By Terence Repelente
Famed photographer Sara Black marks her 15 years in the industry with an exhibition that celebrate the woman’s body. Titled “Now, She is,” Sara’s exhibition adds yet another layer to her already seasoned career. It is composed of five female nudes with obscured or cropped faces. The exhibition is Sara’s contribution to remapping the so-called “power relations” of photography, toward the empowerment of women and the pure appreciation of their bodies. Aimed to eliminate sexual tension that exists from the male gaze and depict women with a feminine eye, “Now, She is” relieves women of guilt and shame from the experience of being photographed in the nude, which in turn, also removes guilt and shame from the person viewing the nude.
In an exclusive interview with the Manila Bulletin, during the opening night of “Now, She is,” Sara shared how she “accidentally” came up with the exhibition while randomly doing a series of nude photographs. “I’ve been working with these photographs for a period of two years, there wasn’t really an initial end goal of coming up with a show,” she said. “I would meet someone, and they would be willing to be photographed nude. What I really enjoyed was the process because it just all came together. I posted on Instagram and I invited different women to come and I would ask if they wanted to be photographed nude.”
According to Sara, she didn’t have a show in mind—she was just doing what she wanted to do. “Then it kind of developed. There are actually much more photographs than these five, but then I thought I wanted to keep it concise. There’s no need to come up with 100 pictures in this series. I feel like I’m already saying what I need to say in these five photographs,” she said. “So, everything just kind of evolved from there.”
The timing was also perfect as she celebrates her 15th year as a photographer. “This exhibition is such a perfect way to bookmark my journey as a photographer, because when I started out, there were only a few women photographers in the commercial industry, which makes this exhibition somewhat symbolic,” she said. “I also want to say something that has value from a feminine eye, something that would empower and represent—that’s what I want to reinforce. Again, I had a perfect opportunity, as I welcome my 15th year, to say something feminine, without restrictions, because there’s no commercial backing or any advocacy that I need to promote here. It’s just what’s in my heart.”
Nothing political and nothing controversial, said Sara, not even a hint of anger. “There’s no anger when I made these. And there’s no point in destroying the male gaze, it is what it is. It’s about neutralizing how we view the body. I think it’s important to offer different points of view,” she said. “When people have more points of view then they’re freer. They’re not conditioned to what their society says, like how you should view photos or how you view the female body. You have more freedom to decide for yourself based on what your values are.”
Indeed it is all about the body, which is, according to Sara, the reason why she didn’t show the faces of her models. “I really want to focus on the body. When looking at photographs, we tend to look at the face and find out what their stories are,” she said. “But my objective for this exhibition is to really just show the beauty of the body, without any inhibitions, without giving any guilt to the women for doing it. This is what I feel about the human body. I want to represent it in a way that’s non-sexual.”
As a photographer and lover of the human body, Sara ended: “Women should love their own body, and love themselves. There’s no specific physical part that’s beautiful, but what makes a woman beautiful, when they stand in front of my camera, is the pure and natural presence that they have in them. It’s your inner light. There’s no other un-cliché to say it, but when people are not ashamed or if they have tapped into what their inner light really is, then that’s just divine energy flowing through them—it’s beautiful.”