Safe and Sexy
A photo essay on the choices women make about what they wear Jody Hudey, 20
In grade ten or eleven, when I lived in Brandon, I started working at my uncle’s tattoo shop and hanging out with people with tattoos and piercing and bondage clothes, and that changed the way I dressed. I don’t feel sexy if I’m showing too much skin. That’s trashy to me. Mostly I didn’t like Brandon because of the gossip. Women do crazy things when they’re jealous. If they like your boyfriend or don’t want you to be friends with one of their friends, they just make up stupid things and tell everyone. There were a lot of times I got beat up in Brandon. Groups of girls would come up and just say something stupid like, “You remember making fun of me in junior high?” I wouldn’t even recognize these girls. I started fights too. I always thought I had a good reason. I moved to Winnipeg and started hanging out with more laid-back people. That’s when I started with the beads in my hair, dreadlocks. I moved away from the fishnets. I’m calming down a bit, going more natural.
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