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Photo project

Body Negative and War Trauma in a Project about the Female Body

For photographer Tetiana Ruda, the naked body is a symbol of life, while social media usually frown upon such kind of content. Therefore, she turns the pictures of women taken for her Feminitive project into negatives.
Tetiana Ruda

A photographer, art critic, and curator, she studied at the National Academy of Arts and the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture of Ukraine and worked with Vogue Italia. Also, she is a finalist of the Art Photography Awards from LensCulture (2018) and lives in Prague.

— I shoot a lot. Not a day goes by without taking a picture for me. When the war began, however, I was overcome by some kind of creative paralysis, because of which I literally couldn’t do anything. I didn’t pick up my camera until three months later. First of all, I needed to feel alive. It was in Prague when we finally moved into a separate flat. Before that, our family with four children spent three months in an improvised dormitory we shared with other refugees. So I started by photographing myself and then other women.

I call the method I use in this series ‘the worse, the better’. I usually take long-exposure photos in the dark or the other way around in the brightest sun I can find. Then I convert the picture to negative. It is a kind of forced concession to social media. This way, the pictures of nudity don’t get blocked.

I call the method I use in this series ‘the worse, the better’.

The experience of living through the trauma inevitably gives rise to existential fear of your own demise. In this state, people want — whether consciously or not — to feel whole, at least to some degree, even if for a time.

Corporeal awareness is the only thing that can give us a sense of security and confidence, at least in something, even if fleeting. The delicate connection between the psyche and the body is hard to grasp and maintain. The psyche resists this feeling of being one with one’s body to protect us the best it can. It prohibits us from feeling reality and reacting to it because there is violence, pain, and terror there. Therefore, this sense of wholeness you put so much effort into achieving through being aware of your body starts to fall apart again. All we have is a moment to catch the impression of our vitality.

Corporeal awareness is the only thing that can give us a sense of security and confidence, at least in something.

In my Feminitive series, I grasp at it like when you hurt yourself in an effort to wake up. Photographing the female body becomes the first step to taking control of my own experiences. Seen through the lens, it is no longer just a body. It is a symbol of continuing life, the opposite of dehumanization that goes in hand with the war.

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