We still are holding several images until the release date. Emilie Elizabeth, one of the primary visual artists of Instinct and Memory, in her own words…
When we first started discussing the concept for this shoot, Surachai had a few reference images floating around and had become interested in somehow incorporating Sex Magic. After a bit of research (I was vaguely familiar with the practice thanks to a very informative yoga retreat), we started putting together some ideas that were loosely inspired by the core concept of Sex Magic: focusing sexual energy into transcendence or an intention.
The photos don’t represent any specific ceremony or spiritual practice, but there were definitely nods to the Great Rite and a ganashakra in the posing and set design. The Great Rite is traditionally a Wiccan/Pagan practice that can be physical (intercourse) or symbolic using a chalice/cauldron and dagger/staff. The act represents the union of the God and Goddess and was historically used to promote fertility of the land and womb. In modern Wicca, it is used to unify the feminine and masculine energy within oneself. In Hinduism and some sects of Buddhism, “ganashakra” is a broad term used to describe a gathering involving a tantric circle ritual. These ceremonies generally involve dancing, geometric designs drawn on the ground with powders, some sort of feast and of course, sexual yoga or symbolic intercourse. The intention is to reach a heightened state of consciousness which some believed could also involve temporary possession. Instinct and Memory could easily serve as the soundtrack to a frenzied spiritual enlightenment or at the very least, an incredibly powerful orgasm.
Briana Gonzales’s set was an inspiration in itself. The colors and textures photographed beautifully. The props allowed the women to interact with the set instead of simply posing. Briana also choreographed some of the scenes, which made the women feel like they were actually taking part in some kind of ceremony. It was amazing to watch them delve into it. Most of the women didn’t know each other and some had very little experience modeling nude. Despite that, there was a lot of laughing and I think it was pretty exhilarating for everyone involved.
Over the last ten years or so, I’ve shied away from shooting women topless or nude. I generally shoot fashion so it happens on occasion, but it almost always feels gratuitous. For this project however, shooting these amazing, confident women with different body types felt right. It felt more like a celebration of the human body, feminine energy and collaboration than exploitation. Briana has done some groundbreaking work with Peaches and Margaret Cho and with the recent social and political climate, I’ve also become a lot more focused on feminist issues involving the body and sexuality – whether it be the “Free the Nipple” campaign and nursing in public, women posting “empowered” nude selfies online, Planned Parenthood and the laws placed on women’s bodies or the double-standards of how we view the sexual activities of men vs. women. Coincidentally enough, I attended a screening for the film The Witch with one of the women featured in this project a few weeks after we shot. We were both pleasantly surprised to see the fear of female sexuality being tackled in an aesthetically related, albeit much more sinister way.
Despite women’s bare breasts often being treated as pornographic no matter what the context, I was still caught off guard when I found out that the cover artwork was being censored in some music publications and completely rejected from others. I have no idea whether it was solely based on the bare breasts of the woman in the foreground, their proximity and pose, or because the style of the photo was unlike what’s typically used for electronic music. Either way, I can’t help but wonder whether we would have faced the same censorship if it had been two shirtless men. Thank you to the publications that displayed the unaltered image instead of treating it as offensive or explicit.
Emilie & Briana would also like to thank:
Surachai for trusting us and the other visual artists you collaborate with to to play and create unique work inspired by your music. The amazing women that posed for this project, including Anna Calloway, Corinne Loperfido, Nadia Kiyatkina, Lisa McNeely and Rachel Musgrave. James Mori for bringing your two beautiful snakes and hanging out all day on set with us. Adrian Espinoza for your tireless photo assistant hustle. Amber Kerns for your help with makeup, Steff Walk, and Ian Miyazaki for lending us your otherworldly designs. Rachel Hsiung for the witchy props, Kate Van Asten/WULFKA for the epic cloak and HvnterGvtherer for the stunning neckpiece and jewelry.