought up this quite random idea but the shoot was none the less very fun and a great creative process assisted by friends.

We spent an evening in the studio painting found (in a dumpsite) objects pink as well as an old metal bath tub I’d seen in a derelict yard outside our studio. I shopped a number of stores empty of pink razors (of which I still have a bag stored somewhere) and bought a selection of other random (pink) items to fill in the fantasy story line look of the shoots (buckets, towels, rented candy floss machines etc).

Candyfloss-Girl-nude-photographed-by-Leah-Hawker

It was a fun and messy shoot and one of those experiences that I guess adds to ones creative experience.

The images had no particular function except to exist, really. The building, sourcing and thinking-up of a scenario for the brief amount of time it takes to actually document it (making it a brief reality) has always been one of my joys of the photographic process.

Nude-Portrait-of-a-Girl-in-Pink-photographed-by-Leah-Hawker

A snap of some of the people who worked together on this shoot and also a bit of a "behind the scenes" look at the scenario before its post processing stage...

A snap of some of the people who worked together on this shoot and also a bit of a “behind the scenes” look at the scenario before its post processing stage…

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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

Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--10

Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--11

Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--06

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….

Lynette-Bester-GODIVA-by-Leah-Hawker--04

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

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

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“WOMAN” An Article by Amelia Burger

This is an article written by Amelia Burger for One Small Seed Magazine, Issue 08, 2007, pages 46 through 53.

From One Small Seed Magazine Article

Woman

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”

This image by the talented Michelle featured in the article.

“When you reject me”- image by the talented Michelle featured in the article.

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.”

Tear sheets taken from One Small Seed Magazine published in 2007

Tear sheets taken from One Small Seed Magazine published in 2007

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