Women I've Shot

“The Housewives”, Private Commissions:
This is Therese

(Note: “The Housewives” was a term I fondly coined in 2006 after I started getting shoot requests from private, individual women who became my clients. Many of the women who contacted me were married and in their mid 30’s and were doing the shoots as gifts to their husbands. 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 and the demographic has changed substantially over the years. 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.)

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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