“One self portrait a day, every day, for as long as I can keep going.”
That's how I described this on my original tumblr. [...] In a sense this was my relationship for some time - this is my witness that I was there and alive breathing every day.
- Lina Scheynius
Since 2007, Lina Scheynius is publishing her photographs in the form of so called “diaries” on platforms like tumblr, flickr or instagram. In this, we as outside spectators are allowed a glance into her world, accompanying the artist exploring and observing, capturing delicate still lives with an arresting honesty and intimate closeness. With light gently playing around the shapes, her canny eye for colour and a tendency for unusual compositions, even the most ordinary subjects radiate an undeniable allure.
Scheynius was born in Vänersborg, Sweden in 1981 and used to work as a model before finding her comfort zone behind the camera - and therewith herself in charge of what to show and how. Her intimate, documentary-style self portraits are allowing her to be more empowering with and attentive of her own body; and less concerned about how someone else might expect her to look or behave. Not just in her self-portraits, but also in photographs of her friends we experience real and vulnerable people and never feel confronted with any kind of judgement behind the picture. We are invited to witness the magic of the imperfect, the beauty of being a woman beyond palliation.
As much body, as much naked skin and explicicity as we see in some of Scheynius’ photos, it’s always a calm and respectful observation instead of being sexualised. So why even talk about it then? Well - isn’t it first interesting in itself that the absence of sexuality in a photo of a naked female body even seems worthy to point out? Isn’t this only reproducing over and over again the fact that the female body as the subject of art and art history follows a long tradition within the field of the male gaze - of, in short, appealing to the male observer?
In fact, this has to be mentioned since one central aspect of Scheynius’ work is to shift that exact same gaze by removing women as the object. The explicit but still poised nudity in her photography challenges traditional theories about the female role as inactive and objectified. In one series about her ex-boyfriend, just to name one example, she shows pictures that are way more explicit than any of her pictures featuring partly naked woman.
Ironically enough, nobody seemed to mind an explicitly naked man. It’s the focus on sexualised female nudity that can be spotted in the majority of articles about the artist. The difficulty with pointing out the female gaze in art is that it often reveals itself in what it refuses to show, in what is not merely depicted.
The female gaze isn’t about asserting some sort of female dominance, but rather putting an emphasis on the presence of emotion and personal stories. Bodies are used as tools to portray said emotions. As exemplary in Scheynius’ case, this might lead to art by women being described as “dreamy” - and in this to not only sexualising, but also romanticizing their work. This is basically forcing an idea upon the artworks that was never there in the first place, because it equals a way of seeing that is still so stuck in our heads. So to break it down, this is where the female gaze comes in - not to take the place of the male gaze but to fight against those barriers and perceptions cultivated by a male dominant culture. That’s why we need more women photographers like Lina Scheynius who deal with the female body as what it is: A body. Not romanticised, not idealised, not sexualised. Beautiful, awkward, strange, real. Pure and perfect in it’s every form. Not more, but most definitely not less.
Lina Scheynius’ exhibition Body can be seen at Tanja Wagner Galerie, Berlin from February 22 till April 13, 2019
Text by: Stefanie Regina Dietzel