Without Tenderness We Are in Hell
After six months of looking, Philadelphia-based photographer Eva Wǒ found the perfect bath tub. Together with model and performer Lucifer Rising, she created this photo series for you today. See what Eva Wǒ has to say about the photographer’s gaze, selfies for survival, and people who inspire her right now.
What have you learned about love that you didn’t know when you were younger?
Eva Wǒ: Deep love, whether with friends, lovers or family is rare and life saving and must be treated with care.
How did you come up with this shoot?
EW: Lucifer reached out to me on Facebook with this bathtub concept and it took me over six months to stumble upon the perfect tub, which was in a friend’s apartment. To prepare for it I had to figure out how to make the water milky and opaque, and Lucifer collected flowers from the flower shop where she works. My lightbulb broke and I had to awkwardly find the right angles in the tiny bathroom, but the shoot was still really fun! It was our first time collaborating and I think we had good creative intuitive energy together.
How do you think about the gaze the camera constructs when doing erotic/nude shoots? Have selfies changed the way we think about photography?
EW: As a light skinned mixed-race afab femme, I have been sexualized by the male gaze consistently since I was very young. I think of the photographer’s gaze as being uniquely visible through their photos – their perversions, desires, and preferences made transparent. When I do nude and/or erotic shoots, I hold awareness for how my collaborators have been overly sexualized or de-sexualized, racialized, gendered, or otherwise alienated from their own bodies and sexualities. I do my best to make sure the gaze I hold is accountable, consensual, and empowering to those who trust me with their photo.
Selfies and self-pornography are super easy to disseminate now with the use of social media. I think that as traditional forms of erotic/nude photography get older and more boring, new forms of erotica emerge. Digital selfies and self-pornography are some of these forms. We’re still living in very conservative world though – both Instagram and Facebook censor nudes and delete accounts due to “inappropriate content,” and find it especially threatening when those nudes are not thin white women. I would like to believe our illicit selfies chip away at old taboos and traditional values but I’ve also been deleted from Instagram, and banned from OkC and Tinder.
You’re curating a show called “Selfies for Survival” in Philadelphia in March. Can you tell us about this show and what experiences you hope it will facilitate?
EW: My intention for this show is to validate selfie-making as important and encourage selfie-sharing as powerful. I will install over 100 printed selfies and hand-written statements from around 50 contributors. My hope is that participants will engage with their own relationship to self portraiture, especially selfies as tools for self love and healing through trauma, oppression, and marginalization. Selfies can reaffirm our existence and make space for us to be visible, which is particularly important in this abysmal political atmosphere. To see details about the show go to evawo.com/selfies4survival.
Which photographers (or other practitioners) inspire you right now?
EW: Wow there’s so many. A few of my main inspirations at the moment are (photographers) Shoog McDaniel, Ren Hang, and Riya Hollings. I’m also a huge fan of the work of Charline Bataille (painting, tattoos), Fannie Sosa (activist, educator), Jacolby Satterwhite (video artist, animator), Josephine Pearl Lee (model, stylist, dj), and Maria Basura (pornographer, performance artist).
What’s your day-to-day like in Philadelphia?
EW: I stay up super late and sleep a lot. I schedule about 1-2 shoots and collaborations per week and spend the rest of my time preparing for or following up with creative projects, hanging with friends and cuties, and bouncing between the handful of side hustles I use to maintain my lifestyle.
Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s day this year?
EW: I’m gonna get my nails done with a friend then get halal food and see Hidden Figures with my sweetie. Maybe I’ll do my makeup and take selfies.