Tag Archives: nudes

A Body of work

 14 Minutes in Addis Ababa

14 Minutes in Addis Ababa was shot at dawn on an overnight layover in Ethiopia while flying from Mombasa to Cape Town. 
 


The 3 star hotel (with a piece of photocopied paper and tape masking a once-held fourth star in the vague hope that it could one day be recovered) was strangely lush and neglected in equal measures. 
 


Having missed the connecting bus to the airport, my travel companions and I found ourselves with 20 minutes to spare. Between capturing the first and the final image, only 14 minutes elapsed. In these moments, we entered the limbo space of the in-between: the distance between arrivals and departures, wakefulness and dreaming.


The shoot was somewhat unplanned, hasty and fortuitous. A chance occurrence that unfolded in a crease of a bygone era.

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Corporate Commission: Alan Walt Architects & Ass.
The Client Christmas Card 2007

I met Alan Walt in 2007 when he contacted me via a recommendation from Heidi Erdmann of The Photographers Gallery ZA. Alan creates a somewhat controversial or abstract “christmas” card or seasons greetings type card to his clients at the end of each year. He strikes me as the kind of person who likes to ruffle feathers, challenge perceptions and so on and he uses this opportunity to do just that with his clients.
Previous cards had not been related to issues pertaining to sexuality or gender specifically. I got the feeling that he got a kick out of challenging my notions of the subject since it was the subject we would deal with for his commission if he wanted to collaborate with me as a creative.
I can’t remember exactly how the final concept came up. He wanted to incorporate his company name “AWA” into the product in a subliminal way and we discussed references and ideas and decided to use the [taboo] oriental art of Karada (rope tying) as the vehicle.

I had used Karada references, especially those of Nobuyoshi Araki a few years previously and we discussed then in context of incorporating the

I had used Karada references, especially those of Nobuyoshi Araki a few years previously and we discussed them in context of incorporating the ideas or art in Alan’s project.

I sketched my idea, we confirmed the look and went ahead with the job.

AlanWaltArchitects 2007 Christmas Card 003 by Leah Hawker
I generally work alone, I prefer it since communicating my creative vision, shoot process, etiquette with nude models or trying to maintain my patience with others working on my set frustrates me.

Alan wanted to be present at the shoot which I found totally unnecessary and purely voyeuristic as apposed to useful (he did not attend).
The shoot took place on a small budget, it was before I had my own studio and I shot it in my lounge using a mix of friends, acquaintances and family members who had willing accepted my request for them to pose for a group nude portrait all the while tied into a rope harness.
I sourced the rope from a local rope supply store in Lakeside, Cape Town and incorporated garments with fabric that would be a little reminiscent of a kimono lifted up to expose the body underneath it.
The tying process was a struggle,- it takes a while to create such an end result and with 5 models one can’t make the first overly tight while she has to wait for a good two hours still until the shoot commences.  I did this alone and had an amazing amount of patience from the 5 women.

The end result was good and very close to the initial sketch of the concept. Below is the final image.

AlanWaltArchitects 2007 Christmas Card 001 by Leah Hawker
I shot the images digitally, this was my second year working with my first digital camera and was also at a time when I was still working at least 50% with my film cameras.

Alan put together a small amount of text which appeared on the back of the card. When I read over it now, 8 years later I’m surprised I agreed to it.

AlanWaltArchitects 2007 Christmas Card 002 by Leah Hawker

I shot a small series of details at the end of the shoot which I’ve only selected and messed around with now (below).
I like the strong graphic play between the rope and the body shape.

AlanWaltArchitects-2007-Christmas-Card-DETAIL-008-by-Leah-Hawker

AlanWaltArchitects-2007-Christmas-Card-DETAIL-005-by-Leah-Hawker

AlanWaltArchitects-2007-Christmas-Card-DETAIL-007-by-Leah-Hawker

AlanWaltArchitects-2007-Christmas-Card-DETAIL-006-by-Leah-Hawker

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PolaroidWomen 2014

I started shooting PolaroidWomen in October 2014, I still had one pack left of original Polaroid film hanging-out in the depths of our fridge which I’d bought in 2009 (expired 2007) and went and emptied a big portion of my bank account on another stack of Impossible film (the miraculous company that have managed to re-produce instant film for Polaroid after Polaroid stopped manufacturing film in 2008).
The-Begining-of-the-PolaroidWomen-project-by-Leah-Hawker-2014
I picked up my snap-shot Polaroid camera at Orms in 2006 I think and had only ever passed about 8-9 packs of film through it by 2013. I planned to use the project for OpenStudios 2014, one of the first few creative and art based projects I’ve re-involved with for the last 6 years (!).
The project resulted in a selected series of 35 framed instant images for the exhibition,- the images take a voyeuristic peek into a fantasy world of women in dreamy, nondescript natural spaces…..tiny portholes to a place where the ethereal is momentarily a reality.
Below are some snaps from the OpenStudios event:
PolaroidWomen-2014-by-Leah-Hawker--02
PolaroidWomen-2014-by-Leah-Hawker--04
PolaroidWomen-2014-by-Leah-Hawker--03
Some of the images from the series below:
PolaroidWomen-9 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer
PolaroidWomen-8 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer
PolaroidWomen-7 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer
PolaroidWomen-6 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer

I aimed to approach the image taking process differently to my norm. Where I usually control and stage my work quite particularly, here I asked my models to be natural, carefree, awkward, real and just playful. I guided some more than others, depending on the location and woman I was working with.

I shot in about six different locations for the series, ranging from swimming pools in Franschoek, orchids, rivers, shooting ranges, forests and beaches,- all with a sort of anonymous composition which leaves the environment and the women to be anyone, anywhere, a slice of time, a dream.

PolaroidWomen-5 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer

PolaroidWomen-4 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer

PolaroidWomen-3 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer

PolaroidWomen-2 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer

I plan to continue the series into 2015. For now the remaining framed pieces left over after the Open Studios show are hanging at Exposure Gallery in the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock.

PolaroidWomen-1 Instant Images of Nudes by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photographer

PolaroidWomen-2014-by-Leah-Hawker--01

PolaroidWomen exhibited at Exposure Gallery 001 PolaroidWomen exhibited at Exposure Gallery 002

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The Pinup Series, 2012
Part 2

Wendy- Pinup Miss December 2011 Photography by Leah Hawker Cape Town PhotographyThis is the second half of the shoot I did for the Pinup Series which was broken over two days in August 2012. On the second shoot date I worked with South African Playboy Playmates Wendy Du Toit, Kate Lovemore and Jade Fairbrother. Samantha Brownell did hair and makeup.

Catalogued here are a number of behind-the-scenes type shots from the shoot as well as the final images for each of the three Playmates.

Wendy-Du-Toit-dies-Pinup-1-by-Leah-Hawker

Wendy DuToit by Leah Hawker 007

Wendy Nude Pinup Photography by Leah Hawker Cape Town PhotographyWendy Du Toit (pictured in the above images) was flown down from the Northern Cape for the day for this shoot. We met on the morning for a brief interview on MuthaFM before going straight into the shoot. Wendy is definitely the traditional “girl next door” but as far as the Playboy history goes she fits into the early 60’s with her look.

Wendy DuToit and Leah Hawker at MuthaFM Radio Interview

Kate was great to meet and shoot. She’s totally self-assured, enthusiastic and natural. Her partner, Twiggy or Grant “Twiggy” Baker, an SA champ surfer and all round cool guy,  joined us to shoot some behind the scenes footage of Kate.

Kate Lovemore & Leah Hawker Behind-The-Scenes on the PINUP Project

 

Kate- Pinup Miss March 2012 Photography by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photography Kate Nude Pinup Photography by Leah Hawker Cape Town PhotographyOf each of the Playmates I shot a semi-nude (for exhibition as part of the Nostalgia Now exhibition which I curated in 2012 at Exposure Gallery) and a nude which went on to be featured in a pictorial about the Playmates in a follow-on issue of the Playboy South Africa print mag.

Kate-Lovemore-does-Pinup-1-by-Leah-Hawker

The make-up references were reasonably straight forward but the hair was definitely quite a challenge. I spent a fair amount of time trying to re-style some areas in post-production,- a lesson learned about preparation and research before shooting if there ever was one…

Lastly of the six Playmates I shot Jade Fairbrother who was also the first Playmate I ever shot for Playboy SA and went on to Playmate of the Year (which we later shot in beautiful Zambia).

Jade Fairbrother Behind-The-Scenes on teh PINUP Project

Jade- Pinup Miss September 2011 Photography by Leah Hawker Cape Town Photography Jade Nude Pinup Photography by Leah Hawker Cape Town PhotographyThe exhibition “Nostalgia Now” was the 3rd in a series of 4 small group shows I curated at Exposure Gallery during the last 5 years. It was tied in with the Cape Town Month of Photography and invited emerging and professional photographic talent to participate by submitting images for exhibition that related to the body and that reflected nostalgia in the now via a rendered nostalgic format be it homographic, hipstamatic, polaroid, cynotype, tintype, faded out, bleached etc etc. The concept was correlated to that of the main festival and asked the viewer to reminisce about the now.

Below is the invite and a shot from the end of the opening evening.

INVITATION-Nostalgia-Now-2nd-October

NostalgiaNow-Opening-Party-038-with-Leah-Hawker

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The Graveyard Girls, 2007

I worked on this small body of work during 2007. I had intended for it to become a full body of images but got distracted along the way as I went more and more into my commercial work. I exhibited the final three images in the KWV Cathedral during the Cultivaria Festival of 2007. The rest of the negs never saw the light of day. Here is a collection of the images mostly in the working stages and includes snaps from my visual diaries, contact sheets, notes, the stencils used for the body marking and so forth.

A detail from my visual diary of that time shows planning notes and research along with inspirational images from graveyards I shot in Mozambique in 2004.

A detail from my visual diary of that time shows planning notes and research along with inspirational images from graveyards I shot in Mozambique in 2004.

I was working with the “Widow” concept, utilising graveyards around the Cape Peninsular (I have a soft spot for graveyards, probably because of my obsession for details and multiples… I guess, but also because they are generally very beautiful spaces), vintage veiled hats, gloves, hand mirrors, strong and dramatic body poses, selected words or phrases (which I was applying like tattoos in gothic fonts to my models’ bodies with body paint or permanent marker), stockings, heels, suspenders and rosaries.

Graveyard-Girls-02-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

Graveyard-Girls-04-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

Graveyard-Girls-05-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

Cape Town has some very beautiful graveyards including the sailors graveyards in Seaforth and Dido Valley and the closed off (Victorian?) Graveyard below Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory.

Graveyard-Girls-03-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

I worked with women I had shot before mostly, some friends, some previous models from commercial shoots. I hand cut the “tattoos” or body texts I had chosen for each image, including: Revere, Deference, My Carnal Avarice, Chastity and “Those are pearls that were his eyes” -a segment of Ariels song from The Tempest :

Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

The permanence which comes with tattooing or scaring the body is connected here to the potency of feeling loss which remains inside the body invisibly but often forever. The words therefore represent the inward tensions connected to loss but also tied to how society has created regulations for behaviour in such contexts, how even the behaviour of despair/grief/loss has become stereotyped and stigmatised. In the images I am placing a strange connection between the words used on the womens bodies and this context in which they reside.

Revere

Graveyard-Girls-09-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

Graveyard-Girls-07-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

Graveyard-Girls-06-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

My-Carnil-Avarice

Heidi Erdmann, of The Photographers Gallery, added these words to the catalogue published alongside the images  for the Cultivaria Festival:

The curatorial concept and theme for this exhibition is the BODY and it is discussed along two axes, Public/Private and Cruel/Tender.
Through the photographs on the exhibition the viewer will witness the collision of self-image versus private desire, historical forces versus contemporary syndrome all represented with both humour and pathos…the work illustrates how over time the human BODY has remained one of the most photographed and pictorial objects in the world.

Graveyard-Girls-08-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

The images were all shot on my Mamiya twin lens medium format camera; all on B&W film. The negs, once processed and contact printed, were drum scanned and then hand coloured through Photoshop, painstakingly, using very feathered selected areas which were bit by bit, layer by layer, coloured using the photo filter tool (Image> Adjustments>Photo filter) at varying opacities and colour grades.
The process yealds a look much like the original hand coloured old B&W images most people remember seeing in photo history books or girlie postcards, depending on the subtlety of ones colour application of course. The detail and colouring is best seen obviously in the original exhibition prints which were printed 82cm x 82cm on hahnemulle paper.

Graveyard-Girls-11-visual-diary-of-Leah-Hawker-2008

Those-are-Pearls

The often misty surrounds were created by my small obsession with kiddies smoke bombs (lit inside an old can, they smoke for about 20 seconds, in varying brilliant colours and then disperse amazingly around quite a big area, depending on the wind). Thankfully there are usually not that many people idling about to spectate in graveyards as old and beautiful as these.

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A Self-portraiture Project: The Beginning

Half way through a self initiated project, the idea is to shoot a self portrait every week day for two weeks (or at least thats the plan for right now). It has already been both educational and compelling in ways I find surprising and expected.

Screen grab from my working folder of day 1 & 2.

Screen grab from my working folder of day 1 & 2.

Each day I must come up with an idea which I can shoot in my own studio with the help of a friend as my “button-presser”. The resulting ideas, images and experience have been insightful: to feel what it is like to be the subject of my camera with the demands I outlay on my models and how it feels to my body, the comparison of the images side by side and also how some ideas have been more intuitive while others are based on approaches to shoots I may have had in the past with a distinctly more commercial beauty aesthetic tied to them.

Screen grabs from shoot days 3, 4 & 5. These come from my working folder and the images still appear in their raw state.

Screen grabs from shoot days 3, 4 & 5. These come from my working folder and the images still appear in their raw state.

I think that the series will reflect the way I see myself in different contexts (the Professional, the Wacky Creative, the Woman, The Conceptualizer etc) as well as the way I’ve experienced societies take on women as the “sexy sex” and what I’ve learned about how my female subjects often feel about their own body identity. Somehow all these things are apparent to me in these five very different sets of images so far.

The demands on the body to pose and my feelings of self awareness are also heightened.

The questions I have about how much to effect or change the images in order to present the final “polished” versions remains unanswered.

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A Sunday Times Article on my Work

The Sunday Times Heading July 2007

This is an article written by Lauren Cohen for The Sunday Times, cover story and page 3.

I started shooting these kinds of private commissions in 2005 at which time I was finishing up or exhibiting my graduate body of work on erotic female stereotypes. Many of the first shoots I did were styled on the themes in my grad work. People started approaching me about the images but wanted themselves to be the subject in a re-created version.

Wives’ hot pictures put sauce back into marriage

Women are living out their wildest fantasies in sexy photo shoots

Tired of seeing your husband’s eyes glaze over as he unwraps that predictable gift of socks? Sexy photo shoots commissioned by a growing number of Cape Town housewives and businesswomen- acting out their wildest fantasies- are serving up a visual feast for their partners. From bondage to boudoir and food to frills, women in their 20s to 40s are baring (almost) all in steamy yet tasteful photographs by Leah Hawker.

By day Jane Baard is the executive director of a national business servingblue-chip companies. By night she treads the boards as one of the Cape’s top amateur actresses. Baard gave husband Doug classic black and white photographs of herself in lingerie for his 52nd birthday last year. “He was absolutely flabbergasted and thrilled to bits”, she said. One of the images has pride of place on their bedroom wall. “Some people are very offended by them. I come from an artistic family and my father was proud of them, while my step-mom had a hissy fit and said they were degrading. I think men talk openly about [sexual issues] while women have a lot more inhibitions. This was an expression of me feeling comfortable with my body”, she said. A “thrilled” Doug said he was “very taken” with his gift. “It was something completely different from the usual books, ties and aftershave. The pictures were intimate and personal, tastefully done. And its your wife, which makes it extra special”, he said.

With her 40th looming large, Debbie Davis, who works in her husband’s car-customing business, decided to pose for pictures she could “look back on and admire in 20 years”. “We rented a hotel room at the Victoria Junction [hotel] and did pictures with a burlesque theme as well as some of me in a nurse’s outfit.” Pictures of the platinum blonde bound with rope in the boot of one of her husband’s classic cars, as well as in a dominatrix theme in a graveyard at night, were taken. “My husband wants me to do more. It’s done wonders for our relationship after 10 years of marriage.” Davis said.

International model Electra, 34, had a “tongue-in-cheek, sexy and playful shoot” done for her boyfriennd’s Christmas present last year. “I wanted an S&M them so we got permission to shoot in the dungeon at the Castle [of Good Hope]. I was hiding behind teh door wearing wigs, garters, handcuffs and ropes in between the tourists popping in,” she said. Electra said one of her main reasons for doing the shoot was her son’s first birthday celebration. “When you’re pregnant and then doing the mommy thing, you become so unattached to your inner tigress. I needed to step into my womanhood again.”

A cosmetic buyer, who asked to be named only as Elizabeth, gave her husband a kinky twist to the traditional first wedding anniversary gift of paper- erotic pictures of his beloved. The 29-year-old said the shoot had been a boost for her sexual confidence. “It’s a great experience for any girl,” she said.

Hawker started photographing the naked female form while completing her graduate thesis on erotic female stereotypes at the Ruth Prowse School of Art. She admits most of her subjects have “commercially acceptable” body types “but most still think they are inadequate”. “I’ve learned how to relax my subjects. Most shoots have crazy moments and giggling at bizarre circumstances: how often do you pour a bottle of honey all over yourself or roll in cake? “Some women want gorgeous images of themselves, which is really self-affirming; others feel they have a “sell-by date” and want to capture themslevs in the now.”

The Sunday Times Article July 2007

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“The Housewives”, Nude Private Commissions:
This is “B”

(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).

Fetish & Carnival Themed Shoot

I photographed “B” in December 2009 in the Ruth Prowse Photography Studio. It was at the time when Cara, one of my good friends, was shooting her own graduate body of work and had this stunning carnival pedestal rented for use in her images and made an awesome prop for this shoot, adding so much atmosphere and a dynamic object to pose with.

Fetish & Carnival Themed Shoot

We shot one or two pics with a Santa hat on which she has had the idea to use as her husbands Christmas card,- the shoot was his Christmas present… Love this pic + snowflakes, cute and fun, but sexy!

Kinky Xmas Girl! (10)

The shoot was fluid, she was wonderful to work with and open to the suggestions I’d had. The outcome was a few different sets of images: the carnival, fetishy ones, a series of standing nudes with pearls and a couple of sitting nudes, which were incredibly simple and very classic in nature.

Nudes

Nudes

Playboy South Africa published a story on my work a little while back and had asked for a selection of images from my “Housewife” shoots to print. The below image was printed, with her happy permission, as a full page.

Published by Playboy South Africa

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Playboy South Africa Feature Article, May Issue, 2012

Women Only, Playboy SA Article

Women Only

Capetonian born and bred photographer, Leah Hawker, has specialized in one of our favorite subjects: Women.

She’s already shot our very own Jade Fairbrother as Miss September and we liked her work so much that we awarded her the prestigeous Playmate of the Year pictorial. When Leah isn’t shooting commercial assignments she’s most likely working on one of her privately commissioned nudes. Women in their 20’s to 40’s are undressing in front of her camera for steamy yet tasteful pictures, some of which we’ve featured here for your viewing pleasure…

Leah started photographing the (mostly naked) female form while completing her graduate thesis on erotic female stereotypes. Since then she’s gone on to develop an even broader portfolio and talent in this genre. Leah combines a strong conceptual art base with both her understanding of women and society’s effects on female identities, she blends her unique and bold style to create magic in her images.

The DPS shows images from the last 10 or so years, mostly private commissioned jobs by women.

The DPS shows images from the last 10 or so years, mostly private commissioned jobs by women.

 “Maybe being a female photographer here is an advantage, but,  having a strong vision and knowing how to make your model feel confident and sexy is what really matters”, she says. “The bizarre and funny situations that come with this job are priceless, like shooting a tied-up and blindfolded model in the dungeon of the Castle (of Good Hope) while trying to avoid the Korean tourist groups or having your model pour copious amounts of honey all over herself. For most, its not everyday you whip your kit off for saucy images.”

Leah’s abilities with nudes has us holding our breath. Find more of her work or contact her for commissions at www.leahhawker.co.za

On the left is a commissioned nude and on the right, a self portrait I shot in studio especially for this article.

On the left is a commissioned nude and on the right, a self portrait I shot in studio especially for this article.

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