What is "She's Not From Around Here?"

 

This project, “She’s Not From Around Here,” began in March 2006. Its purpose has been to photograph women in a way that shows their strength, confidence, and sensuality. To accomplish this, my partner, Elizabeth, and I decided that we wanted to present these women in cultural contexts that were alien to Americans, but had hints of the familiar. We intentionally mixed cultural artifacts in order to create an ambiguous and unknowable context through which we could view these women. The mixing of Native American with East Asian in some photos, for example, was not an error, but done deliberately in order to enhance the effect of their not being “from around here” or anywhere else you have ever been.

The women who volunteered for this project each had a story to tell and a history that they brought to the shoot. We met with each one before the shoot to search out an angle to use in their sitting. We generally went into these meetings without any preconceived notion of what the final result would be. Through our conversation with each woman, a character was developed for our photographs that reflected the model’s personality, background, and inner strength.

 

This project was a new experience for all of the models we used. Some were experienced models, some were not. In each case, they went away from the photo session feeling that they had experienced something unique. Some liked the theatrical, almost fantasy, aspect of the shoot. Others told us that they experienced a euphoric state within which an unexpected part of them emerged. A few even said that the event was life changing.

 

We have been asked on several occasions by people who have seen exhibits of this work, “What was the point of the nudity.” Some have been offended by it. Others objected on political grounds; nudity is inherently exploitive. Such reactions further emphasize our purpose in this project: to present an image of women that transcend those stereotypical reactions. By placing the contexts outside an identifiable culture, we are saying that it is possible for women to celebrate their bodies as one of the sources of their strengths. Scars of childbirth or early childhood accidents should not be hidden, but honored as part of who these women are. Unfortunately, that is not possible in our present day American culture, where being “naked” is associated with shame or exploitation. And perhaps that was the life changing experience about which some of our participants referred.

 

These women, from God knows where, present an image of strength not weakness, pride not shame, and honor not exploitation. They project sensuality as a part of who they are, not as someone wants them to be or society tells them to be.

Thanks to T. Quaintance Johnson for supplying many of the Native American artifacts. He also made several of the forged metal jewelry seen in some images.