Safe and Sexy
A photo essay on the choices women make about what they wear Amalia Tweedie, 13
I think that competitive swimming has really helped how I think of myself. I’ve become a lot more confident because I think I’m better at swimming than I was at school. It makes me feel like I can actually do something.If I’m going somewhere I’m not sure about, I try not to wear shoes I can’t run in, and I think about whether I’m going to come across as a person who’s easy to manipulate — I don’t want to look overly sexual.Some of the boys don’t notice us. When they do, the girls treat it as a big deal and the guys get kind of embarrassed, and, you know, it’s that sort of cycle. In grade six we started to get more into it. I find that most of my girlfriends will wait for a guy to approach them.Of course, I have the usual fears about men — that I will be taken advantage of — but I think I’m most scared that they won’t find me attractive and that I’ll get to some point in my life where nobody finds me attractive.
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.
Canada & its place in the world. Published by
the non-profit charitable Walrus Foundation