My Reality by Nina Sever
I look at the light and how it hits the skin, how it bounces back in the form of a body: an arm, legs entwined, the spine twisting upwards and towards the aspirations designed by a pair of hands. I don’t need to talk to my models to see that those bodies have been through a lot, I know that every woman I photograph has seen and experienced thousands of lives and it’s an honor for me to see a fraction of one of those lives through my lens. Nina Sever
I want to create a safe space to let my energy flow in order to collect their stories and show a little bit of myself through their posing. Although, the more photos I take, the more I realize how easy it is to disappear into someone else. Is it my creative process, or was I just shaped by shame and patriarchal expectations? How much of my freedom is mine and how much of it is the contraposition to the oppression?
I decided to explore this dilemma with Stefania and Flora on two different occasions, from Berlin to London, with Italy and Bulgaria as their background, and Kazakhstan as mine, although our origins didn’t make a difference when it came to nudity and conversations. It’s crazy how the universe seems to synchronize me with the people that deal with similar feelings in a given time. I listened to their stories and I cannot see these photos with the same eyes anymore, so I wonder how much does the piece of art actually talk about the artist and how much truth it says if there is no caption to present the work? Because I look at my photos of Flora and Stefania now and I see a completely different meaning.
I shot the portraits of Flora at her place in London; I like the challenge of a new environment, it forces me to think differently and mostly focus on the subject. She offered me coffee and food, comfort and warmth, she held my hand and hugged me when I cried, I was so astonished that a woman I barely knew could be so empathetic and understanding, and how a little gesture could turn my entire life upside down. That was not the idea the society forced on me since I was a child. Flora told me about her life now, what has changed, and how difficult it was to be sexually open before; how liberating and strange it is to explore eroticism now that she is with a partner that allows her to be herself. For a moment, I thought about how unhappy I was a year ago, during that time of my life that should have been exciting because I was filming my first ever erotic film. It must have been around the time I was first featured on Mulieris too, showing my nude self-portraits, and no one knew those photos were saving my life whilst I was filled with resentment and sadness because my private intimate life had no love or sex, only abuse and repression.
When I came back to Berlin to talk to Stefania on a different occasion, her openness and similarity to how I approach sexuality really surprised me. When I photographed her, we spent only a little time together. I’ve also been treated to a coffee and a chat but even though I was happy that she felt safe and inspired to pose for me, I still couldn’t understand why she reached out to be part of this project.
The second time, I really listened, and we took our time and she told me that shame plays a big part when it comes to her face, because that’s where her real identity belongs, but the body is free to exist in its nudity and probably the more sexualised, the better. Once again, some invisible universal force was bonding my life to someone else’s and we looked at each other and laughed because we could just be ourselves in each other’s company and talk about sex, make sexual jokes just like men did and all they meant was exactly what we wanted them to mean.
Photography saved my life infinite times and I came to the point where I can’t deny that safe zone to the others: women, men and all the other genders (myself included). It took me a few years to realize why and I think this specific project was a huge step to understand and own my art, to know what I’m doing and see clearly where I’m going in this sea of censorship and forced sexualisation and misinterpretation of eroticism. So perhaps my art exists in response to oppression but the freedom I felt in exploring myself through these two incredible individuals is priceless and my lens filtered the sh** out of this world again, bringing my reality to the surface and leaving shame, ugliness, fear and restraint out to the vacillating patriarchy. I know my photography would still have a meaning if those negative elements disappeared from the surface of the Earth at once.
Text by Nina Sever
Stefania Zucca, Berlin
Nina Sever is a non binary erotic artist based in London