It’s a book full of close-ups of female genitalia created by a man but it’s not what you might initially think. With ‘designer vaginas’ all the rage, Philip Werner is trying to celebrate the everyday variety.
It’s not surprising that some people may be put off by the idea of a coffee table book that consists entirely of nude photos of women’s private parts, each of which is accompanied by a message from the model herself. Simply put, Philip Werner’s book, 101 Vagina, is confronting – but that’s exactly the point…
One of the most successful ways to foster discussion and acceptance, especially of a taboo topic, is first through shock. Shock forces you to think, to consider the issues. While this book does not intend to shock, it certainly gains attention and shines light on issues that desperately need to be confronted.
The issue that Werner wishes to address with this book is the taboo surrounding vaginas, and how to demolish that taboo without sensationalising or sexualising the issue. He also wants to promote the belief that all women are naturally beautiful. It’s a hard task in such a superficial, plastic surgery addicted society, but it is through discussion of these two issues that Werner hopes to create “an indirect knock-on effect” that will open up discussion on sexual violence and continue the fight for gender equality.
While the intention was always to create a photo book, the project started out as a website where women could post about personal experiences they’ve had with their vaginas – whether good, bad or anything in between. The idea was simply to start talking, and because of the anonymous nature of the Internet that was the best place to start. Considering the shocking rise in labiaplasty (often sought out by teenagers), the purpose of the messages, regardless of whether they were positive or negative, was to demonstrate that there is no such thing as an abnormal or wrong vagina, and this idea has continued in the book.
Ranging from short ‘letters’ to their own vaginas, to retellings of past traumatic events related to their private parts, the contributions of the models are real. While perhaps only a small step, this shows that the discussion of this taboo topic is entirely possible and Werner himself has demonstrated that men are capable of being part of the solution.
In conjunction with the release of his book, Werner is holding an exhibition of the photos and stories from 101 Vagina, as well as related work by other artists. The exhibition will be held at non-profit organisation 107 Projects in Redfern, 12pm to 5pm until Sunday 30th June, with a voluntary donation at the door. The exhibition also coincides with the Festival of the Vagina – an exploration and celebration of the female sex organ – being held at the same venue on Saturday 29th June.
For more info visit www.101vagina.com.
Words: Max Kobras