On Wednesday 24, Thursday 25 and Friday 26th of February 2021 we made the first 10 double photos for break out, an engaged artistic initiative of Elisabeth Falleyn & Emanuel Maes. Break Out wants to write a very critical footnote with recent stories such as Kaat Bollen and Tara Gins. On March 8th, International Women’s Day, we stepped in the spotlight. Afterwards we passed on the torch to other photographers who in their turn will take 10 photos and so on.
When I read what ‘in the name of the honor of the office’ Kaat Bollen and Tara Gins were accused of, I felt hot and cold at the same time. We are 2021. Women have had the right to vote (1948) for more than half a century. We are allowed to start any studies we want (thank you Marie Popelin). We can make the conscious decision to become a mother or not at all (thank you to the pill in the frame of emancipation). Yet there is still a part of society that still holds on to the same, old principles.
A woman can only be trustworthy if she is not too feminine and sexy. Sexy and intelligence does not go together. Men want a ‘lady in the street but a freak in the bed’. Well, maybe this is the next important battle. The battle to be who we want to be. Not what society puts on us, not what the neighbours think. Women like Kaat Bollen and Tara Gins defend this decision, whom rightfully are allowed to be put in the spotlight. Why does it affect me?
Well, a few years ago I told myself not to adhere to those unspoken social requirements. They don’t make me happy, so why should I follow them? I don’t hurt anyone by being myself. I have the fortune that I have my own company and don’t have to pay attention to the demands of an employer or commission. That I can decide for myself how I dress, without getting written down by a commission here or there. But many other women don’t have that fortune. That’s why. That’s why this project.
Elisabeth Falleyn, initiator
I too, as a man, dug my heels in the sand three years ago. It was enough, my ideas and experience of physicality. It was the start of an intense investigation of the role of and the relation with the own body. Tens of men and women stood in front of my lens in the meantime, from friends to complete strangers with long and often emotional conversations as a result, conversations open and bare and painfully honest. The reason why people want to show their body and want to see turned out to be so diverse but always legit and important.
Some wrestled with ideals, others with pain. Others rose op with great pride, because it was an act of resistance against the hypocrisy of the (online) world, or against themselves. Fears and acceptance. There were scars that had never seen the light of day, proportions that gave shame, rituals that had to be fulfilled as process. But also, people who just wanted to have a photo of themselves, made in the eye of an outsider. Then there was frustration for me again, deeply rooted from a body that wasn’t understood nor accepted by partners. What it taught me: everyone lives at the premise of a small war in their own body, and I learned to love each of them. Countless of messages afterwards taught me how liberating this process can be.
Break-out resonates deeply within me and when Elisabeth asked me to contribute, there wasn’t a second of doubt. I was filled with incomprehension and disbelief about the stories of Kaat Bollen and Tara Gins. The paternalism and the horrible self-declared authority of so many men but also women who judge, left me disheartened, angry and even lost. In the name of God, but then from a God in the depth of their thoughts. My resistance is great. Is that from an absolute belief of equality? Of a great need of freedom in an already truncated world? An awareness that we’re losing so much connection with our natural body? The questions are a part of the investigation. It’s certainly a statement.
Emanuel Maes, I photograph
The human body is the best picture of the human soul.
the practical side of things
It is a project in the making. Initially we asked a small group of intimates to take part and gave them this:
“We take two photos of your whole body, from head to toe: one dressed and one naked. You decide your clothing yourself. You decide if you stay within or step outside of your comfort zone. Completely naked is allowed, but covering parts of your body with your hands, underwear, or objects that you bring yourself is completely fine. The essence is a mirror between the two pictures. I am and I also am.”
The first goal is to give the photos on our website a forum, the starting line of our project. Later an expo will follow. But publicity in 2021 is difficult without social media. We will be present on there randomly, although there is an indirect criticism to the double moral of these online platforms. Young girls who show their bodies from all sides with a minimum of fabric without thinking about it. It is possible. It is allowed. But the purity of our bodies, that is a step too far although at a stone’s throw the pornsites shake up our rational lives.