Artist Interview: Facebook Censored Photographer Gracie Hagen’s New Book

hagenphotographyIllusions of the Body Book  hagenphotography3 hagenphotography2

If you were following us back in December, you may remember a post we did about Gracie Hagen‘s project, “Illusions of the Body.” This proved our most popular post to date, and was even flagged and banned by Facebook as inappropriate, something I covered in a separate post. Since the December post, Hagen has finished putting a book together of full color images of the project, including 17 never before released images. The book is available for pre-order on sale for $50 (regularly $60) to be shipped on May 1st, and each advance purchase will be numbered and signed by Hagen. What better way to show your support of work like Hagen’s, work that shouldn’t be censored by social media just because it features nude bodies, than to own your very own collection of these powerful images?  Hagen was able to answer a few questions about the ban and her work via email.

Beautiful/Decay: What do you think about Facebook’s censorship of our post and your work? Do you think there’s ever going to be a way to get around this? Do you think that censorship may actually draw more attention to a body of work than uncensored work?

Gracie Hagen: Whenever there is a controversy over something, people pay attention to it. That’s why George Zimmerman has the disgusting attention he has now (celebrity boxing). So yes, when Facebook pulled it, it created outrage and defense and interest that wouldn’t have even been there before because it was drawing a different crowd, people who are bothered by censorship. The only way around censorship is the progression of society. Every generation becomes a little less strict, a little more accepting & a bit more aware of the nuances of right and wrong or appropriate and inappropriate etc etc.& its because of people like us who speak up when there seems to be some dubious shit going on, like censoring of art.

B/D: Why do you think nudity is still a censorship issue in the art world?

GH: Because of the sexual repression & shaming that exists in our society. People are shocked and ashamed of sex sadly. They equate nudity with sex. Things they aren’t comfortable with, they’re scared of, therefore CENSOR IT! It’s a reactionary element, zero critical thinking involved.

B/D: A good amount of your work is portraiture and revolves around the body and its vulnerabilities. Why is this a focus of yours? What led you to this approach? How much direction did you take with regard to the poses in “Illusions of the Body”?

GH: Hah, all of it is portraiture! I don’t really know how to do anything else or haven’t tried it yet therefore not comfortable with it yet. I am interested in the human condition. What it means to me, what it means to other people. It’s me figuring out the world through my art. Learning and showing people the shades of grey that exists everywhere. That all people are comprised of the same thing, we all essentially want the same thing, to be happy. I’m trying to remind people that the people that look different than you are exactly like you. Don’t treat them with fear, be nice to them, be empathetic, etc etc. I sound like a hippie but it’s something I’ve realized recently & that’s what I’m exploring right now in my art. With regard to posing in “Illusions,” I am by nature a pretty directive photographer. I know what I want & I let them know. Some of the volunteers in the series were models, so they had a great handle on the flattering photo, the unflattering one took a bit more of my direction. The shot was essentially trying to break their modeling habits. A lot of the volunteers didn’t have a ton of experience so it took a lot of my direction. It was a learning experience for sure, trying to come up with poses that looked different from all the other photos I’d taken already.

B/D: Are all of your models volunteers and/or friends? Did you make it a point to feature diverse bodies or are these the models that happened to be interested in your project?

GH: Yes, volunteers & some friends. Mostly anyone who wanted to be apart of it, I’d take their photo. I did reach out at a certain point to specific types of people who weren’t already included in the series, to make sure when I made the book, there’d be as many types as I could find! And I didn’t even scratch the surface, but I tried! At one point, the series had caught momentum online again & I got about 10 emails that day about “Why are there only mutilated men in your series?!” People were really upset about how it was only circumcised men in the series. It’s kind of an interesting social experiment too to see what types of people would be interested in participating, what types of people did I get from each internet site (craigslist, Model Mayhem, Tumblr etc) the area in which I am, Midwest United States where almost everyone of age is circumcised. I’m pretty sure when I got those 10 emails, it had gotten popular in parts in Europe where circumcision is not done with the frequency it is here.

B/D: What are you currently working on?

GH: I’m documenting one wonderful woman’s experience with a mastectomy & breast reconstructive surgery. It’s a long project. I started about 4 months ago & won’t be finished until around October of this year. I’m also working on a series involving fighters called “Consenting Combatants”. I’m trying to document the mental, physica,l & emotional things a fighter (MMA, boxer, jujitsu etc) goes through before & after a fight. I’m also working on a short film. My original goal was to become a filmmaker. I picked up photography as a way to practice post production & framing. So I’ve decided I have to get back to that, here’s to hoping it’s something that I can do!

You can pre-order Hagen’s book here.

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