I was seven years old when I learned what shame felt like. I had copied a painting that I saw to be the most glorious piece of art into a spare notebook. I knew the image by heart. It depicted a group of naked fairies dancing together. The picture was later uncovered by my older sister and mom. I can still recall the sound of their laughter. I know now that they weren’t making fun of me, they just didn’t know a more appropriate way to react to nudity. The fear of it was already instilled in them and that was when it was instilled in me.
I now have three little sisters who are just as impressionable as I was. I’ve caught myself projecting my fears onto them. I make comments about the open windows when they walk out of the shower. I hate the feeling of shame and even more the idea that I am causing others to feel it.
I am taking nude self-portraits around my childhood home as a way to find comfort in my nakedness and reclaim my innocence. I assumed that showing my images to the public would be what could heal me but it turns out that strangers are not who I am sensitive to. The performance I am doing within the walls of my own home is what is breaking me down. This project is forcing me to confront my insecurities with nudity and have important conversations with my family members about sexuality, nudity, and how these things are perceived in society. My sisters have assisted me with my photographs and my relationships with them have grown stronger because of it. When I am with them I am still aware of my nakedness, but I look out and I sense them seeing me. Instead of feeling ashamed of my exposed body, the pride I see in their eyes is a reflection of my own. The three of them give me all of the strength and hope I need to continue growing outside of my comfort zone.
It has been 5 months since I started this self-portrait series and the view I have of myself has evolved. I have moved out of my home and into my first apartment in New York City. Even when it is still difficult for me to undress for the camera, I take pride in knowing that I am working towards a goal and gaining a lot of self-respect and respect for others because of it. While the first portion of this project revolved around my feeling of shame in the home that I grew up in, I want to make this next chapter of my life and project to reflect this newfound sense of respect and confidence I feel towards myself and my place in the world.
To be continued...