Femininity is certainly a mysterious and magical subject, which many artists have explored for ages. What did they find out? Probably even more questions than answers.
At the beginning of the XX century, the photographer Anne Brigman (1869-1950) tried to find out what it meant to be a woman and own a female body. She shocked a rather big audience with her pictures depicting female nudes in marvelous, naturalistic landscapes. Brigman wasn't just a photographer, but also a mountain climber, a traveler, and writer. She was a revolutionary character at that time, and today she is considered a feminist, before the word feminism was invented.
Anne Brigman took human portraits outdoors, among mountains, lakes and woods. Her photos and self portraits, represent a compelling way to investigate the female identity, reclaiming its ancestral dimension with the primordial world. She found her freedom in nature, in the wilderness, away from indoor spaces and clothes. Brigman's work shows us the urge to reconnect the human spirit with the inner spirit of the earth, which still dwells inside of us.
The evocative pictures taken in Sierra Nevada, California, show women as pagan deities, coming from a world we forgot and in which we used to be a whole with nature. They convey the idea of the wild feminine, a subject discussed by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author of the famous book "Women Who Run with the Wolves". The female archetype of the wild woman represents the intuition, the impulsivity, the instinctual nature we all have. It's the fire that burns inside every artist, that creative force that comes from the bowels, from the depth of the soul. It pushes human beings to creation, ideation, art. Pinkola says the wild woman can be found in the woods, in the rivers, and in the mountains. She is everywhere, in the present and in the past. She is in Brigman's pictures as well.
Every woman needs to recognise, preserve and nurture the wild woman who lives inside of us, in body and mind. She must arise, in order to bring power, joy and vital energy. We all live in a society that tends to suppress the wild woman, to hide her away. She has been suffocated by those fears, insecurities and stereotypes of which people are very often victims. It seems essential reconnecting with the beauty of nature and its raw essence, getting rid of useless conventions and rules. Unblock the mind, release it from social traps.
My pictures tell of my freedom of soul, of my emancipation from fear
Brigman herself once said "My pictures tell of my freedom of soul, of my emancipation from fear". She discovered the wild femininity within and used photography to bring it back to life. So, how can we do the same? As human beings, the further we live from nature, the less we are connected to our wild side. This part of identity can be difficult to handle. We should accept the negative part of our being, without repressing it or being afraid of it. We should trust our instincts and follow the way of wild nature, which leads to freedom.
Anne Brigman's photography is groundbreaking in every aspect, still today, not only because she empowered the female body and her own. She also established her place within the world, as a woman and an artist. Femininity is wild and belongs to wild nature.