Scribbled Lines

The body as canvas

The idea of staging the human body as a canvas had been in my head for a long time. But it was only a very vague idea at first. I found body painting quite nice, but photographically it was out of the question for me because I can't paint myself - and photographing someone else's work of art didn't interest me at all. I tried a few promising images with a beamer projection in the portrait area, but did not enjoy them enough to pursue this idea intensively. The effort and the preparation were disproportionate to the achievable results. So the idea stayed in my head, waiting for a brilliant idea.

Development of the idea

As so often in life, chance came to my rescue in the form of one of my favorite models. Although the effort for a picture to the series One Hundred Hands. was quite short both in terms of time and technology, we did not manage to take a picture of her for this series, despite several appointments. But since we both wanted her to be part of this project, we made a separate appointment just to take this one picture. The picture was quickly made, and over the concluding coffee we came up with the idea “ scribbled lines ” to speak. I already knew from "One Hundred Hands" that I really enjoy integrating words into an image. 

Many of my ideas come about through images that form in my head while listening to music or reading something. I thought of Peter Greenaway's film “The Pillow Book”, in which a Chinese calligrapher writes books on her lover's body. We liked the idea and spontaneously decided that I should write a quote that was very important to her on her body.

Well , there is an unwritten law that the photographer should never touch his model. I was also aware of this and, as far as possible, strictly adhered to this rule. Although, in my opinion, it wasn't about never straightening a piece of clothing or a strand of hair. I've always done something like this - of course only after asking the model beforehand. Since I was supposed to be writing a quote on my model's stomach for this picture, I had to touch her and since it was with her consent, it shouldn't have been a problem. However, I was now so influenced by this rule that I felt a little self-conscious. It took me a bit of effort to write the text on the model's stomach with a kajal pencil.

Once is never

We liked the idea and the result so much that we chose a second, much longer text for the same shoot, which I then also wrote on the model's body. Since we were both completely unprepared for this, we only had a ballpoint pen at hand with which I could write - the eyeliner pencil would not have been enough for the entire text. If I had known beforehand how long and tiring it would be to write this text on the body, I would certainly have insisted that we limit ourselves to an excerpt of the text. So I was then busy for three hours just writing!

Appropriate models

At first I had no ambitions to develop this project into a series either. But after I published an image, I got so many requests from models who also had text they wanted written on their bodies that I finally decided to make a series out of it. In fact, it wasn't very difficult to find models for this idea. The only requirements they had to meet in order to be eligible were a willingness to have nudes taken, a text of their own, and a little flexibility in their schedule. However, after intensive reflection, some interested people found the nudity and emotional nakedness too much and decided not to take part. The series is a logical continuation of the "One Hundred Hands" and should therefore be regarded as a nude series, although I occasionally made concessions with the image editing or the pose in order not to show breasts or the intimate area.

The practical implementation

I let the model choose the text - it doesn't matter whether it's Hesse, U2 or your own text. However, I generally reject texts that repel me or that don't suit me at all. After trying out a few things with brushes, ink pens and other writing implements, I finally ended up back at the beginning. To write the text, I use a standard soft eyeliner pencil from the drugstore. The model stands, sits or lies in front of me - depending on where on the body the text is to be positioned and which posture is most comfortable for both of us. The process of writing is then a rather sober hard work. Depending on the length of the text, writing takes between ten minutes and two hours. Meanwhile, I have to concentrate hard not to make a mistake. Nonetheless, I make mistakes from time to time. Of course, it's particularly unpleasant if I only notice it after the pictures have already been taken. If I notice a mistake in time, it can be easily corrected with a cosmetic tissue. Retouching mistakes afterwards with Photoshop is much more difficult and time-consuming.

The attempt to have the model described by someone other than me failed miserably. That had nothing to do with me and my idea. It made me feel like a repro photographer assigned to photograph someone else's work.

I took the pictures in as many different ways as possible. With both the poses and the light, I tried everything that was available to me. To find out what works best, I wanted to photograph as many different variations of the same subject as possible. So I took pictures with daylight as well as with artificial or flash light. I took the pictures in the studio, outdoors and on location, and I also chose alternating methods for post-processing in order to get many variants here as well. Incidentally, the warm continuous light is most pleasant for the model : the body cools down when lying down for a long time, and the warmth of an artificial light spotlight helps the model to warm up again quickly.

Reception of the results

Although the project is not yet finished, some pictures have already been published in various magazines and on online portals. Editorially, the images were always expressly requested, since they are obviously ascribed the potential to interest the audience. The special thing about this project is certainly not just the fact that naked women's bodies were described with text. It is probably also the fact that the photographer did it himself. The project falls somewhere between body painting, tattoo art and calligraphy. With these styles, however, the photography of the works of art is sometimes purely documentary and therefore often amateurish, or it is in the hands of a third party. The connection I practice, i.e. describing the body and then photographing the result myself, is rather rare. In general, the images published so far have also been extremely well received by the public. I've been asked less often than I expected why I'm pursuing this project. In fact, I can't explain it plausibly at all. I only had this idea of texts on bodies - but since I hadn't seen it implemented anywhere according to my ideas, I decided to try it myself. Coincidence ensured that the idea never let go of me. and so an ongoing series was born.

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