Maisie Cousins is one of the youngest London based ‘feminist’ artists of today. We take a look at her controversial photographs to find out her key to winning women’s hearts.
Words: Ludovica Parisi , Subeditor: Julia Tsilman
Photographer Maisie Cousins fights against the idealisation of the perfect woman’s body by capturing and emphasising its imperfections.
The 23-year-old artist started posting work on her blog at the age of 15, not knowing that in a few years her photos will be encouraging young women like her to cope with body insecurities.
Cousins claims to portray only what she subconsciously likes and what reflects her personality.
Although she doesn’t consider herself to be a feminist art artist, her photographs appeared at the Female Matters exhibition last June at Box Studio in Shoreditch to sustain sexual liberation in the 21st century.
Featuring pictures of modern women living in the cyber-submerged world, the show explored the delicate topic of female sexuality, in particular how women perceive themselves and are being perceived by others.
We are in 2015 yet still feel ashamed of our appearance in the eyes of others.
The body should represent a healthy mind. Instead, all we do is attempt to mask our paranoia with false portrayals of our body image.
We take pictures with one goal – editing pimples or dark under-eye circles, slimming our hips and enhancing our breast – just to make it seem like we accept ourselves. However, that is a distorted reality we create to deceive others into thinking that we have high levels of self-confidence.
Our body shape has to be approved by some random like on Instagram or strangers’ comments on Facebook which are most likely trying to hit on you. We use social media as a window to showcase what we would really like to be instead of embracing who we truly are. Therefore, whether it reveals too much skin or is covered from head to toe, our body is inevitably exposed.
In this regard, Cousins’ powerful shots aim to normalise nudity. The intense use of colour and texture gives impact to the images that not only celebrate the ‘imperfect’ woman’s body but also demolish modern taboos.
According to Maisie, no one fully owns their bodies; it’s public property since it is constantly exposed on the net. What she tries to convey through her pictures is hidden self-esteem that prevents people from showing their real identity.
People tend to get obsessed with human body by mainly focusing on its negative aspects. How do you work to change it? What could you cut out from your diet? How much exercise do you do per day? And so on…
Considering we are surrounded by adverts of personal trainers kindly suggesting us to buy exercising machine, protein powders or, worse, some magic pill to make you lose weight, it’s easy to see why women turn into insecure beings who are ashamed to show their bodies.
The London-based photographer’s art is an attempt to make her models feel free to express their own personality, without being afraid to show some skin.
She affirms that when taking pictures of naked bodies, she gets to see the subject in a whole new perspective. Nudity is a vulnerable tool that has the power to not only boost confidence, but also reveal insecurity.
Such vulnerability is amplified if put in a media context. Indeed, the web is a dangerous platform that does not really promote positivity and self-love.
When exposing ourselves on the Internet, we face the cruel and direct world of superficiality. You are judged based entirely on what appears on the screens of others’ devices. Each detail of your body and complexion is curated, blemished, cleaned, turned into some kind of distorted and plastic entity.
That’s when the female image becomes an artefact that reflects perfection. And this is what Maisie wants to avoid portraying – the unnatural look of the female body.
“Feminist art” might not define Cousins’s work, but she cannot deny that her photography is having a strong impact on her followers.
Making use of ‘unconventional’ pictures that can easily be spread worldwide is an effective way to bring to light problems that need to retire.
Gaining confidence requires effort, but as long as our society keeps stereotyping the human body by focusing on its shape rather than its content, nothing will change. Not even art is capable of moulding our mindset.