“To be naked is to be oneself …
To be naked is to be without disguise. To be on display is to have the surface of one’s own skin, the hairs of one’s own body, turned into a disguise which, in that situation, can never be discarded.”
– John Berger
If we are not observed, if we cannot be found, do we even exist?
Today, more than ever, our sense of self, what we are willing to share with the world and what we keep to ourselves, is intrinsically linked to our identifiability. The modern lens seems to recognise only the seen, and the unseen. If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.
We have surrendered our right to privacy in a trade for hyper-connection. Through our habitation of digital space we’ve opted to live our lives with an audience, seeing ourselves not as we are but as we appear in the mirrors of others; our outer world being a reflection of their perception. There are no strangers anymore and we are all, whether we like the connotation or not, voyeurs. In essence, we’ve got as real and open as we can be with our own human behaviour and that of others. But can we handle it? Is the constant connection, the long-lost anonymity, making us more alone than ever? And is the story we choose to tell the story we actually believe?
This issue reflects on how all that we see and feel has changed. It studies the complexity of our own inner desires through the work of erotic art photographer Francis Giacobetti, re-examining censorship and the dialogue about sexual dynamics in art. We explore female nakedness and what a woman in control of her own body means in the world today, along with the changing place of beauty in intellectual discourse, seemingly at odds with our society’s growing obsession with it, and the invisibility that can accompany ageing. Our cover model Cat McNeil, chosen for her own brand of mystery, plays with different levels of intimacy under the gaze of multiple photographers, including one she chose entirely herself.
If, as Gabriel García Márquez suggested, “everyone has three lives; a public life, a private life and a secret life”, then we can still each grace our own limits of what we want to reveal, conceal and what we choose to be blind to.
But observing and understanding are not the same and, sometimes, the more that is told, the less we seem to know.
Is it now what we choose not to show, what we hold back, that truly defines us? When so much is shared then surely it is our secrets that hold the key to our soul. Real connection lies in the mystery of those we let closest; the freckle only a lover could know about, the complete nakedness of sharing thoughts so deep in the mind we sometimes can’t even articulate them to ourselves and the lyrics to a song we can only bear to listen to alone.
May we guard our secrets, honour our privacy and remember that, sometimes, it is with a closed eye that we can see farther.
In a wild twist, I joined Instagram during the making of this Privacy Issue. You can find me @thisisjessblanch.
The Privacy Issue, available for purchase here.
PHOTOGRAPHY Jan Lehner @ Webber Represents
FASHION Melissa Levy
MODEL Cat McNeil @ The Society Management
HAIR Benjamin Muller
MAKEUP Linda Gradin @ L’Atelier NYC
PRODUCERS Molly Carroll and Tessa Maxwell @ The Production Factory
SET DESIGN Dorothée Baussan
PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT Nate DeCarlo
DIGITAL OPERATOR Nick Barr
STYLIST’S ASSISTANT Sara Van Pée
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT Enzo Martinez