Safe and Sexy

A photo essay on the choices women make about what they wear
Isabelle Massey, 40
Victoriaville, Quebec

I was raped when I was eight years old. It wasn’t because I was sexy at eight years old — but it makes you learn fast. That was part of my education. I grew up in a poor neighborhood in Montreal so in my teen years I was already conscious of danger. When I got pregnant, I didn’t want to live in Montreal to raise my daughter. I feel safe when there are people close by — and if I’m with my boyfriend or daughter, it changes. With clothing, if I’m in black clothes I feel protected be-cause black is more discreet. You’re noticed less. When I’m in nature, it wakes up my senses. Summer as well . . . the wind on your skin, the sun, it wakes up our sexuality a bit more than winter. I like my legs. When I wear a short skirt, when I’m with my partner, I like that, and he finds it attractive as well. I use my hair as well to communicate that I’m more sensual. Sexuality is simple, I find.
This past summer, Sarah Hughes travelled to Halifax, Quebec City, Victoriaville, Toronto, and Winnipeg to photograph women in two outfits of their choosing — the first one “comfortable and safe,” the second “attractive and sexy.” She then invited each of her subjects to talk about these dual identities. The fifteen women here are a representative sample from a larger work entitled Persona Project: Safe & Sexy, in which Hughes explores the considerations at play in women’s choice of clothing, revealing the influence of personal history and social convention. The photographs are based on early anthropological portraiture Hughes saw while working at the Smithsonian film archives, as well as “before and after” series popularized in magazines in the 1990s — both of which feature head-to-toe frontal perspectives. Viewed collectively, the women’s individual personas come into sharp focus.

7 comment(s)

ShannonMay 20, 2008 20:45 EST

I'm not sure where or who gets this note, but if
possible, would you tell Griselda that I also love the way she dresses and the scent of Patchouli oil on her neck. Thanks,

Charles TysoeAugust 06, 2008 11:41 EST

How very trendy. Just what we need from Canada's newest, best and most progressive mag for all of who "get it". Artistic license and all, but why don't you grow up, please. Exploiting a 13 year old girl (does this girl have a mom and dad? Or a guardian with some sort of a brain?) to talk about her sexual anxieties in a location any Haligonian will recognize — OK maybe the two or three who can read, and who might chance upon the magazine. In an age of hellishly clever sexual predators (some of them probably classmates or social acquaintances of poor Amelia), what can you be thinking of? Other than "I am ARTIST. Affirm me!"

It's just art, right? No sexual predator would dare take seriously these plaintive musings. I'm sure if that was the case, Mr. Alexander and all the bright lights around him would have thought of it.

A young girl needs adult role models, security and affirmation in a healthy environment, where she can have her femininity nourished and protected.

You have just made her into human graffiti ; I suppose because there just aren't enough women and girls around willing to display themselves in any degrading fashion for a little fame or lots of money and we can never get enough of it.

Or perhaps you think this is real innovation?

What a disgrace to humanity you are for conceiving and carrying out, using your positions of inflence and power as "reputable journalists", this literary and visual grope of a young woman.

- A subscriber -

aminMarch 20, 2009 11:35 EST

hai, it seems like griselda enjoyed her life in dancing eventough she have to rushed for her dancing class and farm works and I also loved the ways she dresses thanks.

MApril 29, 2009 16:51 EST

Re: Ms. Wells, Quebec City.

Why weren't "chum" and "blonde" translated as "boyfriend" and "girlfriend", respectively?

Also, I'd have to agree with Mr. Tysoe. While I can appreciate that kids grow up faster these days, the use of such young subjects seems a bit inappropriate.

ahmadMay 19, 2009 02:54 EST

hi am ahmad 40 years white skin tall 168 cm god job i have and separete man have children bat somtimde weth me look nice friendley toomuch i see u read bout u i like u really hope we can be friends or more bat that need from u take care

Mr. BeenJuly 03, 2009 17:25 EST

Um, Mr. Tysoe, what are you talking about? Somehow this picture is "groping" this young woman? How do you arrive at that conclusion given the context of the series, and the clothes she's wearing?

Your remarks seem rather over the top. This is hardly ironic Vice Magazine-style exploitation disguised as artistic attitude.

Your concern is noted, but that you somehow think that a "hellishly clever" Haligonian sexual predator will seek this girl out in this location— because of her picture in the Walrus, and her comments about boys— seems an imaginative leap to say the least.

nilApril 16, 2012 08:08 EST


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