‘Divine Vessels’: Yasmina Safi Captures the Many Masks of Woman [Interview]
Slick latex gloves, lacy negligees in fire-engine red, ivory linens draped carelessly across naked, muscular bodies: touch-me textures and an occasional pop of color burn through the smoldering haze of Yasmina Safi’s bedroom photographs.
Shot primarily on film and Polaroid, her work captures a self-directed romance rarely seen in stories that center on women and their bodies. “As women and as people, we maintain power in the construction of our public selves,” Yasmina says. “Body freedom is being able to express ourselves and our femininity however we see fit. It’s freedom from societal expectations about behavior, from negative associations between how a woman chooses to present herself and who she is.”
The models in Yasmina’s photos are muse-like, descendants of the nine Greek goddesses who inspired creativity and passion in their earthly worshippers. Harnessing the inherent connection between liberation and sexual pleasure found in the muses, Yasmina injects a much-needed dose of autonomy and identity into the trope, allowing her models’ limbs to fade in and out of frame and focus. “There are forms we take on in our daily lives when we are under observation, and then different forms in our private lives,” she explains. “These photos are meant to embody the characters we play and how it feels to move through both spaces.”
Experimenting with voyeurism, escapism, and shades of femininity, Yasmina explores the idea of psychological “masking”: how people—in this case women—camouflage their true selves as a survival mechanism in a world that judges them harshly. Her Polaroids invite viewers to see women as multidimensional shapeshifters, “divine vessels with the ultimate wisdom” to choose their fate—and just which path they’ll take to get there.
In Today's Q+Art Interview…
Yasmina Safi discusses what makes a good muse, why she loves Polaroid photography, and what she does when she’s in a deep creative rut.
How do you find your muses? What makes a good muse?
Yasmina Safi: I find them naturally, through mutual connections mostly. To me, a good muse understands my vision and brings their own emotional depth to it. There is a mutual flow and connection that happens and the final work reflects that.
Why do you use Polaroid film? What impact does this choice have on the final work?
YS: I love the dreamy quality it has. It reminds me of the way we see memories in our minds.
Who are your three favorite photographers right now?
YS: Nan Goldin, Ren Hang, and Nobuyoshi Araki.
What’s the last song you listened to?
YS: “La Combi Versace” by Rosalia. I don’t speak Spanish that well, but I love her.
Do you consider your work sensual, sexual, or somewhere in between? What sort of reactions do you get from viewers?
YS: Somewhere in between. I like the elements of mystery and curiosity in sensuality. I also like the confidence and power of authentic sexual expression and I like to express both in my work.
How does your work relate to current issues surrounding women’s access to abortion and related healthcare?
YS: My work will always reflect women as divine vessels with the ultimate wisdom to choose if and when they will bring life into the world.
What’s your cure for creative block?
YS: I find inspiration going to galleries and museums. If I am still feeling blocked I try to create anyway, despite a lack of inspiration.
What’s your favorite form of self-care?
YS: Journaling and having a spa day.
Where are your favorite places to travel?
YS: My favorite cities are Berlin and Mexico City but my favorite beaches are in Greece.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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