I have multiple sclerosis (diagnosed over 12 years ago) and my mobility has been reduced over the past few years. I’ve gone from using crutches, to a walker, to a wheelchair to get around. The first few years following the diagnosis were very difficult, but pushed me to begin an inner process during which I was invited to experiment with photography and drawing. I was not someone who had ever even dared to draw before, nor could I imagine myself doing photography, especially not nude! Self-judgment is so strong! I always tried to hide from cameras, even when I was fully dressed. But bit by bit, I tried – I dared – hoping to at least breach a gap in the prison in which I lived; a prison built by years of self-criticism, of feeling lesser than others, of old psychological wounds…
So after hesitating for a long time, I took the plunge and did a first photo session, then another. I came to see that my body had been judged for so long by my own mind that SO wanted my body to be different, more attractive, slimmer…and it was a huge step forward, accepting to reveal it, not only to the camera lens, but also to the person behind the camera! Little by little, the gesture of undressing became less difficult and took on a sense of lightness, like a return to innocence, to the truth, to the very root of being human!
My desire to participate in nude photography was based much more on this deep need to open up from within rather than any pleasure derived from posing nude. I felt, and still feel, a very strong need to see myself in a gentler way, and especially the most vulnerable aspects of me. I’m also learning this by photographing others, starting with the friend who photographed me! Being on the other side of the camera brought a whole other dimension.
It helped me to soften my usual perceptions, and to start seeing the body like a small child needing to be treated with care, and also allowed me to get in contact with the more vulnerable parts that are often ignored and hidden, both in myself and in the other. You must admit that vulnerability is not terribly fashionable in a world that worships strength and beauty, youth, performance and efficiency, not to mention our most sacred expectations of complete independence!
It’s amazing to be able to recognize and admire the beauty, the magnanimity, of a nude body, and to finally make peace, at least a little bit, with my own body, just the way it is. It feels good! And so much more so, because I am living in a body that is weakening, that suffers, responds differently to movements once taken for granted, and is becomes, for now and maybe forever, more limited. It’s a real challenge.
Like others with physical limitations, I find it even more important to do this inner work to liberate the body from everything that keeps it imprisoned, and simply accept to reveal it, to honour it, to recognize its beauty and it’s greatness, which coexist at the very heart of the fragility that is so scary to us and to those around us.
Nude photography definitely contributes to this process of acceptance… and I’ve discovered that drawing is also an incredible practice that has changed my life! It has also become a better window through which to see the body, but also through which to see the whole world, and my life!