I’m so constantly aware of this pursuit for perfection in women around me. It appears in many different ways, be it eating disorders, aggressive beauty treatments, make-overs, insecurities, etc. It is the opposite of self-acceptance I think it is created by our overexposure to advertising with its polished images of what is so-called-perfect mixed also with the strange importance we give to fame and celebrity. The byproduct of this pre-occupation is uncertainty about ones own self-image and an obsession with it. Of course also living in a social media “era” has made it even more vivid as we’re bombarded with images that have all been curated to depict how we see ourselves and others.
The “selfie”, self-photo phenomenon, is a prime example of our self-identifying-obsession. The word itself, which I recently read was chosen as “Word of the Year for the Oxford English Dictionary”, just goes to show the extent of our new self-depicting obsession. The selfie trend tells us so much about how we selectively choose to portray ourselves to others based on what we assume is beautiful, acceptable, cool. It also picks up on the demand for authenticity in the subject via the amateur camera holder as apposed to the overly perfected images we are saturated with.
It was such a relevant theme to pick up on for one of the cover shoots I was commissioned for earlier last year for magazine brand Playboy South Africa. The cover model, Yolandi Malherbe, is a past playmate and is very exposed to this issue through the social media she participates in, I liked the idea of playing with the irony of her self-mania on “her” cover, the look and concept of which were in my hands.
I’ve been working with nudes, both commercially and in my own fine art based projects, since I started as a photographer. Many of the models I’ve worked with in the nude/swimwear etc genre now have their own self created Facebook “fan” pages. Its such a strange platform and in most ways is very narcissistic, inviting an over-inflated concept of “self”.
The models fill their pages with images of themselves; some professionally taken and the rest are often sexy selfies. The majority of the feedback and support they receive comes from anonymous followers (predominantly men from anywhere, often conservative countries) who enjoy the free “kick” thrown into their daily newsfeeds. I suppose that even though its 95% hot air it feeds a feeling of self-worth and therefore the behaviour is flourishing.
I styled my subject to reflect the self-within-the-self-within-the-self as a paradox, the twisted version we accept and create currently in a strange cycle between beauty and self identity.
In my series of images with Yolandi, apart from depicting her beautifully and sexily as the brand expects, I played with this notion of the Selfie as a kind of reversed insecurity, a tool we have started to use to gain a kind of attention. The images thus try to depict the model in layers: she is (1) the subject of the images and article, (2) she is photographed by me, (3) photographing herself, (4) showing you herself within the image again and (5) incorporate photos of herself within polaroids of herself which coyly draw attention to (6) the object of the images which is her own nudity/sexuality.