1. The Day I Stripped for the Camera

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    Photo: Preview polaroids from my recent photoshoot. They do not show the final outcome, but rather try to determine the intensity of light play.

    And both I and the camera loved it.

    But don’t worry or anticipate anything. You will not see these pictures anywhere, especially not here. What I want to do here is to simply tell you about this experience and why it felt so important to my overall well-being and general body positivity – an attitude I’ve been trying to master for some time now.

    In short – if you came here to see naked pictures, there are none.

    If you’re a regular follower or have dug deep into some of my previous, longer posts, you most probably noticed that I am not only interested in “the body” (this is a huge concept, I will look into that in another post), but also in how bodies are being modified and adapted to our own expectations. And how all of it plays into such features as gender, sexuality and the vast category of identity. Something I briefly touched upon in my “10 things I learned after quitting testosterone” post.

    It is not just about being trans, though (although this blog deals with these issues primarily) – it’s about weight and its societal context, tattoos, piercings, implants, scarification and scars in general, as well as many others. All of these are fascinating and I feel as if I still didn’t touch upon most of them, but rather glimpsed through a few topics that were personally important to me.

    Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote a post titled “Transitions of fatness”, which tremendously helped me deal with a lot of issues that, surprisingly, are still bothering me today. Remembering that fact, the problem of coming out as fat and appreciating my body for what it is and how it can be used to break the weight and beauty standards still rooted in our society, also when it comes to trans masculine bodies, I changed the course of a photoshoot that I agreed to do a few weeks ago and which took place last Saturday.

    When my friend, Joanna Łojas, approached me at Warsaw Pride in June (we seem to bump into each other at Prides only, but then again we’re both super busy these days) and asked whether I would be up for a photo shoot. Although she mentioned my tattoos in that conversation, later on, she admitted that she had wanted to do this for a longer time, but now – thanks to finishing one of Warsaw’s best schools of photography and working at a professional studio, she finally had the skills and the tools to do what she had always wanted to. As one can imagine, I was extremely flattered and, quite obviously, agreed to take part in it. And after almost two months both of us finally found the time to spend twelve hours together. Extremely important twelve hours to say the least.

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    Photo: Joanna setting up lights and backgrounds.

    This wasn’t my first photo shoot, though. In 2010 I had the pleasure of having my pictures taken by Manuel Garcia, author of “TransMen of the World”, a year later I was invited to be part of a small student project and just a few months ago, my friend Herbert Marusiński, took some pictures for his ongoing “I am more than my body” project. That last one is especially dear to me, since it was for the first time that I did something that went beyond my usual comfort and decided to show more of my body than I usually do. I was not naked in these pictures, though. I covered myself with a painting which I am still trying to finish. Five years and counting.

    However, Joanna’s project was the first time a photoshoot took place in a studio setting and the first time I was not covered by anything. In other words – I showed my whole body to someone who was interested in its form, how light changes its various features and how it in itself is an object of gaze and admiration. At the same time, though, my body became a tool to convene someone’s vision in a project that was beyond me. Funny enough, this not felt as objectification. I felt in control. Throughout this whole experience I felt as a conscious and decisive subject. Someone’s vision was just a way for me to reach consolation. It was as if I discovered something absolutely profound. I rediscovered my body. With everything that it has to offer and everything that I criticize every single morning when I look in the mirror. I felt connected to this form more than ever. An experience that felt amazingly therapeutic in its simpleness. I needed a set of lenses to ease to the idea of my body being me.

    What I have to underline is that this was not the initial plan. It was supposed to be a series of portraits to which I was asked to bring black, grey and white clothing, which would then align with the all-white background. And I did bring all of these. It was the hottest day of this summer and I dragged a backpack full of clothing through half of the city. As you may imagine, I was more than excited. And when I saw the studio, the excitement rose to an absolute maximum.

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    Photo: Last minute preparations before the shoot can begin!

    Joanna showed me a few photos she took, which had absolute magic to them. Those of humans were most fascinating and I quickly found myself wanting to be seen through the lens, especially if the camera was operated by her. We had a long heart-to-heart conversation what happened in our lives in the past 2-4 years, since we have only bumped into each other occasionally, even though there was a time when we saw each other pretty often, in our young activist years. And now we were in a different spot – her, a photographer pursing her dream of becoming a professional, me – still having my biggest dreams stuck in a box full of “things I will do one day”.

    The comfort I felt after that one conversation was tremendous, I found myself wanting to do something that would cross my usual boundaries and would make the time we spent together even more special. Which is why when Joanna asked if I had a T-shirt, that would show my upper body tattoos from the front, I immediately said “I can just take the damn thing off”. We both laughed and she started working on setting up the light. I took a few deep breaths and smiled. I knew this would be a start of something absolutely brilliant.

    There was one catch in that whole process though. As a somewhat objectified subject I had to agree that I do not get a say in which pictures are deemed good and which are not, although I was able to push Joanna to take some pictures with a digital camera (torso and up only), so I could use them in my future personal projects. The actual outcomes of the shoot will be developed soon (as they were taken with an analog camera) and will be available to me and Joanna only. She will have them ready for her Academy of Fine Arts portfolio and I will have mine to hang on my wall and remember this one long Saturday that absolutely redefined my sense of carnality.

    I am not just a body. I am more than the body itself. But I AM my body and MY body is ME.

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