black venus (nsfw)

Our greatest journey in life may just be the one we sojourn inside ourselves, the one that must fight to filter through societal molds, shed and shave expectation, and extract our true selves. Unembellished, unadorned and untouched by worldly wares, Maxim Vakhovskiy’s intricate poetic portraits are psalms of beauty unabridged.

photographs by maxim vakhovskiy // written by nicole camack

A “patient observer and incessant dreamer,” this creative visionary shares a compelling story through each individual image. With photographic roots planted in his father’s eastern European makeshift darkroom, Vakhovskiy has created a catalogue of creative portraiture. Bound, booked, and beloved, his delicate insistence showcasing the virtue of the black woman – the black Venus – reverberates visual stories and freeing journeys.

I’m celebrating ‘Black Venuses’ as women of today, women of power, women of passion, women representing a wide spectrum of beauty,” he says. But these are no typical models. “Mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, rebels – from artists to soldiers – they bravely give you a glimpse into their narrative of being a woman.

For these women, the project has been a passage into authentic self-expression, without the brutal filter of social judgment.

Vakhovskiy prides himself on photographing without concealing identities with unnatural, heavy direction and editing. The juxtaposition of the everyday woman, unclothed, un-doused in wardrobe and makeup sets, and editorialized is a far cry from the middling model calls for images of beauty and women.

The scars, stretch marks, birthmarks, freckles, and even hairy legs are all there,” he says. “I wanted to specifically tell the story of the body, which is one of the iconic representative elements to womanhood—the pregnant body, the muscle, the body hair, the hints of youth and age, the body art, and the visual signs reflective of various lifestyles.

Inspirations ignite from classical art, like Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus” and versions of Madonna and Child, all being symbols of beauty, love, motherhood, and femininity. “The nude figure has long been used as an expression of ideals of human beauty,” he says. “In these portraits, the nude is a shameless, honest and dramatic representation of the women.” As exposed as it could appear, the women wear the cloaks of their emotion, and elements more part of them than any clothing could ever be.Precious, personal artifacts, carried close to the heart and history, are occasionally engaged to help the story come alive.

My intent is to focus on the layer of heritage, showing women who have identity, pride and power,” he says. “The head wrap, for example, together with body language, becomes almost an accessory of African-inspired regality, a fabric helmet of courage.

Redressing historical caricature of African women is no small feat. With specific negative connotations of “Venus” in black history, such as the Sarah Baartman saga, Vakhovskiy is moved to shed new light on old lineage. “I’ve undertaken the task, undeniably much bigger than myself, to overturn these connotations at least within the context of my work,” he says.

Drawn to the poetic solemnness of classic photography with simple light and haunting emphasis on the subject, the work of old-time African photographers like Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe, the stark portraiture of Richard Avedon and contemporary masters like Mark Saliger and Paolo Roversi, Vakhovskiy’s vision transformed into a collection which sold out all over the world.

With an idea, a handful of images and a special amour for images de Africana and feminine finesse, Black Venus was spawn. “My first real work in portraiture involved a model of African descent,” he says. “She also happened to be my first real love. I became inspired by the universal beauty of black womanhood, by the soulfulness, heritage, the strengths, the vulnerabilities, an unconventional quality of goddess-ship. It felt like a very natural progression to make my work about that, something I’ve enjoyed dearly.”

As we await the next installment of the Black Venus visionary, we can be inspired by the audacity to transcend layers of expectation and wander into the deep, unadulterated closets in our own, quiet mirrors. As it turns out, the most intricate and powerful thing you can wear, is your authentic self. It’s beautiful, intimate, and unabashedly liberating.

maximushka.tumblr.com
This interview was conducted early 2013.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>