“I have to caution you that there’s a natural sensuality to this art… Are you up for the challenge?”
This fateful message was in an email I received from the photographer behind the fine art series, Blazing Colors. In order to model for the series, he told me that my form would need to move freely beneath sheer, handmade kaftans and veils.
With the pit of my stomach churning, I immediately said “yes!” to his challenge.
My yes was inspired by the opportunity to work with a male photographer, one who could see me intimately—not just as a form, but as a human being and as a partner in creation. Until he and I collaborated, I had only partnered with women when it came to my work as an artist. I intuitively knew I was ready to expand my horizons by including men.
I pushed my emotional and creative limits as the Blazing Colors facilitator photographed me moving beneath waves of fabric, dancing in a way that was entirely my own. I reached a point during my first photo shoot where I felt like I couldn't go on. I feared that I had exposed more of myself than I could take. Gently, the facilitator assured me that although I could stop at any time, I was showing much less than it seemed. He was right; I was showing much less than it seemed.
And the paradox was, the core of my being impelled me to show more. I longed to trust that the art as well as our partnership would be more authentic if I allowed myself to be vulnerable.
With determination and time, I unleashed the spontaneous and sensual energy that I was so used to damming up in my body. I felt myself merge into a river of colors, textures, and photographs—urged by the facilitator to be and do only what felt right to me. Held in the supportive space between his lens and my own creative process, I was free to see myself for who I was:
A courageous, vibrant young woman, full of faith in who she was becoming. Not only unafraid to be seen. But proud to be seen.
When I reached a breaking point during my first session modeling for Blazing Colors, I could have easily given into the fear and rage that I’ve carried from being harmed by men.
I could have easily carried on the legacy of women in my family, in my culture, and in my world who have shut themselves off from loving, working, and growing with men who deserve to love, work, and grow with them.
I could have easily let myself succumb to the memory of being leered at from the time I was just 11 years old—helpless to assert my boundaries or my dignity.
But I chose trust instead.
And I realized that no matter what suffering I carried from my experiences with men, trusting men who truly cared about me was the best choice I could make. It’s a choice that began with trusting that I really could express myself fully and freely in the presence of the opposite sex.
On a social level, I also learned that when women and men build creative partnerships with one another—whether we’re creating images, food, homes, lives, or anything in between—we’re also creating opportunities to confront and express who we really are. For this reason, the creative process is profoundly vulnerable.
By saying “yes” to the challenge of being vulnerable with one another as women and men, we also say yes to the challenge of showing up authentically in our relationships.
I ask every woman and man reading this post:
How could you more fully express the courageous, vibrant person you are in the presence of others?
Can you imagine how it would feel if you were not only unafraid to be seen—but proud to be seen?
Or at least, are you open to being experienced for who you really are?
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