The "Erotic lives of women" project:


When I had the idea for this project about fifteen years ago it had been my desire to talk with my girlfriends about erotic feelings and experiences. I needed this exchange to find out more about the importance and creation of orgasms but I did not dare to talk openly about it. It was easier to present this topic objectively, proposing a book instead of reveiling curiosity to alleviate personal problems.

The more I thought about presenting the subject of female erotic feelings to the public, the more I felt that there should be accompanying photographs. As I wanted to make people understand more about others and thus about themselves I wanted to use the best means. A photograph supports words when well chosen. It makes it easier for people to get into the mood.

The photographs should be shot by a woman, I thought. Most women cannot be relaxed, free, themselves, when a man is in the room. There is too much pressure. Linda had just decided about her new photography project being „hot old women“ when we met in May 1994. She was feeling a change in her life, no longer able to be the girl, young woman she used to be, and wanted to know how aging women dealt with their still vibrant sexuality. She was in the choices women make to further develop their own sensualities.

So we were very much on the same level concerning the subject when we met. We started out by interviewing and photographing each other in order to evolve certain standards for the interviews following. I discovered how shy I was. It was very hard for me to show inner feelings and my body. Linda was well prepared for her session. She knew exactly what she wanted to show to the camera. For her it was a performance and for me it was a pleasure and discovery to photograph her.

We realized that we should be doing the interviews and the photographs together to make the photograph and text match. Linda is a visual person and sometimes starts to push things into a direction she thinks she needs them to go. I am a rather romantic type. My texts tend to idealize or hide conflicts. We fought our prediclitions.

When we met I was in a state of depression concerning my erotic life because my marriage had been suffering of lose of trust. Some months later Linda was confronted with the end of her long-term relationship with a younger boyfriend. We became friends, sharing problems which affected us strongly at the time. The project made us change. We opened up to different worlds and lost our fear. Other women’s experiences gave us confidence and support.

For the first interviews we asked women we knew, friends and acquaintances, who we thought may be interested. We wanted women of different social status, different countries and different ages. We asked the women to bring items and clothes they found erotic and to choose the place they wanted to talk and to be photographed. You could assume that an open atmosphere might be difficult to reach. This was not the case. The interview got so involved that they forgot about their fear. Every click of the camera seemed to push them further.

We asked four questions:

1. What does the word‘erotic’ mean to you? The definitions of the women differ as much as the women themselves, depending on the continent, country, place they live and their standards. Most women have very clear values. Personal attitudes as well as cultural and family traditions are important. We cannot be sure that the word erotic means the same to everybody. This is why it is good to ask for definition of it at the beginning - as there are some cultures who have never heard of this word specifically. We learned to translate it to them as ‘bodyfeeling’, ‘adult feeling’ and they seemed then to find their equivalent and or close concept.

2. Remember your first erotic feeling and show it to the camera. Often it is not easy for the women to remember and often they reveal something new for themselves which they wouldn’t have remembered or thought about before.

3. Can you remember your strongest erotic feeling and show it to the camera? For a lot of women it is not possible to talk about only one strong erotic experience. They had several. We did not force them to decide which one they should choose. They could talk about whatever they felt. This question was most affected when the actual girl-/boyfriend was present, because they would be more reluctant then to reveal something which might hurt her/him.

4. Do you have certain fantasies - could you show them to the camera? Some women did not have fantasies or did not want to talk about them. Others had very elaborate fantasies and enjoyed talking about them.

We tried not to influence the women since we wanted to discover their true feelings. This was even more important as this subject is clouded with cliches, stereotypes, standardized dreams and hopes. So, we kept the order of the questions and I tried to always ask them in the same manner, with the same sort of intonation and attitude, in order to create standards.

The women interviewed chose the presentation and place themselves. We felt this was very important as we wanted them to express their inner life. Instinctively they chose a place where they felt safe and least restricted. They decided about the clothes they wore. We experienced that clothes are vital to make women feel erotic and stimulate them to get into the mood. We avoided pressure and imposing any of our preferences. If they asked for advice we tried to give it in a way which supported their choices and wishes. The process of talking, being interviewed, helped them to get into the mood and show their feelings for the camera. Together with the words memories arise, feelings, scents, pictures, and you can see how they start to be moved by it. Many women told us secrets which they had not told before. They wanted other women to learn from them.

Linda is experienced in ‘moving’ photography. She is working on another project called ‘Healing Waters’, where she visits the spas of the world in order to show the healing process and validity of using water for physical and mental health and vitality. She shows people actively involved in the process rather than in a pose. Through this she has developed standards and knowledge in shooting images which show movement, intensity, sensuality, energy and emotional states. She mainly uses natural light, an appropriate medium for a subject which wants to give insight into natural process and structure, showing the life history, the process of becoming an erotic being and the present state of erotic feelings within the women. Besides, it fixes a certain standard which is a thread throughout the photographs and creates certain demands concerning the setting (e.g. daytime, places with enough light etc.)

For most women it was a good experience to sense our compassion and support. The interview enabled them to freely express themselves, evolving new ideas and maybe even valuable sexual qualities. The fact that we interviewed them and they decided to be open towards the public often influenced their lives. Gisela from Germany suddenly remembered how erotic she felt with her hair done in a certain way - and she tried to show us. She was surprised that she had forgotten about it. She then let her hair grow longer.

We got into the intimicy of the interviews and the photography; we got deep into feelings. Taping gives the possibility to listen to it again... to understand emotions and rhythms. For our first interviews I did not yet have this experience but rather felt being an artist creating ‘statements’, texts to express the individual thoughts and hopes of the interviewed woman, representing rhythm, soul and spirit of her. Thus I only have written notes of what they said from those interviews. There was also the fear that women could feel restricted by the tape. It showed that this was not the case. Once they started to talk they lost their barriers and restrictions. They got involved. Some of the texts were rejected by the woman, the majority accepted. We do not use the rejected texts.

In this project we realized the power of monogamy. Meanwhile, we consider it a tool to enable humans to enslave others and make them their personal property. One of the very last dogmas, strongly connected with the blood-dogma: only „my own child is my own child“, „my own brother my own brother“, „my own wife, husband“ etc. However, stopping believing in monogamy is frightening.

We found a strong connection between Eros and death, especially as AIDS became now widespread. Every time you follow your sexual impulse you are confronted with this question. You cannot just trust people but really have to make sure that you can trust them in order to survive.

We don’t know about the future as it is passing, but we think these are the questions of the moment... what is divine and what is sexual? What is body and what is soul? We see a merging in the nineties. Access to experience and live your feelings can outweigh guilt. Why not jump to this realm? A life in the atmosphere of sensuality... this is our current fantasy.

Introductionthe project
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