Τετάρτη, 2 Σεπτεμβρίου 2009

Petals a journey to self discovery at Kos International Film festival

Τεταρτη 2 Σεπτεμβρίου Μεταμεσονυχτα προβολη στις 00.15 ΣΙΝΕ ΟΡΦΕΑΣ Χειμερινος Petals – Journey into Self Discovery is a remarkable video documentary that both examines and questions the many unspoken myths about the appearance and nature of women's sexual organs. The essence of a woman's sexuality -- her vulva – has been a taboo subject of depiction by cultures locked into fear of our basic physical nature. These deep-seated beliefs directly affect sexual self-esteem. The movie records the reactions of sex educators, women's health professionals, art critics, female activists, as well as the man/woman-in-the-street as they confront the physical mystery of womanhood.Photographer Nick Karras http://nickkarras.com/ has composed images with an unusual visual and emotional sensitivity.

the makers of Petals: Journey Into Self Discovery at the 2008 Port Townsend Film Festival. This interview is in partnership with mf magazine and the European Weekly.

The documentary follows his intimate journey as he produces a book of artful photographs. His subtle black and white photographs discover the delicate beauty in the infinite variety of female genitals, inspiring a profound sense of wonder and awe. Quite different from conventional sexual expectations, the film is continually revealing. Unforgettable women became his guides and teachers – Betty Dodson, the legendary leader pioneer of women's sexual liberation, Dr. Linda Savage, a published cultural anthropologist, Ina laughing Winds, a teacher of shamanic sexual traditions, Sarah Mundy, a young woman with a website dedicated to the glories of the vagina. and many other dynamic women. They joined him in confronting both the current fears and timeless beauty found in a woman's most basic sexual nature. While recording evolving insights into this sensitive subject, the filmmakers were continually challenged to go more deeply into personal histories of the women interviewed. These stories uncovered both personal trauma and unfamiliar pleasures as forbidden cultural attitudes were unblocked by an honest display of women's genitalia. This lucid documentary by Beck Peacock -- 2008 winner of the Sexual Intelligence Award -- examines the many issues reported by women as they attempt to discover beauty and pride in the most sacred part of themselves.
The Petals video is 48 minutes in duration, a desirable length for classroom of group presentations. The video includes BONUS FEATURES; resourceful and engaging sex education tools: • Betty Dodson PhD, a legendary teacher, highlights a lifetime of her art and sexual teaching experiences recorded at the Erotica Arts Festival in Victoria B.C. • Ina Laughing Windssillustrates a unique insight into the sexual nature of the female body found in the practical wisdom of the ancient & native traditions. • Linda Savage PhD provides an authoritative historical perspective into the sexual wisdom and rituals found in honoring the feminine. • 48 Petals Images by Nick Karras found in his book Petals.This we guarantee: The discussion that you will have after viewing this film, with either personally a love partner or in a group situation, will be like none other you've ever had!
AN INTERVIEW: NICK KARRASwith Richard Beck Peacock
BP: Vaginas are so richly graced with color. Why did you choose to shoot this subject in black-and-white?
NK: There’s nothing more colorful than nature’s landscapes. However Ansel Adams shot his mountains of Yosemite and other vistas of the West in black-and-white. And Edward Weston chose black-and–white for his nudes. Someone once said that black-and-white photography is like reading: the reader supplies the color and other sensations. That’s part of its peculiar enjoyment.
BP: Did you first experiment with color?
NK: Yes, and I didn’t like it. Depending on your intentions, color is an overload with some subjects, a distraction in a way. The vulva is almost too powerful when shot in color – to me it suggests pornography. It can be too real. The viewer gets drawn into a purely sexual response to the subject. That isn’t what I was aiming for here. In my research I noticed that women looking at similar material would hurry through brightly lit, full color shots of vaginas, yet they tended to slow down and study black-and-white photos. Perhaps color unconsciously registers as vulnerability and it’s scary. I suspect that one is inclined to be overwhelmed by the vibrant shades of vaginas and not pay attention to their exquisite lines and other subtle physical characteristics.
BP: So your intent was to create a different aesthetic?
NK: Not at the start. I discovered my motive as the work developed. There’s much more depth in black and white. This mode of photography plays in the gray scale from white to black. You use these values to create separation and depth. Black-and-white renders those qualities very strongly. When I worked on the prints, I was much more aware of the contours and composition of each woman’s pussy – its solemnity.
BP: Your work, however, is actually presented in a sepia tone.
NK: True, I shot them with black and white film but then toned them more softly. I think that pure black and white, for this subject, is a bit harsh. Sepia is softer. This tone also creates a more suitable and thoughtful distance.
BP: What were some intimidating issues in doing the book?
NK: The biggest problem was creating a work that distanced itself from pornography. I found that most women didn’t like seeing themselves or others in photography that looks raw. When I first started shooting, the results were unsatisfactory. I wasn’t using lighting to the best advantage. But after much playing with the different elements – the right paper, tone, and texture – the results were fascinating. It was a big learning curve for me.
BP: What about criticism that argues against objectifying the female body by showing only its most private part?
NK: The same general critique was made of a photographic show by the late Irving Penn at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In his erotic nude series, Penn beautifully portrayed only limited angles of the female body, yet every photo conveys an essential truth about each woman photographed. There’s a time, place, and situation for deconstruction. For two hours on stage in The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler presents women’s pussies (her term) as its sole subject – not women’s educational accomplishments, maternal concerns, or aesthetics of fashion. She has been applauded for her contribution to female consciousness, and rightly so.
BP: How did this whole project start for you? What inspired you?
NK: It’s an interesting story. As an adolescent, I picked up a girly magazine and there was one very unusual picture in it – a shot from behind of a nude woman showing her vagina, one with unusually long lips. I was enchanted. I cut out the picture and carried it in my wallet for years. It was always a sure-fire turn on for me. Eventually the faded photo finally just fell apart! But in the back of my mind I looked for a woman with that configuration from then on.
BP: An unusual search.
NK: I suppose so. I never found such a one until an important lover entered my life, many years later. The first time I saw her naked I was totally infatuated. But it was frustrating because I didn’t feel free to compliment her on the look and shape of her pussy. I couldn’t say, “Gee, you have wonderfully large lips.”
BP: Of course the reverse is not true, if a man is well endowed, a lot of women wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Wow, I really love the shape and size of your cock.”
NK: So true. I felt blessed being with this lover. I was totally enamored by her full lips. But I never said anything to her. Finally I couldn’t hold back my visual delight. She would emphatically indicate that this was not a subject that she wanted to talk about. Finally she told me the saddest story; when she was fifteen years old her dislike for the lips of her vagina was so strong that she called a doctor to see if he would remove them. Luckily, the doctor said, “Young lady, don’t do anything. Wait for ten years and if you still feel the same way, call back.” As the years went by, if a lover would make any reference to the look of her vagina, she would invariably still take it negatively.
BP: How did she break out of that self-deprecating mode?
NK: I soon realized that it was hard for her to envision herself as I did. So with my camera, I put my focus there. I shot a lot of what I thought was beautiful erotic photography. Every now and then, when she got a little daring I would ask her if I could show her, by means of my photography, what I saw – the unique beauty of her womanhood. It didn’t work at first. I photographed her every which way, but could never capture exactly what I saw. And she liked nothing that I shot. But I stayed with it. If my art form was to have any credibility, I felt that I had to translate onto film the visual image that always struck me as something quite beautiful. One day I finally got it! I lovingly toned the photograph in the dark room and then showed the picture to her. Amazed, she smiled, “Now that’s pretty, in fact that’s very sexy!” At last, she really got to see what I see.
BP: Where did it go from there?NK: The simple truth is that because she was proud of the pictures of her genitals she allowed me to show them to a few select people. In letting other women and couples look at the photos, they got the idea of what I was after in my work. And so other women were eager to discover through photography what they had concealed for so long.
BP: Was your lover a help to you in pushing the project forward?
NK: Yes. She was my first inspiration. Her encouragement allowed me to explore the subject more fully. She always stimulated me with new ideas and gave practical help by making women feel comfortable. It turned out to be sort of an underground sisterhood.
BP: Men have always been enamored with graphic images of a woman’s body, what did women seem to discover in these images?
NK: I found that most women are secretly very interested. It’s amazing because I’ve shown the pictures to many who said they’ve never really seen another woman’s vagina. Unlike guys, women rarely see what another female really looks like -- except for a tuft of hair -- because of the very physiological location of their genitals. They really become fascinated with the variety of configurations when seen at such close range.
BP: Is it a positive reaction?
NK: Yes. Women love to talk about sex. And after viewing this collection, I’ve noticed that women become increasingly curious about each other’s genitals. They either say, “Oh God, I thought we all looked the same”, or they say, “Oh God, I thought I was abnormal but that one looks a lot like mine.” That level of the conversation is healthy, I believe.
BP: How did you actually arrange the photo sessions?
NK: It varied. If the woman’s husband or partner were present, I asked if he would want to be part of the process. Usually the man would welcome the situation because he knew her body so well and it felt safe. It was interesting to hear him describe the intimate sexual geography of his lover. A caring man cherishes and, in a sense, protects that part of his woman’s body. As a rule, men get lost in women. It amazes me that some women don’t quite understand that.
BP: You must have had an interesting array of shooting situations.
NK: Every photo in the book has a different story. Actually, the women who were photographed here became my strongest advocates. Typically a woman would tell her friends at work about her night in front of the camera and they became excited, perhaps challenged, then wanted to be photographed. That’s how a lot of it went – word of mouth. It’s a big step, but I’ve found out that almost all women love the camera. They truly seem to enjoy the attention inherent in photography.
BP: What was the essential challenge for these women?
NK: In these photo situations, I’m asking her not just to take her clothes off, but to fully expose her most intimate feminine self. But just because a woman opens her legs doesn’t mean her genitals are fully expressed. When a woman is doing the routine things of life, her genitals are in neutral, so to speak. As she gets turned on, all of the vagina’s hidden shapes gradually appear and take on new definition. Whatever her previous personality, it now changes. What is so interesting to me in these pictures is that women are willing to reveal themselves so honestly.
BP: That’s a pretty basic place to start.
NK: It was a wonderful place to start. It allowed me to experiment with many photographic techniques. Even more, I learned a lot about women. Many women would freely tell me about the most basic feelings relating to their genitals. Each person had her own special language to describe, for example, the nature of her arousal and sexual satisfaction.
BP: And each vaginal expression is different.
NK: Absolutely, as you can see in the photos. Every woman is truly unique and, one could say, her singularity starts here.
BP: Were there surprises for you during the project?
NK: To be specific, I was surprised that so many women shave. Some women seem to think that hair makes their vulva unattractive. Personally, I like the variety of hair patterns; visually it’s very interesting. But aesthetics of the body are always changing.
BP: Are some photographs more interesting than others for you?
NK: One woman I interviewed after she studied the pictures said that it’s like looking at faces. It’s true. There’s such a distinct personality in each one. Moreover, I’ve come to believe that the woman who is proud of her vagina also tends to reflect that confidence in the rest of her personhood.
BP: That’s saying a lot.
NK: True, but I have sensed that a woman’s attitude toward her vagina – I mean how she feels when she actually looks at herself – gets translated into how she functions in her world. I can’t prove this of course. But certainly research tells us that a healthy attitude toward sex is generally matched by a robust sense of well-being. I didn’t go into this activity with any preconceived opinions, but I’ve come out of the experience with many new realizations about the importance of how women perceive themselves physically, especially at that special place of my camera’s interest.

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