Bizarre or trending subjects, catch a break with our curiosity of the week. What is a perfect body? By embedding herself into works of art, Mexican photographer Carol Espíndola uses humour to deconstruct our ideals.

Photographer, educator, essayist inspired by contemporary culture… Carol Espíndola is always questioning women’s place in our world, their relation to their bodies, and the stereotypes she must fight on a daily basis. In 2001, the Mexican artist discovered the medium. “I have very few photos of my childhood. After the births of my daughters, I started using a camera to document their lives”, she says. Quickly noticed, her creations won a local contest. “I immediately received criticism such as ‘surely the photographs are of her husband’”, she tells us

Provocative and committed Carol Espíndola seeks to represent the female beauty as seen with a “patriarchal gaze that still governs us”. Fighting against the notion of a beauty imposed by society, she wants to showcased a naked body free from any sexual connotation. “To do so, I push the boundaries of the medium and play with the meaning of the term ‘photography’, she adds. I appropriate works of art painted by men, modifying them enough to change their original context – while still using humour.”

The quest of the perfect silhouette

Naked, the photographer abandons herself to the camera and embed her silhouette into famous paintings. In turn, she embodies Venus, Aphrodite, Eve, Phryne (a famous Greek courtesan), or even Lady Godiva (an Anglo-Saxon woman who lived in the 11th century and was rumoured to have ridden on horseback through the streets of Coventry with her clothes off to convince her husband to lower the taxes he deducted to the people, ed.). Symbols of resilience, these figures are represented in art with “perfect bodies”. “When I started La Atlantida, it seemed impossible to devote myself to photography, I was not selected in contests, I was doing badly in the portfolio review, and had gained a lot of weight. Watching my daughters grow made me realise that I, too, was growing older, so I turned the camera on me – for me nudity is a form of honesty. Self-portraiture is a symbol of empowerment”, the photographer tells us.

Amusing series, La Atlántida takes the form of a quest: that of the perfect silhouette. Inspired by the mythical city Atlantis and notion of utopia invented by Thomas More, the artist compares the search to a heavenly place to the women’s desire to look like an unreachable ideal. With self-deprecation, Carol Espíndola remove from the paintings these sublime bodies to pay a tribute to liberation. Becoming the centrepiece of these redone canvas, she invites the viewer to admire her forms – marked by the passage of time, imperfect, but, most of all, glorious.

© Carol Espíndola