Aqua Femina: An Ongoing Personal Project (NSFW)

Personal beauty is a greater recommendation than any letter of reference.” ~ Aristotle

Since very early in my photographic journey, I’ve had an interest in taking women’s portraits in watery environments. It started out as the classic ‘bikini on the beach’ shots that many photographers take and, later, evolved into what I came to call “river glam”. They were, of course, expressions of outward beauty with a measure of sex appeal. While I enjoyed crafting these mixed lighting glamour portraits, they started to appear cliché in very short order. After all, they were all about the beauty on the surface and little else. Despite Aristotle’s assertion, sometime last year I came to the realisation that there could be more to my creating images of women in water than common glamour.

I’ve long been a fan of trying to convey some sense of a person’s personality in a portrait – their inner beauty, their spirit, who they actually are – more than simply capturing their outward appearance. After all, that IS the goal of a portrait, isn’t it? Seeing more than just their face or their clothes, but to actually communicate who they are in a single frame. At the same time, the tradition of figure studies/ fine art nudes has been a passion of mine since I first learned to draw. While the female form was one of the more common subjects that I would illustrate, character studies of hands and faces challenged me to tell stories by detailed use of texture, positioning and key features. Since taking up photography, figure study has been my most entered (and most won) class in image competitions.

Personal Project | Aqua Femina | Paige Larue

Aqua Femina | Lorey Russel | London, ON

Last summer, I shot several sets of women in water but tried to develop a fresh perspective on the theme – at least, fresh to me. I started coordinating each woman’s pose to the elements of the environment. I started seeing how their form could mirror the features around them for a more symbiotic relationship between the two. If water, stone and plants flowed in a certain way, then so would each of my subjects. At the same time, I explored the use of contrasting arrangements to create visual tension. With the conscious manipulation of design elements – specifically those of shape, form, line and contrasts in texture – the images changed from sexy glamour to something a little more artistic… and a lot more compelling.

Aqua Femina | Sienna Hayes | Stephanie Katherine

When this year’s warm shooting season rolled around, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do. My goal was to create a series of image sets that showed women expressing themselves in the water through facial expression and body language. Each chooses her own ‘styling’, be that lightly clothed, implied or nude (as she sees her relationship to that element and based on her personal comfort level), with the understanding that the story is fundamentally about her and the water, not the conventionally contrived ‘sex appeal’ as is done with sexy clothing. As the sexualisation of nudity is in the intent, both of the unclothed person and the person seeing them in turn, nudity (implied or otherwise) isn’t specifically sexual. Another key characteristic of the series is the restriction of eye contact with the camera. My thought is that the viewer should only be an observer, never a participant. Once the subject and viewer can make that eye-to-eye ‘connection’, it becomes somewhat personal. The intention with this series is to create those moments that are seen almost by chance, rather than by direct invitation.

Aqua Femina | Annastasia Kirkpatrick

Aqua Femina | Personal Projects | Andreea Catalina

As to the name of the series, Aqua Femina? Agree with me or no, my impression is that water is the quintessential feminine ‘element’. Any geologist or meteorologist will tell you just how influential and powerful water is on this little rock of ours. It shapes the landscape wherever it goes. Water can move mountains and forests, it can wash away cities. It is life giving and life sustaining. When it turns cold, it becomes hard like rock and will crush anything caught in its path. If we talk about water in the context of an emotional metaphor, one can’t help but see distinct similarities. In my personal experience (for whatever that’s worth), woman are more emotionally… fluid… than men are – changing often, sometimes moment to moment. They have currents and eddies of emotion that can run as deep as any ocean. There is a primal, inexorable link between women and water, so the premise of the series just seemed… natural. Again, that’s my take. Yours might be different (and I look forward to seeing your vision in your personal project).

Aqua Femina | Jaclyn D

Over the last few months, I’ve been able to create a number of initial sets with some talented, courageous and expressive women. Each has brought their own perspective to the theme, unique with their own emotional, conceptual or spiritual story. As more and more women participate in the project, I anticipate an ever increasing depth with the visual story telling (and, yes, my LA friend, I’m sure at least one of them will want to include a sword as part of her story – IF one so wishes to do so). As well, on occasion, I’ll be including a more detailed account of their individual stories on my blog. My ultimate goal is to see as wide a range of women participate as possible, regardless of age (legal age, that is), body type or lifestyle. 

Where the series goes or when it will end, if it ever truly does, is something only the future Me knows…

To keep up to date on the latest Aqua Femina creations, follow the posts on Facebook.

Cheers!
J

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8 Comments

  1. Denise August 25, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    Beautiful work!

    • Jay Terry August 25, 2017 at 4:25 pm #

      Thanks, Denise – much appreciated. 🙂

  2. Catherine Barr August 26, 2017 at 12:58 am #

    Stunning series

  3. Michael Lockard August 26, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

    Fantastic photography!

  4. Neil vN August 31, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    Beautifully realized. I hope you continue with this as a series.

    • Jay Terry September 1, 2017 at 8:27 am #

      Thanks, Neil. That means a lot, especially coming from you. Stay tuned – this’ll be a long-haul project.

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