At the center of my art practice stands the feminine body.

 

In photographic scenes I create, this body is oppressed, almost handicapped and imprisoned in a restrictive space. In doing so, I contradict traditional perception and conventions that reference the nude feminine body as a symbol of beauty, an object of contemplation and a source of pleasure.

The genre of erotic photography which emerged in the early 1840's serves me as a major source of inspiration.  Shortly after the birth of photography (1839), images of nude women were produced and distributed under the pretext of academic study for painters, who could not finance the cost of a live model. In fact, these images were to respond to the need of  men individuals among a growing social class-the bourgeoisie, who purchased these images for the simple pleasure of looking at 'real' nude women. Looking at this erotic imagery nowadays, provoke questions about conventions of beauty then and today. These images of rounded women, posing naked in front of a male photographer, encouraged me to explore both positions - the photographer and the model. Therefore, a large part of my work is based on self portraits. Exchanging identities and shifting between the masculine (male photographer) and the feminine (female nude model), serves me in examining the relationship between sexes, and disordering traditional man-woman hierarchy. Other than myself, I collaborate with a small circle of non-professional models, with whom I have a close friendship that allows continuous and prolific research. The photo-sessions are usually held at the studio, and the work is based on sketches, references and texts that I find inspiring. Since my work is rooted in historical imagery, I find it essential to accomplish the entire photographic process in it's traditional mode. Hence, the images are hand-printed  silver-prints in a relatively small size.

As a reaction to today's social tyranny, regarding standards of beauty and femininity, many of my photographs present pain and suffering. I represent the female nude body devoid of grace, utilizing meticulous and pitiless points of view and I fashion imagery that oscillate between tragic, comic and grotesque situations. Contrary to conservative expectations when viewing the feminine nude, the result is disturbing, elusive, with images that seek to intrigue and startle the viewer.

 

Shani Nahmias

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