Presented in an extra large format clothbound hardcover book, Iselin by Massimo Leardini is the results of a two year collaboration with the photographer’s longterm muse, the Norwegian model Iselin Vollen Steiro.
In an accompanying text, the feminist writer Madeleine Shultz questions how artists should approach photographing naked women in a post #MeToo era? Postulating that women’s bodies are not a problem in themselves. Rather, it is those who take women’s bodies from them and turn them into something artificial or into the property of others.
As Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex, “The body is not a thing, it is a situation, it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project.” In my opinion, Massimo immerses himself in that sketch. It may seem simplistic to read interpret feminist philosophy in the work of a male photographer, but in my experience there is little that is simplistic about Massimo’s work. Just as there is little that is simplistic about women’s experiences of their bodies.
That Leardini is a white, heterosexual man who gazes at naked female bodies through a camera lens, not with desire or to exalt us, but for precisely the opposite reasons – to take womens’ bodies out of a sexualised setting and give them an obvious place in the world – is not just unique but also important.
It is precisely now, in this post-#MeToo era, that these images become even more relevant. Because nudity is not the same as sexuality and the body is not dangerous in and of itself. The body is simply the medium that enables us to live in the world. A body as a form or situation in a composition with nature says something essential about things that many of us have forgotten: That we are in fact more than a body. That we belong to something greater than ourselves. Not only to other people, but also to nature. That the eyes doing the glimpsing belong to a man and that the body is that of a woman makes this project a significant contribution to the ongoing conversation about what the body is today.
” THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS FOR A BODY TO BE A BODY, AND SEVERAL WAYS FOR CONSCIOUSNESS TO BE CONSCIOUSNESS “. – Maurice Merleau-Ponty