jbc and megan magdalena are fighting tokenism with art and flesh
The Australian lingerie label teamed up with the Canadian artist to celebrate friends, sex and the power of underwear.
Lingerie designers Jarrah Benwell-Clarke and Bianca Cornale started their label JBC (Just Babes Club) as a way to respond to an industry they were increasingly frustrated with. They observed that the relentless body-positivity message rarely extended beyond words, and was more likely to serve as marketing hype than a real manifesto. In comparison, they set out to create a lingerie brand committed to making people — of any shape, size or gender — feel welcome and comfortable.
Their personal dialog around the role of underwear has since expanded see it as a form of self expression that exists beyond the gaze of a lover. Along the way they've gathered fans and collaborators who reject tokenistic labels to focus on celebrating individualism, sexuality and the creative community around them.
Many of Jarrah and Bianca's inspirations and heroes have since become partners, working with them across ranges, shoots and campaigns. Last year the designers fell in love with the work of Canadian artist Megan Magdalena over Instagram. They were struck by how she paired traditional portrait photography with "subversive subject matter and counterculture visual symbols; creating art that is synonymously familiar and entirely new."
After a few DMs back and forth, a collaborative project took form. The end result is a series of images that fuse the women's interest in sex, friendships, physicality, self-growth, acceptance and art. To learn more about the effort, we asked JBC to interview Megan Magdalena about their work together and their shared ethos surrounding beauty and sexuality.
JBC: We love the very look of this shoot - it's badass and tough, yet there's something beautifully soft and dreamy about these images. What was the inspiration for it — how did the concept come about?
Megan Magdalena: All I wanted to capture was my friends having fun and feeling powerful. We didn't really plan anything out. I just invited people over and we did whatever we felt like in the moment. That's honestly how I prefer to shoot.
We fell in love with your art because we think JBC shares similar values to you, in regards to portraying individuals and individual sex appeal. Your work is so very raw, expressive and evocative. Why do you think it's important to depict beauty in this way?
I've been photographing my friends since I can remember, but it wasn't until after I went through treatment for an eating disorder that I understood how important it is to me to capture the people around me in a raw and empowering way. Photographing my friends allowed me to talk to them about their bodies and their insecurities and that made me realise that we all struggle with our appearances, but the more we talk about it and explore it together the more we can all grow and heal. No judgement, no shame. No airbrushing or retouching.
There's also a sexual undercurrent permeating your work, how important is exploring sexuality to your process?
Humans are inherently sexual, so I think that just comes out naturally in my work. But being sexy comes from within, it comes from self acceptance and being comfortable with yourself. It doesn't matter what you look like or what you wear/don't wear. I don't associate nudity with sex, however I find it very fascinating how so many people are still frightened of the naked body and immediately call a nude portrait pornographic. That just makes me want to take more photos of that nature to try to reclaim our bodies and fight back!
Text Hilary Bourke
Photography Megan Magdalena