sex, nature and nudity in the australian landscape

In her new series 'Seen as Unseen', Danish photographer Camilla Storgaard looks at the relationship between our bodies and the natural world.

by Nadja Sayej
|
15 November 2016, 1:10am

Danish artist Camilla Storgaard is best known for her photos of Berlin, from the queer club scene to the urban everyday. But her recent work, Seen as Unseen, moves in a different space. Shot during a recent trip to Australia, the cross-country series captures Camilla's girlfriend nude against our landscape. The photos are a reaction against the traditional travel photos Camilla has been taking, and a way to present the human body as another natural element. Taking these images became an integral part their travel ritual, whether they were out hiking or wading by lakes; they ventured to combine the human form with the landscape. We caught up with Camilla to talk about the values and practicalities of getting naked in nature. 

Hey Camilla, first up, how did you end up in Australia?
I fell in love with a Berliner who lived half of the year in Australia and half the year in Berlin. So, the first winter she left, I visited her for two months escaping the darkest months of the Berlin winter. We did a road trip in a rented camper van from Alice Springs to Sydney to be able to move freely and have a comfortable place to sleep while being in warmest and most secluded parts of Australia. We also did other smaller road trips in my girlfriend's car around the rainforest in Queensland, as we were based in Brisbane.

Why did you want to bring nudity and nature together in the Australian landscape?
I usually photograph my projects in Berlin, so I wanted on this trip to bring together my work of female nudity and sexuality with the nature of Australia. I grew up on a farm in Denmark, so nature is important to me, just as the sexual and bodily liberation in Berlin is. So I guess it is more or less a contrasting project of my own inner values.

Were you conscious of how to connect nudity and female sexuality without exploiting the female form?
The question of avoiding exploitative images of female nudity is an important theme to me. In this series, it was important for me that the body functioned as a natural element in the setting and that the focus wasn't on sexuality or gender.

Where exactly were these photos shot? I really like the one of the waterfall.
The photos were all shot along the road and weren't carefully planned locations. We didn't drive around searching too much for them, but drove through areas we had read about or national parks, so it was more or less places we spotted from the car on the road. A few times we would leave the car and go for a hike and by surprise pass beautiful hidden creeks and waterfalls; these more exotic places were found in Queensland and New South Wales. Keeping the photographic aspect more spontaneous also made this series work as a travel diary for me.

Were there any issues with being nude so frequently?
I guess there are always surprising elements when you shoot nudity in nature. Of course, shooting in Australia was special because so many areas are so secluded that you can work freely without any worries about other tourists coming by. We did experience bypasses sometimes, though. Once, we did a shoot by a waterfall in Girraween National Park and slept nearby in the van and walked to the waterfall as soon as we woke up. We ended up alone there skinny dipping and photographing till noon before other tourists started arriving. 

So you'd try to beat other visitors.
Yeah, on bigger locations we shot at we would either go right at sunrise or sunset or simply hike further into the forest to be alone. The shot at the waterfall was a completely spontaneous place where we saw some guys in swim shorts outside the forest and asked them for directions to have a little swim. It ended up being a 30 minute hike, but as it was getting dark, everybody left as we arrived. The waterfall was so stunning, it ended up being more than just a quick skinny dip. It became the perfect setting for a photograph. In the end, we had to find our way back to the car after dark, without much of a walking path to follow

Looking back, what was the biggest take-away from this series?
As a staged conceptual photographer, I learned to work a bit more spontaneously with whatever I had available in the moment. To combine staged photography with a kind of travel blog or documentation was an interesting project for me to try out. It also opened my eyes to continuing the project, so I added more work to the project when traveling in Denmark and Germany afterwards.

What's next?
I'm currently working on a new project of female portraits. The aim of this project is to contribute to the revolution of the un-natural female body standards in media and art. I'm trying to show as diverse a series of female bodies as possible to represent as many women as possible. I'm occupied with the female gaze at the moment, but will also continue my traveling documentation with my girlfriend when we travel to Asia this winter.

Camilla Storgaard shows as part of Blurring the Lines, a group exhibition at the Paris College of Art, 15 Rue Fenelon, 75010, Paris, France, which runs until November 20, 2016. 

Credits


Text Nadja Sayej
Photography Camilla Storgaard

Tagged:
Australia
nature
nudity
camilla storgaard