“The pictures are saying: this is me, and my body is mine,” says photographer Alexandra Leese on her latest project Me + Mine, born in the first few weeks of lockdown in April.
Without studios, spaces and, well, the freedom to leave the house, Leese – like many other artists – was thinking of innovative ways to carry on working with whatever she had to hand in her London home. Cue: Instagram, a computer, Zoom and a camera.
“I started shooting myself, with the intent of exploring the relationship I have with my own body,” she says. “However, it took on its own momentum and evolved into Me + Mine.” The book, co-designed with art director Eva Nazarova, features 44 nude portraits of women, including Leese, shot via Zoom, recorded as a video session and photographed using various film cameras.
Leese’s aim was to explore the relationship women have with their bodies. Importantly, she wanted to take back control, not only over how we perceive ourselves, but over self-love “within a society that constantly tells us how to” as well.
While Leese tapped women from all corners of the world, including the UK, US, Hong Kong, India and Brazil, the photographer noted that there was a universal understanding among all of “what it means to be a woman” in 2020. “It’s about recognising this empowerment coming from within ourselves,” Leese continues. “Even though all of us have our own unique experiences, we can find strength and unity in one another as we face our own battles.”
Documenting a dynamic shift in power, Me + Mine is for women, by women. Each model had autonomy over the photograph selected for the book, and had full control over how they were photographed, and represented, by Leese.
“Every single body is different, every single body is beautiful, every single experience is unique,” Leese says. “We cannot compare to one another, but we can seek support and inspiration from each other. We mustn’t allow the systems we live in to tell us how to see and love ourselves.”
On Me + Mine...
“As a young girl of South Asian heritage, I’ve had exhausting lectures about my body and the way I need to present it throughout my life. It’s even more draining when the male gaze is in your domestic life, let alone when you walk out into the world. Experiencing this boosted my body confidence as a way of sending a message to the world that the body I’m in is mine alone.”
“It feels good to see myself without fear.”
“When confronted with your own lumps and bumps in a photo, it’s definitely harder to accept them. It’s much more confronting, but that’s a good thing I think.”
“I am always learning and re-learning to love myself and my body. Change is inevitable and keeping up to date with yourself and loving yourself no matter the changing conditions is a process that I love being a part of.”