“So…. can I tape your nipples?”
My cousin Tara and I have had some weird conversations in our creative journeys. From video shooting to making her be the cover of my first poetry book, we’ve had some amazing times together.
In late October, I was working with Signature Editions on my book cover (to be released in April).
I needed a very specific shot of an Indigenous woman, standing proud, playful, and sensual.
Just decolonizing images, one Indigenous at a time.
I’ve chatted before about how our body and image are often portrayed by outside eyes, which fetishize our skin colour, our culture, and our beauty. I wanted to avoid that, obvs.
So I called Tara up and asked her to be my model. And while I was totally chill, for the most part, with writing and promoting this book, it’s always something to have your face be ‘the face’ of a book cover and have it forever be identified as part of this project. And when you’re chatting about casual sex and intimacy, I wanted to make sure Tara knew what she was getting into.
No wooing needed, she was in.
I set up my RezStudio in my living room. Backdrop. Lights. Music playing. Kids playing in the bedroom. We laughed, as our kids played together the way we still play together – loud, dominant, yet so kind to one another.
And we shot. And shot. And we laughed even more. We chatted about position, lighting, sexuality, and the power of images. I kept making sure that Tara felt comfortable the more she undressed, and we laughed again – “I haven’t seen you this nekked since we took baths together.”
Finally, after the hair teasing, the secret grins, the lip-gloss, and the taping of nipples, we were done. We sat and had tea, and listened to our kids play some more.
I didn’t know how to say thank you. I still don’t. This is powerful medicine for me, being able to take these stories and images and present them in a positive way.
Tara also shared some thoughts with me:
This is experience for me was so empowering. I’ve had the honour of working with Tenille on several occasions, and the thing I love the most is she’s always willing to go out of her comfort zone in order to share my ideas and visions. I appreciated this experience even more because she allowed me to go out of my own comfort zone while still feel completely at peace with it all.
In our culture, it’s almost seen as taboo to be open about sexuality. I know there is a long history of our stories and experiences being exploited, so this is a way for us to take back what is ours. Our bodies and spirits intertwined with healthy sexuality and openness.
When she first showed me the images from this shoot, I was completely amazed with how flawless she captured her ideas, what felt funny, awkward and cheesy to me in mid-pose came out strong, bold and effortless in photograph.
I feel its so important for women to feel comfortable within their own bodies and thoughts because we live in a time where images are hyper-sexualized beyond our control. We live in a time where we are shunned if we are openly sexual and on the other side of the spectrum, are considered to be of higher honour and respect if we are humble and modest.
I think it’s absolutely vital that women be accepted as we are, whether we are fully clothed or willingly exposed. This book is what needs to happen for us to begin this dialogue. We are able to giggle and tell stories amongst ourselves, so why not enable us to openly share our thoughts and innermost feelings with humour, beauty and confidence? Feminism doesn’t have to be seen as angry and aggressive, feminism needs to be seen as empowerment with acceptance and knowledge of self.
With that being said, I am so honoured to be a part of this experience. I see this book as a huge leap for the feminine peace of mind. Thank you, Tenille, for taking this step forward for us all.
Ekosi and Maci Cho.
As a reader, I know the power of a book cover. As an artist, I think about tone, texture, shape, white space, font choice, meaning, and layers. As an Indigenous woman, I know the stereotypes that are often portrayed about us. I am leery and weary of feathers, tribal designs, buckskin, and the hyper-sexualisation of our bodies. So how was this going to work, consulting and deciding on a final image for a book about Indigenous erotica?
I am incredibly lucky that the team at Signature Editions listened to my concerns, and wanted to work with my own photographs. I am pleased to show you a draft of the final cover:
– tenille campbell