Feminist ideas are always on my mind. In my work the vagina is a point of departure. I have selectively photographed the mid region: hips, thighs, vagina and buttocks. The power that I see in the women that I have photographed is stunning and provocative. I want to challenge the viewer with ideas about power and clothing styles. My work during the last 10 years has been rooted in the Dominican Republic. I am thrilled to finally realize this idea into photographs. I have been observing for a long time. 12 These images are beautiful in that the work celebrates the body, full curves, irregular or symmetrically perfect. They reveal details of lips and labia even though these women are fully dressed. In these photographs there is a certain sense of confidence that I want to be seen: a self assured manner and presentation of and by the subject, primarily a Latina woman. They reveal power that I see in women, specifically Latinas. When I consider positive body image,
I believe the Dominican female has a better grasp of her body and all that it is worth. While body image is constructed by culture, I do not see the same body issues in DR as in the United States. I am fortunate to work at a female, single sex institution in the United States where our students bypass some of the stresses about appearance and/ or our students are able to work through their issues in a safe environment. Either way the issues exist. When I am in the Dominican, specifically in the mountains, I hear men and women speak openly and securely about the body, female or male. These images are painful in that they reveal contradictions about assumptions and stereotypes of women and our manner of dress. There is crude conversation around the tight pant-wearing woman from the outside, the onlookers, and by both genders. Camel toe is a slang term that refers to the outline of a human female’s labia majora as seen through tightly fitting clothes.
My first experience with this word was associated with disdain and disgust, primarily because that was how everyone else responded to a woman wearing clothes “too” tight. I am a child of the eighties, when the fashion was to wear jeans tight. I fought with my mother to wear jeans as Brooke Shields wore her Calvin’s “there is nothing between me and my Calvin’s”. My mother did not give in. I was never a baggy dresser, hiding underneath my clothes, but I never felt like I dressed like my Aunt (Latina), of whom my mother (Caucasian) always thought dressed in poor taste. Her clothes were too revealing, too tight, too everything. But really? My Aunt is beautiful and so is my mother. So I would like to ask my mother, and many people for that matter, why are we so judgmental? Please understand I am not excluding Dominicans from this process of judgment. They just arrive at the conversation with a different set of mental tools, self-awareness and pride. With the advent of TV shows in the United States, “What Not to Wear” or the phrase “wardrobe malfunction”, who is to say what is the norm? It is arguable that the manner of dress in the Dominican Republic is made under false pretense, for the man and the machismo culture. But I have been in the thick of it. There is not much thought about the why, other then it has to be. It is a way of being beautiful, even powerful.