Friday, August 14, 2015

Becoming a Whore



The hardest thing about this shoot was how easy it was to become a whore. 

As I recovered from my last shoot and began contemplating ideas for the next one, I thought it would be an interesting challenge to attempt something more overtly sensual after so many sessions that were more about using composition or pose to evoke emotion and meaning, reducing the body to landscape, motif, idealized image or merely a woman upon whom the viewer is discreetly eavesdropping in a private vulnerable moment.

 Odalisque by Ingres

The odalisque portrait, which runs (or reclines) rampant through art history, is unabashed in its representation of the female body as sexually available object. It’s about as close to pornography as you can get and still be believed that you are actually creating art. There is in fact a whole genre of erotic photographs that feature women in this attitude of exposed repose, with a few props to establish a bordello or harem setting and a somewhat disdainful “come hither” look to make it clear what’s on offer. As a photograph, it’s a purely sexual calling card. As a painting, thoughtful presentation makes it art.

 Odalisque by Delacroix

How to keep such an image on the proper side of the often fuzzy erotica line wasn’t my concern. There are technical ways to soften realism. How to find sufficient luxurious textiles and draperies and accessories to convincingly portray a lady of idle pleasure on her couch of indulgences or her attitude of unapologetic indolence wasn’t that difficult either. 


My biggest worry was that I, a modern woman accustomed to a more liberal and less libertine view and experience of sex, would be incapable of staring down the camera with that convincing look of mixed pride and vulnerability, hauteur and hunger, amusement and boredom, control and submission those odalisque ladies did so well.


Then I remembered every man who has ever made me feel like a temptation visited, enjoyed, and abandoned. An availability made use of and once used up, devalued. The ones whose beds and tales of sorrow I shared while their hearts belonged to someone else. I remembered that love is something I have too often felt for men who couldn’t or wouldn’t love me as they did other women, the ones in other kinds of paintings, princesses and goddesses, remote figures on distant cliffs, weeping into rivers, looking away, looking beautiful while breaking hearts, the ones they couldn’t have or had and lost, those unforgettables, those timeless, elusive, immortalized in song women, those women so very much not me.


This shoot stirred all that up for me. Years of anger and grief. Years of pride and scorn. And the love. All that love wasted on men for whom sex was all that was required, for whom I was a little bit more than a pornographic snapshot, but way less than a work of art.  Years of guilt that I had been a willing participant in, even a seeker of, this less than ideal arrangement, because a beggar at the table of love must either make do or starve. And ultimately, years of recognizing that not one of these men diminished me in any way by their comings and goings, that no matter how many lovers made use of me only briefly and incompletely, this said more about their limitations than mine, and where are they now? Gone.  But I remain, complete, and timeless, and yes, a work of art.



And I wrote a poem too. Here it is.   

Odalisque

Take me I’m yours
said the eyes of the whore
from her languid repose
in the comfortable chaos
of lace and cut velvet
covering her loosely
lightly briefly
like lovers that come and go
come and go
come and go
followed by eyes
so weary of saying
I know you I love you
I’m waiting and watching
your longed for approach
while solitude hangs
like dark silk keeping
the sunlight from hurting
my eyes as they see
in the way you arrive
that hot path
cleared by hunger 
the cold road 
by which you’ll depart
you who are all the one I needed
you who are all the same
when retreating
so take me I’m yours
do your best
do your worst
but take me already
my body my heart
unbreakably naked
receiving impressions
that leave me unchanged
or leave me.



12 comments:

  1. You are most certainly a work of art! Although this was a grief-inducing exercise, it seems the art, both visual and written, has helped you come to the place where your wisdom is deep enough to recognize your value exists regardless of another's disregard.

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  2. I hope you feel the ease with which you slipped into whoredom as a positive thing. I'm reminded of the sacred prostitutes that have appeared throughout history on every continent. It's easy enough in our society to pick up on the victim aspects of our sexuality, but the more I've read about the temple prostitutes and how valued they used to be before men let fear take over, I'm convinced what we have to offer is a blessing to men. I don't know all the details of your experiences with men who loved other women and yet had sex with you, but may I offer that for men, this somewhat uncommitted, perhaps anonymous outlet is very meaningful and literally blesses them. They can open up and be vulnerable. I've been where you've been and I choose to not feel abandoned or used. Maybe at the time I did, but I don't look back on my experiences with regret. I think we fall victim to a conditioning which dictates how we should be in relationship. We get to decide, even in retrospect. WE ARE GODDESSES. WE BLESS MEN.

    Your pictures and words are beautiful. But your poem - REALLY BEAUTIFUL! You are "...unbreakably naked"

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    1. Wow, Kass, this is just what I needed to read. I agree with you. It would never have squared with my conscience or heart to be with such men knowing they were not taking me seriously as "girlfriend material" had I not felt that redeeming sense of our encounters, even if they only ended up amounting to a casual love affair. No regrets here either. As I said, the regret should be theirs, that they failed to avail themselves of everything I had to offer, or valued so little what they did take. Thanks so much!

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  3. Loved this. Not only is this honest, it's insightful and thoughtful.
    And the declaration is: My body exists. I can do things with my body. My love doesn't contain itself, it releases and continues on.

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    1. I really appreciate this. It was a tough one, but I think I am stronger and wiser for having seen it through.

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  4. 'But I remain, complete, and timeless, and yes, a work of art.'
    I LOVE THAT.
    And your poem, your photography, and you.

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    1. The feeling is and ever shall be mutual, my dear. And thank you.

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  5. This is really weird. I dreamed last night that I saw on my blog list that you had a new post and I excitedly scrolled down and clicked on it. It had something to do with animals.....

    Oh well.

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    1. Weirder than you think! I am overdue on my next shoot and was going to do it today but decided last minute to wait until next weekend. Just not feeling it. So a post would have been up by now! The featured inspiration this time is a female bodybuilder photographed by Mapplethorpe - her name is Lisa. Lisa LYON.

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  6. Lyons, Two Tigers and Bears, oh my!

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