[ TBD ] ISSUE 1 J U LY, 2 016
In 2005 we started The Nu Project thinking we were starting a photography project. What we didnâ€™t know then is that we were starting a project about beauty and what it means to be comfortable and confident as a human being.
The project has grown into something we never could have imagined.
We thank you for your support and present to you Issue 1 of [ tbd ], a semi-annual publication.
with special thanks to our editors: Constance Carlson Alex McEllistrem-Evenson Elise Robinson art director and editor-in-chief: Katy Kessler design by Thomas Osmonson
IN THIS ISSUE: visual art 13 19, 69
jen davis Images from the artist’s Self Portraits
ashley richardson Images from the artist
gilda lt/goo chinaski
35 65 79
Images from the artist’s series “Half”
seth hancock Images from the artist’s series “10 Minutes with a Stranger”
yasmin collins Images from the artist’s series’ “All Love is Love” and “Prime”
kenneth sortland myklebust Selections from the artist’s 1000 Bodies Project
IN THIS ISSUE: writings 08
the body image movement
a story of sickness and personhood
la petite mort
naked with mask
The value and power of loving your body
Rewriting the story story
Learning to dance again
One Nu Project model on why she participated
Poetry that grows
A behind-the-scenes look at a Nu Project shoot
Make space for death
An ex-pat exposed in Berlin.
walking the line Parenting two girls through the jungle of gender and body issues
vermont woman Poetry to transport you
the body image movement I’m lying on the bathroom floor, tears streaming down my face and the dark passenger
I feel so alone. I am not depressed (although hindsight
inside my head is in her element. “You are so fat and
suggests I wasn’t far from it) and I don’t have an eating
disgusting. Your body is gross; people are going to talk
disorder. I simply hate my body. Who knew that hating
behind your back. Once you were attractive and now
your body could be so debilitating? I feel like there’s an
you are nothing more than a sack of fat, cellulite and
anchor pulling me under on a daily basis.
Before the birth of my first child I had a fairly posi-
My husband yells out to me, “Are you ready, Taz? We
tive body image, but the minute my firstborn arrived
need to go.” We are heading out for dinner with friends.
I knew that life was never going to be the same. After
I pick myself up from the tiles, apply some lip-gloss,
labour I sat in the commode chair in the shower and
wipe my tears, smile at the mirror and respond,
looked down at my belly - a blobby, pale mass. Not to
“Sure, be there in a minute.” My mask is in place; an
worry, I thought. I’ll get back to physical activity as
actress would win an Academy Award for a perfor-
soon as I’m able and I’ll get my body back into shape.
mance like this.
The day I got back onto the netball court, I felt like I
attempting to be all, you know, sexy, and when I leant
was Superwoman. And when I saw my opportunity
down to kiss him my stomach fell onto his before our
to take a dazzling intercept, that’s exactly what I did.
It was glorious, until I felt warm wee running down
It seemed there was only one road to take to get my
body, my pride and my zest for life back. I would get
Disloyal body, I hate you.
cosmetic surgery. I bounced into the surgeon’s office and proclaimed, “My body is ruined. Can you please put my boobs back where they belong and cut off this hotdog?” I pointed at my tummy.
My pelvic floor got smashed during my pregnancy
The surgeon looked at me curiously, poked at my
and in that moment I suddenly saw the logic in the
tummy and picked my boobs up like they were dirty
strengthening exercises my physio friend had sug-
tissues. I felt elated walking out of his office. Yes, this
gested, and wished I had done them more than once.
was the answer, after three babies and years of feeling
It felt as though everything I did in an attempt to re-
sad about my body; this one man was going to give
claim my positive body image backfired. Even trying
me my life back.
to get my sexy on with my husband was a sad and sorry experience. One evening I was on top of him,
I could not have predicted my about-face, only a week
It was only after the competition, once I had put some
later, as I watched my youngest child, Mikaela, playing.
weight back on, that I appreciated how incredible my
How was I going to teach her to love her body if her
body is. I respected it, even with the stretch marks,
mummy couldn’t do the same? How would I ever be
cellulite and wobbly bits.
able to encourage Mikaela to love and accept the parts
There were many revelations along the way from be-
of her body that she doesn’t like without being a walk-
ing a body loather to a body lover, but the biggest was
realising that my body is not an ornament. Rather, it’s
It was at this moment I decided to not go ahead with
the vehicle to my dreams. Learning to love my body
the surgery. My greatest challenge came next: how to
from the inside out has made me unstoppable, and
love my body without surgery. How would I shift my
now I am, proudly, a body-image activist. I want to
mindset? I didn’t have the answers.
One day I was at the gym with my trainer and
It’s time for women to hang up the body hating, to
I said to her, “I wonder what it feels like to have a
start loving what nature has given them and to un-
perfect body?” She challenged me and asked, “Why
leash their inner desires.
don’t you find out? I will train you to do a sports figure competition.”
It’s time for a movement.
And so the social experiment began. I trained like an athlete for 15 weeks, dropping a significant amount of weight. I got my body back into a bikini. I looked good but surprisingly I didn’t feel much different. My body
TA RY N B R U M F I T T
was ripped and lean but mentally I was exhausted –
[ bodyimagemovement.com.au ]
how many relentless gym sessions, how much chicken and broccoli, could one woman endure?
JEN DAVIS B. 1978 AKRON, OHIO
Jen Davis is a New York based photographer. For the past eleven years she has been working on a series of Self-Portraitâ€™s dealing with issues regarding beauty, identity, and body image. She has also been exploring men as a subject, and is interested in investigating the idea of the relationship, both physical and psychological, with her camera. Her forthcoming book titled Eleven Years, published by Kehrer Verlag (Germany) will be released in the Spring of 2014 accompioned by her first solo show in New York City at ClampArt. She received an MFA from Yale University in 2008, and BA from Columbia College Chicago in 2002. Davisâ€™ work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions include shows at Viborg Kunsthal in Denmark and Galerie ENTRE in Paris. Her photographs are in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Sir Elton John Photography Collection, and The Library of Congress, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Cleveland Museum of Art among others. She has been featured in publications including Camera Austria, Aperture, Photography Quarterly, New York Times Lensblog, and PDN. Davis is represented by Lee Marks Fine Art and ClampArt. All photos courtesy of the artist and Lee Marks Fine Art, Shelbyville, IN and ClampArt, New York, NY. [ jendavisphoto.com ]
Aldo and I
Untitled No. 34
Tim and I
a story of sickness and personhood I share stories with my students. I share stories for a number of reasons; to pass time, to
Over years of attempting to tell the story of my body,
further endear the students to me, to give everyone a
I’ve most often been rewarded when I’ve positioned
break from our academic work. I also tell stories about
myself as unaffected, above the chaotic and unpre-
myself because by telling stories I’m able to take
dictable events of my life. When I talk about how I con-
hold of a human element within myself that becomes
tinued to ride my bicycle, teach, or be cheerfully resil-
obscured in the slog of high school. I’ve told stories
ient, people tell me I’m strong, that I’m handling all of
about my travels, about particularly eventful times
this so well, that if they were in my shoes they would
with my friends, about touching or edifying moments
be such a mess! My nurses and health care providers
in my romantic relationships.
were all so impressed with me when I was a charming, smiling person – they would visit with me, chat
The most powerful, most human story I have to tell,
about their days. I loved the attention and enjoyed the
however, rarely makes it into my classroom, or into my
time, but this new relationship also made it difficult
writing of any kind – describing it requires language I
for me to ask for help, to return to my role as patient.
don’t feel is available to me.
When I’ve attempted to delve into my experiences with my whole heart – into crying, empathic descriptions of procedures, even in private conversations –
How do I begin?
my listeners (with few exceptions) became uncomfortable, and I followed suit. I have also struggled to position myself in relation to
How do I translate to language something so intrinsic to who I am that it feels like family?
a story so integral to me. This initially took the form
For years I thought I struggled with the story of my
obligingly when I show scars, but they’re quick to
body because it was enormous and unwieldy. I have
move past how scary surgery can be. I wonder how
struggled to find confidence, the right language, the
much or what parts of my story a person would
right narrative position. I needed a narrative that felt
need to hear to make sense of the story of my
genuine to my experience, but much of the language
of not knowing where to start, but has evolved into not knowing what to say. There are no words I could call upon to cover what it was like for me. People cringe
available to me was cliché, culled from soap operas (or worse, parodies of soap operas), easily recognizable to my listeners but disingenuous and clunky on my tongue. I didn’t know what words to use. I was either a hero braving the storm, or a victim of circumstance to be pitied.
Ashley Richardson // Drifting
The process, which lasted no more than five minutes, has been
There it is: “my kidney failure.” The words feel totalizing and problematic; they don’t feel right.
one of my most persistent memories. At best, this tells an incomplete version of what happened. Where am I in this story? I have no authoritative presence, no agency here. On the other hand, telling my story differently, more genuinely, is an uphill
I have found that I am quick to name the concrete facts of my
battle. The conventional stories of sickness and health are so
experiences and omit what those experiences were like for
powerful that I lose my narrative footing when I attempt to
me. My stories are bursts of when they removed my tunneled
leave them behind.
hemodialysis catheter, which had been in place for twice as long as initially planned, the tech put a knee on my shoulder to
Yet it is beyond these clichés about sickness that I can find
gain leverage while he tried to pull the catheter from the scar
my voice to tell the story of my body. Although the dominant
tissue that had secured it to my jugular vein. On the fourth
narratives around chronic illness are changing, they remain
try, the last one before surgery he said, I felt the tug like grav-
narratives I want nothing to do with.
ity from my stomach to the top of my head before it broke free from my vein and pulled out of my shoulder.
Disability and illness are tinged with the fear of contagion, stigmatized, associated with weakness or emasculation.
I told the woman seated next to me that I understood not wanting blood drawn, not wanting the needle stick. That as much as I love these nurses, they do not understand. That sometimes the greatest struggles of organ failure are not the dramatic surgeries, strict diets, or a future riddled with complications, but braving the same small needle stick month
I don’t want my illness to overwhelm the rest of me, I am in
after month after month after month. I know this. This has
charge of the story of my body. I can choose the words, and
become a home for me.
consequently the meaning, when I talk about my illness. My struggle has not been with an enormous or unwieldy story, it
I still struggle to write about a story that, for me, is ongoing.
has been with the false choice between hero and tragedy. By
The stories I share with my students follow a conventional
challenging these dominant narratives I can distance myself
narrative arc, delivering a relatable message from a contained
from them and begin to create a more empowered sense of
set of events with a beginning, middle, and end. While seg-
what it means to be me.
ments of my story play well – I can share the arc of an incident, or a rough period that seems to resolve in the end – the
Here’s a story I’ve not yet shared with my students. About once
reality is that there will be no “end’ to this story – no cure
a month, I make a trip to my kidney clinic. I go to get my blood
– until my story is over and buried. Yet it is possible to move
levels checked, and sometimes to get a shot that helps me
beyond these conventions and tell the story of my body as it
make red blood cells. I enjoy the trips – the nurse I see is prac-
occurs to me, variable and changing, shedding the burden of
tically an old friend of mine. We joke with each other and talk
authority over who I am or what my life means.
about our lives. She knows what I mean when I tell her things. Last week, when I visited the clinic, a middle-aged woman was having her blood drawn the same time I was, and the four
K E V I N L A L LY
of us – two nurses and two patients – all bantered away in
[ mrkevinlally.blogspot.com ]
this small room. The woman talked slowly and laughed easily, and for a moment I wondered about her mental state. When she laughed she would leap out of her chair cackling, and slap her knee or bang on the wall. Her nurse was clearly having a hard time getting her to sit still and have her blood drawn. When she finally had the needle ready, the woman waved her off, her breath caught and she started crying. She hated needles, hated having her blood drawn, hated it. Her nurse asked questions about her life, her kids, helped her calm down. Meanwhile, I bared my arm and calmly watched my nurse slide the needle in and draw two vials of blood. ‘See!’ she said, ‘See how good he is?’ She was only half kidding.
No way, I thought.
GILDA LT B . 1 9 9 1 , M E X I C O C I T Y, M E X I C O
Gilda LT or Goo Chinaski is a Mexican amateur illustrator and writer who started creating in 2012 because school was too boring. She likes to celebrate eyebrows, music, movies and beauty in every moment (even when youâ€™re in a bath robe, watching Law & Order on Friday nights). She daydreams constantly about life. She draws her dreams in Copic markers.
[ goochinaski.tumblr.com ]
JULIA KOZERSKI B . 1 9 8 4 , M I LWAU K E E , W I
Julia Kozerski is an artist and photographer based out of Milwaukee, WI, having received her BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD.) Her work explores universal themes of beauty, body-image, and identity and has been exhibited internationally. Kozerski was recently published in PDN (Photo District News) magazine as part of the 2012 Photo Annual and has also received significant exposure online, having been highlighted in Fraction Magazine, on Lenscratch, as well as on the CNN Photos Blog.
[ juliakozerski.com ]
A R T I S T S TAT E M E N T
HALF By the time I had reached the age
the reality of what has resulted
of 25, I tipped the scales at 338
is quite the opposite. I wasn’t the
pounds. With a body mass index
same person I’d recognized for the
(BMI) of 49.9 percent, literally
previous 25 years of my life. I was
half of my body consisted of fat,
left with scars, stretch-marks and
and I was classified as “morbidly
sagging skin. I wasn’t who I was or
obese.” Throughout childhood
who I thought I wanted to be. My
and adolescence, my weight led
experience contradicts what the
me through spells of depression
media tends to portray. While it is
caused by associated physical
easy to celebrate and appreciate the
and emotional issues. For so long,
dramatic physical results of such
I wished nothing more than to
an endeavor, underneath the layers
physically be someone other than
of clothing and behind closed doors,
myself believing that doing so
quite a different reality exists.
would make me happier.
These photographs are self-
In December 2009 I decided to take
portraits. They serve as reflections
charge of my life and embarked
of my experience and address
upon my own self-directed, healthy-
and explore my physically and
living journey. Through calorie
emotionally painful, private
counting, focus on nutrition, portion
struggles with food, obsession,
control, and increased exercise, my
self-control, and self-image. These
efforts have resulted in a loss of
brutally honest images shed light
over 160 pounds. While I genuinely
on the truth of what it is like for me
believed that my hard work and
to live life as Half of myself.
dedication would transform me into that “perfect” person of my dreams,
SETH HANCOCK B. 1978, INDIANA
Seth Hancock is a commercial portrait and editorial photographer in New York City and Los Angeles. His work with clients ranges from magazines to advertising. He began his critically acclaimed project, 10 Minutes with a Stranger, in CA. Seth spends his time between New York City and Los Angeles with his wife and their Doberman Pinscher, Albert. [ sethhancock.com ]
burlesque I remember the day I started hating my body. It was the first day of third grade and I was wearing
After taking some years off from dance, I gained
the cutest dress. I was brand new, just having moved
weight. I still struggled with learning to love my
to a new state, and I was looking for new friends.
curves, but I was maturing and surrounding myself
Walking into the classroom, sitting down at my
with people who were positive and loved me, no
desk and starting to unpack, I glanced around the
questions asked. My family, husband and friends
room, taking everyone in. A sassy girl who had it all
were very encouraging and so I took a giant leap in my
together (already in 3rd grade), turned to me and said,
quest to love my body: I started performing burlesque.
“You have a roll when you sit down,” and pointed to
The first night that I performed burlesque, I was
my belly. Horrified, I immediately looked down and
terrified: I thought my body was wrong. Costuming
crossed my arms over myself, attempting to hide this
was not the problem; music was not the problem.
roll that I had never noticed before.
The problem was that everyone was going to see my
I then began comparing my arms, legs, neck—
body and tell me it was wrong. With the support of
all my body parts - to the girls around me, all of a
the women backstage, I performed and the audience
sudden judging myself harshly on how my body
cheered. It was a revelation: I had owned my body,
was all wrong.
owned who I was. I showed everyone that nothing was wrong with my body. What is so beautiful about
Thus began my journey of learning to love my body,
burlesque is that there is no wrong body, if you know
because at the age of 8 I already hated it.
what you can do with your body.
I grew up a dancer: ballet, tap, jazz, and pointe, in a
Burlesque was perfect for me in so many ways. It
typical small-town dance school. I loved it; I was never
provided an outlet that could combine my love
more free than when I was dancing. When I started
of dance, my sexuality, my love of costumes and
developing breasts and hips at a young age, I also
embracing my body. The first time I performed I
filled out everywhere else… and suddenly I was too big
was terrified that people would be judging my body,
to be a dancer. I was constantly looking around and
thinking I was too big. Once I hit that stage, nothing
comparing myself to these thin perfect ballerinas.
could stop me. I realized that I love my body. I love
Dance was no longer my escape; it had become what I
every curve, every fold, every mole, everything. The
needed to escape from. Bodies are your instrument in
confidence I had with my body made what my body
dance, and I hated mine.
looked like not even important.
Being Queenie von Curves has been a body therapy for me. I talk about Queenie in third person when I’m not in character. Some people think I’m nuts, but it’s refreshing to have Queenie, someone I can turn on and off. She is definitely who I am; it’s great to find a part of you that maybe you can’t release all the time. She is more confident, sexier, more outgoing and charismatic than I am on a regular basis. To be able to turn that on is a breath of fresh air, a freedom that I don’t have in daily life. It’s more than a performance to me. There is nothing wrong with Queenie’s body; all of us have days that we wake up and don’t like what we look like. Having Queenie in my life has enabled me to embrace who I am, and how my body is shaped. Since rediscovering my body confidence, I have joined a dance company, Ballet of the Dolls, which has the mission that everyone has the right to dance, regardless of age, size, race or gender. I never thought I would be a professional dancer, because I hated my body so much. Now, I love my instrument and I am again free. Through a long struggle, I have learned to embrace that roll, to love that roll. It’s OKAY to have that roll. (EVERYone has that roll when they sit down, everyone.) I encourage you to love that roll (or whatever part of your body that you don’t). Find your freedom; get naked and dance.
QUEENIE VON CURVES [ queenievoncurves.com ]
particpant reflection Like most people, I have struggled with body image issues. I feel self conscious about what others think about
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, however,
my body, I compare myself to others in both realistic
I absolutely had to start paying attention to my body:
and Photoshopped images, and I’ve questioned my
how it felt, what I ate, how it changed. I was prone to
own definitions of what is beautiful and healthy. My
rapid weight gain and loss, which prompted the most
own ideas and opinions have changed drastically
noticeable change of all: others constantly questioned
over time, however, from being heavily influenced by
me about my health, my body, and fluctuations in
cultural standards of beauty and “fitness” to actively
my appearance. People I barely knew felt entitled to
analyze my appearance, make assumptions about my health, and ask personal questions. They assumed
I want to share my story of becoming comfortable
that if I gained weight I wasn’t managing my diabetes
in my body because my experiences, how people
well, and therefore needed their helpful tips. For the
have judged based on my appearance and how that
most part, their assumptions were wrong: I was at my
treatment has changed as my body changed, will
least healthy when I was at my thinnest, which was a
inspire others to treat both themselves and others
fairly average weight.
with more compassion, love, and acceptance.
Around that time, I discovered the sex-positive and
For me, body image issues manifested themselves
body-positive communities which say that who you
in a disassociation from my body. I didn’t like it, so
are, what you desire, and what body you’re in are
I decided my physical form didn’t reflect me, wasn’t
all beautiful -- you don’t need to prod, analyze, or
important, and didn’t need to be cared for. As long as
diagnose them. These messages gave me the desire to
people weren’t looking at my body or talking about it,
project to others that I am comfortable in my body by
I could get by on my sardonic wit. My mother rarely
my own standards. The first time I scrolled through
said positive things about her body, and the concerns
the galleries of images on the Nu Project website,
she expressed about my health often manifested itself
entranced and happy, I knew I wanted to participate. It
in comments about my weight. I know she was well-
was an empowering experience: even though I knew
intentioned, but I also think that she set an unhealthy
at that time that ladies come in all shapes and sizes,
example for me on how I should relate to my body.
it was as if I’d never realized how many unique bodies there are because I hadn’t seen images of them.
The whole process was much easier and more relaxed than I thought it could possibly be. I didn’t even have to shave my legs or clean up my apartment!
in the early ‘90s, I’ve never modeled), but it was something I wanted to do for myself and for others. Although I knew that these pictures could make me vulnerable in the future, I didn’t even really feel naked during the shoot. Nude, sure, but not naked, with its connotations of vulnerability and shame! When you feel like just being in your body is enough to better society, it feels nice to be nude for a
Nude portraiture isn’t something I was feeling terribly
while. After the shoot was done, putting clothes on seemed
comfortable with (outside of a Fleet Farm ad for snow pants
like kind of a drag. If anything, participating in the Nu Project
made me feel more confident and comfortable than
When you feel comfortable in your body, when you
I had been before, and more invigorated to continue
love it for how it makes your life better, it’s an easy
spreading the message of body positivity.
step to loving how it looks in those jeans, feeling sexy with the lights on, finding self-confidence, and
We are fed such a limited scope of representations
becoming less-preoccupied with physical appearance.
of the female form: few are nudes, and even fewer
The Nu Project really does provide people with the
are as startlingly honest as the Nu Project’s. My
freedom to inhabit their bodies as they are and receive
conversations with Matt Blum have indicated that the
project stemmed from this very thought: you don’t see this kind of image very often.
Every cisgendered female with whom I’ve shared
It’s difficult to find nude portraits that are honest, not
the Nu Project’s photos has said that they felt better
posed, not trying to be overtly sexual, not trying to be
about their body after seeing these images. Every
sexy, demure, or “fierce.”
one. Sometimes, looking at the photos, I find beauty in a body that I maybe wouldn’t have noticed before,
This magazine is a fantastic vehicle for the body-
sometimes I see myself represented in various parts
positive movement and is something I genuinely hope
of the images. Every time, I see human beings who are
will reach every little girl growing up right now. We
just living in their bodies, loving them and inhabiting
need to send a better message to all women about how
them wholly. That’s a shockingly rare experience.
they should relate to their bodies.
Every body is beautiful. Learning to view bodies this way, as being inherently beautiful, will not happen overnight, but it is something that warrants our time, thought, and attention.
You never know a personâ€™s health, sanity, orientation, happiness, work ethic, or personality just by looking at them.
The Nu Project has done this thoughtfully and intentionally, affirming people and changing hearts and minds along the way. I am so excited to see this magazine go out and spread the word to the world! I hope this will prove people wrong and help others to check their assumptions when it comes to judging and objectifying other peopleâ€™s bodies.
Ever. SARAH MUELLER
surfacing I canâ€™t bloom freely in this arid landscape but my roots are deep and wide, burrowing into fertile ground far beneath the surface to gain strength and nourishment. From above I am unimpressive small green stems and leaves that are often eaten by predators but from below I am massive a complex network of roots that spans half a field a web of interconnected fibers that touches all of the life around me in this hidden place
JODY KRISTINE JOHNSON [ lulu.com/spotlight/gungajody ]
donna It’s terribly, inexplicably cold this winter and today is no exception. The air is -8 before any wind is
explains as she shows us around her
factored in and by the time we arrive
home, which is covered in the photos
at Donna’s house, our shoulders are
and textiles she has brought from a
shrugged up for protection, even in
the car. I’m grateful I’m not going to be the one in front of the camera.
The colorful images and textures reflect their owner’s frenetic energy.
Donna throws open her door dressed
Now that she has the time to do what
in a robe, talking fast because she
she wants, she seems determined to
can’t hold it in. She just came from a
fill every moment with conversation
dance class; she had to do something
and movement. She laughs easily and
with her nervous energy.
often. Contagiously. It’s one of those
“Is there a plan?” she wants to know. Matt assures her that he’ll
laughs that you want to join, even just to show that you’re listening.
give suggestions and direction, but
Donna offers us her wisdom about
the poses will be her own. We’re
body image: “There’s so much more to
listening to reggae, which she does
experience than how you look. It’s all
on cold days to make everything feel
about attitude. Willingness to be open
warmer. It helps, but so do the heated
and free--confidence and acceptance
floors in her kitchen and the nip of
makes you attractive.” She’s right, of
bourbon she sips at the suggestion of
course. I know that, but for now I will
stay huddled in my scarf and hat and
It wasn’t a question of “should” she pose, she says. Once she heard of the project, timing was the only factor.
body-swamping sweatshirt. Maybe until spring. Or summer. Or next year... Or when I’m 67.
Sixty-seven years old, Donna is a recently retired pediatrician, using her
K AT Y K E S S L E R
newfound time to do adventure travel.
Editor, and Art Director
“My life is my own now,” she
The Nu Project
la petite mort La Petite Mort Means a little Death the space between After we make love. A string of pearls hangs loosely by my window turning the sunlight into mauves and blues. I have had the blues The sweet, dark waves that come at night Whispering my sadness to me Turning it dull. I have had the mauves The hand holding coffees and the cheap red wine on my lips after a kiss. In the dark I reach for your hand And sometimes I find it. La Petite Mort means A little death
Matt Blum // The Nu Project
naked with mask BE R L I N. JA N UA RY 2014 .
I begin to feel like a caged animal in this apartment of ours; I see myself pacing like the troubled polar bear back
If you are, at first, lonely, be patient. If you’ve not been
home at the Como Zoo, taking my laptop to the kitch-
alone much, or if, when you were, you weren’t okay
en to work for a few semi-productive hours, retracing
with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone,
my path to the same seat I always take at the dining
once you’re embracing it.
room table. My girls are at school; my husband, Mark,
Watching it I saw a woman who finds joy in being
is in the apartment but behind a closed door, holed up
alone, who has learned how to move in the world, who
with piano, laptop, and opera recordings. There are no
is comfortable in her own skin. Within a minute of
coworkers here to distract me, no one who might lin-
watching I found that I admired her fiercely.
ger with me by the coffee pot, talk about the weekend.
I told Mark when I first got to know him, “I like how
This aloneness can get to be a bit much.
you’re free with your body,” and he was quick to dis-
Last night by chance I saw a most astonishing video
agree, but I don’t think he knew what I meant. It was
based on a poem by Tanya Davis called “How to be
the way he could leave the table and lie down on the
alone.” Her words seemed to have been written for me:
floor after dinner with friends, and somehow it wasn’t
a rude act; he was comfortable, he was tired, and he trusted
boarded and read the first chapter of my new book, Avenida
us not to judge him. I admired how he was not constrained by
Errázuriz: Fünf Romane, die kein Ende finden (Five novels that
what others might think.
find no end). My German wasn’t good enough for me to understand most of what I read, but that was beside the point. I was
I haven’t ever felt comfortable in my own skin. Maybe that’s
thrilled that this small book was in my hands, that I’d found it
why I’m drawn to rowing. I like the boundaries of the move-
myself, that I lived in a city where they sell books in vending
ments in a shell on the water. Someday I want to own a single I
can handle from the boathouse to the water, to know that I can arrive alone and launch alone, on days when I know others are
In our apartment, too often, I do not allow myself to truly be
already out on the river, should I run into trouble. I want this
alone. “Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone,” says
Davis; with me it’s the urge to hang out with my laptop. I read an interview with author Cheryl Strayed in which her inter-
Tonight is “Naked with Mask” night at the men’s club around
viewer said, “If someone died each time I checked my inbox,
the corner. The closest establishment to our apartment build-
there would be no one left,” and Strayed replied, “The whole
ing is a brothel; this place is right next door. Even my sev-
planet would be dead if someone died every time either one of
en-year old knows that Thursdays are “Naked with Mask”
us checked our email.” And I recognized myself in that ex-
night. They have a different dress code every night, updated
change, my eagerness for the next email from home, though
daily like a restaurant’s menu, all variations on a theme: Na-
waiting for what, I couldn’t say.
ked with Underwear Party, Naked with Shoes, Naked with
A line from a Sting song runs through my head every time I
Mask. Talk about being free with your body.
publish a post, “You’ll still know nothing ’bout me,” but I won-
The boathouse showers at the Wannsee are communal. I have
der if that can be true anymore when a friend writes and tells
never been naked in front of anyone, really, and now I am on a
me that reading my sabbatical-year blog is like having “an
weekly basis. It doesn’t make me free with my body, but seeing
entrance card to your being.” Perhaps I’ve posted too many
others more accustomed to nudity shows me how it looks to
self-published essays not to be known.
be comfortable with yourself, not afraid to stand there in all your imperfect glory. I think of a visiting rower from Italy who joined us for a row last month; the showers were full so she
Maybe, after all, I’m really just naked with mask for all to see, the mask— of being in another time zone, of not knowing most of the readers of my blog, of having no chance of seeing those I do know for months—giving me the illusion of being invisible.
stood to the side and waited, her towel nowhere near, so casual, leaning against the doorframe. She just lingered, waiting her turn, alone among mostly strangers, nude and relaxed. I was the one with the towel clutched around me until the last moment, fumbling with my toiletries, striving to show this was no big deal, denying myself the possibility of being comfortable. Free with my body, I am not. But free has other meanings too, and I think one of my happiest moments in Berlin so far occurred when I was alone and allowed myself the space to move freely. I was waiting at the
But I begin to care less, I think, in the best sense. Maybe there
S-Bahn station at Rathaus Steglitz, looking around, enjoying
will come a day when I’m the one at the edge of the showers,
the quiet and anonymity of waiting for the train, when I no-
waiting my turn, my towel in a heap on the bench, the vain
ticed, in the vending machine beside me, something curious.
fear of exposure far from my thoughts.
Among the pretzels and Twix bars and candies was a row of small, yellow books offered for sale for a euro apiece. I took a picture of the books and put my camera back in my bag, but as I began to walk away I thought, what’s in that book? Where did it come from? What is it doing here? Excited, I dug out my
wallet, found the correct change, dropped five 20-cent pieces
[ jmazlostinberlin.wordpress.com ]
into the slot. The coil spun around and the front book slipped to the bottom. I was filled with wonder and happiness as I
Matt Blum // The Nu Project
YASMIN COLLINS B. 1991, PORTSMOUTH, UK
Yasmin Collins is based in Portsmouth & London. She has graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a BA (Hons) in Photography, 1st class honours. Her passion is social documentary, capturing the every day lives of her subjects, whatever that may be. AWA R D S :
‘Diversity Photographer of the Year’ Winner. Portsmouth. 2012 ‘Change it’ Judges Winner. London. 2009. ‘Change it’ Nomination Winner. London 2009. [ yasmincollinsphotography.format.com ]
Alexandra and Lucy in Bed from the series All Love Is Love
Untitled from the series Prime
ASHLEY RICHARDSON B. 1988 ROBBI NSDA L E , M N
Ashley Richardson is an Indianapolis based artist who works primarily in photography. She graduated in May of 2013 with a BFA degree from the Herron School of Art & Design and hopes to attend graduate school in the near future. Her themes are often ethereal and focus on questioning reality. That which often challenges the idea of ground and gravity is a common theme within her work. Ashley enjoys experimenting with the traditional methods of darkroom printing and newly found double-exposure Polaroids, as well as book-making and painting.
[ arichphotography.zenfolio.com ]
Mother Nature I
Mother Nature II
walking the line “Ponies, unicorns, dolphins, and rainbows.” I have a sense of precarious balance when it comes
But then she went to preschool. Or maybe it was just
to gender and body issues with my children. As an
turning four. Or maybe I let her listen to too many
ardent and lifelong feminist, I expect this would have
Broadway soundtracks, or there was that one time
been true regardless of the gender of my kids, but as
I let her watch Snow White – anyway, whatever
it happened, I had two girls. Two beautiful, interesting,
the reason, Ellie was now totally into the whole
hilarious, wonderful girls who regularly pluck the
glitterlicious girl complex. Asked what she wanted for
heart right out of my body and then put it back in, two
decorations on her 5th birthday cake, she said, and
sizes larger than it was before. You know, like kids do.
I quote, “ponies, unicorns, dolphins, and rainbows,”
Not to get all goopy on you, but it really is my privilege
which is the girliest thing I’ve ever heard, and also
to be their mother. It is also scary as hell.
happens to be a comprehensive list of the contents of my 5th grade puffy-sticker album. It wasn’t a gradual
Scarier than that, even. Like, imagine a deep booming
transformation, either. It was nearly instantaneous
voice and massive reverb: SCARY (scary … scary …) AS
- from tomboy to Princess Ellie in a matter of days. I
(as … as …) HELLL (hellll … helllllllll …). Because what
am doing this wrong, I thought. Susan B. Anthony is
if I fuck it up? What if they hate their faces, or develop
turning in her grave.
eating disorders, or vote Republican?!?!!! So many
I’ve talked with friends of mine who have girls the
ways to fail, so little time.
same age, and we’re all in the same quandary. On the
I was lucky for a while; for the first four years of her
one hand: Feminism! Woman power! Realistic body
life my eldest, Ellie, was completely uninterested in
images! Fuck the patriarchy! And so forth! But on the
all things pink and princessy. She didn’t dislike them;
other hand: Choice! Support kids for who they are!
she just didn’t really care. Her favorite activities were
Embrace multiplicity! Sure, Barbie makes me fucking
drawing (mostly monsters), alerting every person
uncomfortable on every level, but if that’s where my
she encountered that they were her best personal
kid is right now who am I to say that’s wrong?
friend, and going to the zoo. Her first four Halloween costumes were, respectively, a ladybug, Yoda, a
That strangled sound you’re hearing right about now
cowboy (cowBOY, not cowgirl), and a tornado.
would be my mother choking on the words “You’re her
Creative? Hell, yes. Girly? Not so much. I did
PARENT, that’s who!”
occasionally wish she’d let me dress her up in one of
When I was growing up, there were lots of things
the quintillion sweet outfits we’d gotten as gifts when
that were off limits in our house for specifically
the word went out we had a girl baby. Mostly, though,
feminist reasons. We weren’t allowed to watch The
I was proud. I am doing this right, I thought. Feminist
Flintstones or The Jetsons, for example, because of the
mamas for the win!
problematic way they represented the role of women
in the family. (TV in general was both rationed and heavily
garment skimpiness, and overall bustitude. It makes me feel
weighted toward PBS.) I was a Brownie, which in the 70s meant
better.) I’ll let the girls watch Tangled and Cinderella and The
wearing a micro-mini tunic for your uniform … unless you lived
Little Mermaid until they have the complete score memorized
at my house, in which case you had to wear pants underneath,
(with dance moves!), but The Biggest Loser will air in this house
because self-respect. (My eight-year-old self thought that was
over my dead, fat body. I’ll talk with them about feminism and
soooooo lame.) And Barbies?
self-respect and kindness and empowerment until their eyes roll back in their heads. I will strongly encourage them to read
Well, Barbies were RIGHT. OUT. Dolls were okay, and my sister
Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett and Maud Hart
and I could – and did – play dress-up queens and princesses to
Lovelace, and I will pitch the mother of all fits if they read Ayn
our hearts’ content.
Rand. (Or at least, if they read her uncritically.)
Fairy tales in general were encouraged; the first book I ever
I will happily embrace life partners of any race, color, creed,
memorized was a little golden book version of Disney’s
gender, or ethnicity, but if they vote conservative I might have
Cinderella, which, you know, isn’t exactly the most feminist
an aneurysm. And, of course, I reserve the right to redraw those
story in the history of the universe. But the closest I ever got
lines whenever I see fit, because I’m still figuring this parenting
to a Barbie was a Princess Leia doll, who, though stacked, was
tightrope out, dammit, and I might need to reroute myself
deemed acceptable because a) She had flat feet like a normal
person, and b) Hello! Princess Leia is the shit! I loved that Leia doll, don’t get me wrong, but I also deeply yearned for a Barbie
We will take our “ponies, unicorns, dolphins and rainbows” in
doll. So while I totally and completely got why they were off
stride, just as we will ride out the inevitable body-piercing/tree-
limits, and my mom was really good about explaining exactly
why she wouldn’t let me get one, I’m pretty sure that they were
nihilist phases of later years. We will endeavor to be neither rigid
far more important to me than they would have been if they
nor so open-minded that our brains fall out our ears. Probably we
hadn’t been forbidden fruit.
will fail a lot. For today, though, I’m just
In this world of pink and blue toy aisles, regular legos and “Lego
going to do my level best to help my girls love their sweet bodies
for Girls,” “sexy” Halloween costumes for tweens and high heels
inside and outside, tall or short, chubby or slight, graceful or
for first graders, what’s a feminist, body-positive, fairy-tale-loving
clumsy, princess or tomboy. And they will keep doing their level
mama to do? Shun popular culture and forbid all things televised
best to pluck the heart right out of my body and then put it back
and disney-fied? That works for some people, but, frankly, my
in, two sizes larger than it was before.
husband and I enjoy pop-culture, television, and even Disney, too much to make that a viable proposition in our house. I’d rather teach my girls to navigate this sexist world than try and
hide them from it. But where to draw the line? Jetsons and
[ EliseRobinson.com ]
Flintstones are easy enough to ban, but what about the powerfulyet-revealingly-attired Wonder Woman and Supergirl? The nauseatingly rainbow My Little Ponies? Do I encourage a love of ballet and gymnastics, or do I limit their options to martial arts and hockey? Do we paint our nails? Wear the color pink? Learn how to apply makeup? Can I find a way to resist harmful gender messages in a culture wholly saturated in them? I guess what it comes down to is that we all draw our lines where we’re comfortable drawing them. And if we’re conscientious about morals but also sensitive to cultural pressures, that can result in some pretty damned arbitrary lines. So: in our house, Barbies are a non-starter, but the Disney Princess dolls are okay. (A completely irrational distinction that I rationalize based on a complex algorithm of relative makeup heaviness,
vermont woman I am the blue-green edge Between the cloud and mountain.
I am the young man’s dreams
The fog rolling from the dark valley, pressed
And the old man’s memories,
Against summer hills.
The liquid of tears and desire
The streams running silver over their stones, bearing
And of milk letting from the turgid nipple-
Light and clearness to the smallest grain of color
As smooth as sex and warm skin and
Between the shadows of slim, quick trout.
The shine in a lover’s eye.
The quiver of bird song in afternoon meadows where Seeded blooms droop in the yellow haze and the fox
I am the soil of blue slate under the mountain
Smiles over her shoulder as she moves away, weightless
And the yellow sandstone of lake cliffs.
And tail straight.
I taste of grit and strength, Smell of new bread and death,
I am plowed land,
Rich for corn and wheat,
Fresh-cut hay in windrows,
Thin for juniper and cedar.
Tender corn in clean aisles, The pear tree’s swarm, a fuzzy, golden cell of the hive.
I wear rows of elms like a bone necklace, I am the sweet in a bud of red clover And I am its long, noduled roots.
I am the face of a milkweed flower, pregnant with vulva Mauve mandalas. I sleep naked under the rising moon,
I am the choreography of a mare and her foal.
Taste grain in the field, warm and nutty,
The dance of the crane.
Stand where the continent slides under the sea,
I am the tang of raspberries
Salt on my tongue.
And the bitter of pine crying in the close and lonely wood. The dark shine of my hair has turned silver and My soul whispers elder, but my heart cries crone.
I am my grandmother’s hands, Soft and brown and winkled-working hands and holding. I am the flowers they have grown, the food made, the babies
I am the brave in a mother’s good-by smile and in her
Held against her, humming and rocking to their fiddle touch.
I am the up and down rhythm of the French in my grandfather’s voice,
I am the wish for you to walk in light,
A guide for my daughters, a sister to my friends,
Holding the hands of one another,
The first woman of my sons
Tasting joy and feeling what there is to feel.
I am the clean sweat of your labor And the sigh in your sleep.
K AT H L E E N A N G I E R
The ache in the throat of sorry,
[ livingonnaturaltime.blogspot.com ]
The calm of death after a struggle And the warmth in the crease of an infant’s neck.
KENNETH SORTLANDMYKLEBUST B . 1 9 8 8 , F R E D R I K S TA D , N O R WAY
Kenneth Sortland Myklebust, a Norwegian photographer from Oslo, Norway, is the creator and executor of the 1000BodiesProject. From 2007-2013, he worked at Kolonihaven Studio in central Oslo, focusing mainly on photographing people, with or without clothes. In September 2013, Kenneth moved to Edinburgh, UK, where he is currently working in a video production company. [ 1000bodiesproject.com ]
And so, you beautiful gems, this ends our transmission. Many thanks to the generous contributors, our skillful editors, and you, of course, for reading.
For more goodness, please visit us online at thenuproject.com
See you soon! Katy, Matt + The Nu Project Team
The Nu Project ÂŠ 2016 All rights reserved
Visual art, poetry and prose with contributions from The Nu Project and friends. Theme: The Human Experience.