When Craig M. and I did my nude photo shoot last year, I was very embarrassed when I saw the shots of my back because I have a number of fairly large ‘seborrheic keratoses’. Although these benign, waxy keratoses are quite common in people past middle age they are one of the things about my body I have had issues with (being told by a male doctor that they were often referred to as ‘crones warts’ did not help!!!) Knowing this is undoubtedly a ‘first world problem’, I still find the need to address the issue of skin in this post.
Sensual skins invite caresses, we are told repeatedly by the media, they are smooth and unblemished. Despite this, in general, I have reached a truce with wrinkles. The collections that gather at the corners of my mouth and eyes; even that deeper notch – fruit of countless hours of screen time – which hyphenates my brows, tells a story.
Moles, on the other hand, are sometimes viewed as sexy, and there are times when I regret the removal of two of these dark velvety jewels many years ago when I perceived them as a potential threat. In old photographs I see one punctuating the youthfulness of my cheek; my fingers may still easily trace the remnants beneath the dermis. The other mole, fingertip sized, was placed where only lovers, gynaecologists and my sensual self were permitted to view back in the day. If that dark round of flesh had not been excised, my current blogging followers may have caught a glimpse of a dark spot punctuating the skin beneath lacy lingerie. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and to me, at the time, it was no jewel but rather a spider waiting patiently for it’s prey. Australian’s often fear the cancerous spot, yet assiduously court it in our daily behaviours. Generations are paying the price of years of exposure to the sun, in our youth, despite government campaigns promoting sun avoidance and skin care.
While not cancerous, there is nothing velvety or sensual about the ketoses that persist in forming on my older skin. After last years photoshoot I forced myself to turn my embarrassment around by adding an exaggerated b&w filter to an image I subsequently shared to some acclaim on #SinfulSunday entitled Dancing in Shadow. It seemed fitting to share my darkness and my blemishes, perhaps too it was a form of self-inflicted punishment, since I was going through one of the many moments of painful uncertainty about my friendship with Craig and posted this at a point when I felt all hope was lost and I must move on.
Times changed and so did our relationship.
When I returned from overseas we began to discuss ways to renew our creative collaborations. As some readers may recall I was inspired by the mask I bought in Barcelona and started to make a series of photographs and drawings I refer to collectively as #BadHareArt. Part of what I’m trying to challenge myself with by making the Bad Hare series is the urge to always present as sexy, youthful and/or feminine, while simultaneously aiming to foster a sense of positivity around my aging bod. Therefore last year when Craig M. and I were discussing Bad Hare I asked him to place some skin tone coloured flowers on my back next to the ketoses. The idea was to highlight my ‘marks’ while thumbing my nose at the prevalent unblemishedyoung woman/floral trope.
However, as we’ve begun to explore the sepia filters in our photos my desire to protest about my aging skin has slowly melted and I’m happy to present this image for #SinfulSunday because it now feels unique and strangely beautiful. Of course life isn’t filtered in a warm honey glow, and touch still reveals what the camera glosses over, but the making of images like this move me toward acceptance and appreciation. CM seems unmoved by bodily concerns in general but his acceptance of my demons, and trust in my artistic concepts allowed him to readily look at and touch an area that I find problematic, to glue the flowers to my skin and point his camera at the result, questioning only the placement and tonal values.
This weeks post is not a direct response to last weeks #WickedWednesday prompt, Erotic Photography, but rather a continuation of thoughts set in train by this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is still finding things to consider.
For another story and perspective on Body Positivity and personal empowerment through photography I recommend E L Byrne’s #WickedWednesday no. 350 post – Lessons Learned From Letting My Lover Take Photo’s of Me.