by Liberty Finch
Figurative work can sometimes present a dilemma—especially in nude photography: how to render your subject without objectification. Bombarded by ads that portend to define beauty for all, many of us are left sulking in front of the mirror, at best discouraged and at worst devastated, that we look nothing like the androgynous waifs in Vogue or the artificially endowed Maxim girls.
for us that photographer Sanvean has found his way to the Twin Cities and is
helping redefine the notion of beauty—individually and organically. Stifled
by the conservative climate of Utah, Sanvean relocated to Minneapolis in search
of an expressive culture and open-minded community. He found just that, and
his recent exhibition, Beauty Exposed at the Indpendent in Calhoun Square,
offers us a rare opportunity to view selected works of eight of his clients.
A combination of figurative work and personal portraiture, these digital photographs
are not traditional artistic nudes, nor are they naked glamour shots. Rather,
Sanvean and his camera are merely vehicles for transcribing the unique, natural
beauty of each subject.
Sanvean discourages models from wearing make-up and styling their hair for a
shoot. Instead, his goal is to remove the artificial shields that woman habitually
apply—literally stripping them down to a vulnerability that he believes
is the true essence of natural beauty. His visual sensibilities frame the images
in a variety of ways—from a reclining nude to a close-up portrait to a
cropped torso—and he insists that nothing's posed or preconceived. Photography
icon Ruth Bernhard once said, "Everything I do is by intuition…I'm
an opportunist and the pictures are about awareness." In Beauty Exposed,
you get the sense that Sanvean, too, follows his intuition and spontaneity results
in sincere elegance.
Perhaps what's most interesting about Beauty Exposed are the models themselves.
These women were not on a quest to procure cheesecake shots for vanity's sake.
They never even anticipated exhibiting the works at all. Rather, their pictorials
are personal testaments to healing and exercises in courage and self-love. One
model explained how a critical bout with cancer ravaged her young body—leaving
her a mere 87 pounds before recovery. For her, the photographs affirm health,
honor strength and project life. Another woman—physically and emotionally
scarred from childbirth and a failed marriage— overcame intense self-criticism
to work with Sanvean. Her courage translates into radiant images and serves
as a reminder that we can all call forth the goddess within. In fact, now when
I look in the mirror and see that big brown dot on my cheek, I know it's not
a mole…it's a beauty mark. ||
Beauty Exposed runs through
mid-October at the Independent in Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls.
612-378-1905. Open house on Wed. Oct. 6, 7 p.m.