Of her new project ’Nudie’ the legendary L.A.-based photographer says, ’It was time for me to do what I’d done to others’
Most photographers love having the ability to hide behind the camera, relishing the agency it affords them. Melbourne-born, Los Angeles-based Polly Borland isn’t immune to these pleasures. “I like photography because it’s about control,” Borland says on a Zoom call from her native Australia, where she’s spent the entirety of the pandemic.
Though Borland devoted the first three decades of her career to crafting decadent, erotic, and uncannily hypnotic images of others, she’s rarely trained her lens on herself. For her breakout series, The Babies, she documented a group of infantilist fetishists. After discovering actress Gwendoline Christie in a Brighton boutique called Pussy, she made the future Game of Thrones actress the subject of the visual fairytale, Bunny. And for her Smudge, Pupa, and Morph series, she ensconced various models in layers of nude and high-chroma pantyhose.
“The reason I wouldn’t have done it when I was younger was that I was too vain,” she says of turning the camera on herself. But after being stuck in Melbourne while trying to get her green card sorted, Borland and her family—her husband is director John Hillcoat and her son Louie, aka Sleepie Louie, is an aspiring hip-hop artist and CalArts student—they decided to take their first vacation in years in the lush seaside enclave of Byron Bay.
Once Borland realized that the isolated New South Wales beach town wasn’t as hard hit by COVID as places like Los Angeles, she started working in earnest on a selfie-inspired series she’d begun while traveling in Greece. “It was like pulling teeth, this body of work. I’m usually looking through the camera and I’ve got complete control. But I kind of knew I was going to need to use the iPhone,” says Borland, who had always shot film before this project. “I didn’t know how to do it in a way where I had some objectivity. I was using my hand and getting the camera pointed at me or the iPhone and eventually I got a selfie stick and that kind of worked a little bit better, but not really, and then I brought my selfie stick with me to Australia and I started using it as a tripod and that meant I had more control over the arrangement of the body.”
Borland and her L.A. dealer, Nino Mier, who will open an exhibition featuring 14 of the artist’s new photos at his latest space in West Hollywood on Saturday, May 15, consider this recent body of work, dubbed Nudie, to be the most revealing of her career, both literally and figuratively.
“It’s the best work I’ve ever done,” says Borland.
This new series of confounding, compelling, and closely cropped self-portraits of her naked body was created by Borland contorting her skin into undulating landscapes that look like classical, if slightly psychedelic, statuary. It’s a study in radical vulnerability and the death of ego as it relates to the ageism and sexism implicit in selfie culture. And it’s actually quite a labor-intensive labor of love.
“It’s really hard because I’m having to balance. Basically I ate my way through COVID, the lockdown and after, and it’s only now that I’ve been able to do these yoga intensives that ironically all the fat is going,” says Borland. “I was fatter than I’ve ever been before. People say, ‘You’re so brave.’ I don’t think it’s brave it was just the next step. But my husband can’t even look at them and John isn’t fainthearted about anything. I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I have to do this, and I’m doing it.’”
Source: Los Angeles Magazine
Original publication 14 May, 2021
Posted on NatCorn 27th May 2021
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