"By Any Other Name" is an amazing fine art photography project gaining attention and growing rapidly by G. Mark Lewis and his gmark art label, which highlights and combines the parallel beauty of female anatomy and flowers in nature.
His simple idea? Unlike the denied claims of Georgia O'Keeffes floral masterpieces being artistic renditions of a woman's vulva and beyond, he wondered what would happen if he did purposely photograph flowers with the female anatomy? Would it turn out? Would it be possible?
The results? Social change, fine art, and empowerment for 27 women (and counting) who have all stepped up and volunteered to be a part of the project in order to help strip away the taboos against themselves and their own bodies. This controversial project is inciting both praise and criticism from individuals saying a man has no place to do a shoot of this nature, which I strongly beg to differ based off of my experiences with both male and female photographers and practitioners and the environment, lack of judgement, impressive support, and kind heart that gmark offers both in and outside of his studio walls.
Several of the Live Beyond Limit members, including myself, have participated in this amazing photography project for personal and social reasons. When I first found out about the project, I was 100% supportive as teaching sacred sensuality, body acceptance, and healthy body image is something I strive for here at Live Beyond Limit and I felt the project was a tasteful and beautiful example of all of those things.
Since it's gotten such scrutiny and some misled judgements, I feel compelled to share my experiences. For me personally, it was only natural to volunteer to become one of the "By Any Other Name" models for gmark knowing the integrity and honor he has for his artwork itself, the respect and appreciation he has for his models and their stories, and the ever evolving greater vision of all of his work to socially heighten the overall level of respect and honor towards human sensuality and sexuality. I've personally witnessed and worked with hundreds of women through yoga and energetics that have been subjected to a variety of physical sexual assaults, religious shaming and fear, the western cultural taboos and condemnation of the female body, as well as mental and emotional manipulation around their bodies, sex and pleasure, and health and feel this project is a powerful statement against the taboo nature our society and much of the global culture places on women as an entire group of individuals. I was and am supportive of the combined intention to make beautiful artwork and to help women see their bodies as more than just objects or something to be ashamed or afraid of, but rather something natural, amazing, and exquisite...something that mirrors nature and is simplistically beautiful and varied in how it looks and is expressed.
Never having done a shoot of this nature I didn't know what to expect, but I knew it'd be hilarious, fun, and light hearted with Mark as that is just how he is personally and professionally. After arriving, chatting a bit, checking out all the flower varieties and finally popping up on the table he had laid out with multiple lights focused directly on on my crotch, I just laughed as I hadn't really imagined having a professional camera inches from my vagina adorned with flowers prior to this project. However, there I was and it was more respectful and comfortable than 100% of all of my doctor's visits and some of my personal relationships with the level of communication, comfort and silliness we both enjoyed with the project as flowers were being positioned in a variety of ways to capture unique and natural looking placement and expression.
As we chatted during the project, and as I've touched base with a few other models, it became clear that all participants have had similar experiences, with some having their entire lives and views changed around their own anatomy, sensuality, and sexuality. Some who had been ashamed and afraid of their anatomy, found power and grace from the project, finally being able to embrace herself as beautiful and as more than just a sex object for attackers, but as something to be honored and cherished and appreciated just for being herself. Others that didn't have such abrasive and abusive pasts, joked that he was more appropriate and comfortable to spread eagle for than their gynecologist and boyfriends because of how he made sure to have warm hands and talk through, ask permission, and work with them to get the results both parties wanted.
My overall feelings on the project and it's potential impact for human sensuality? I feel this project can help women embrace their bodies more and help the male population see a slightly different perspective on women. Women are to be cherished (as are men), to be honored for the unique beauty that they are, to be supported in their feminine identity, and provide space and communication methods that help them feel safe in their own skin. It's my hope that the project opens up a deeper discussion for individuals in their own sensual nature and that within society as when sensuality is repressed, crime rates and mental illness increase.
I encourage all individuals to embrace themselves a little more deeply, to ask for help healing old wounds (I, Mark, or some of the LBL practitioners are happy to help!), to have the courage to be authentic and stand up for what you believe in the face of criticism, and to honor each other for the natural and amazing beings we are.
May we all embrace our sense of self, our natural given form, and the ability to desexualize art to be able to fully appreciate and honor sensuality as a whole.
See some of the "By Any Other Name" images shared on his tumblr here (note the content and know there is other nude fine art photography on this page): http://gmarklewis.tumblr.com/
See the Huffington Post article about the project here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/