Thea Elder’s first published project, ‘Women as People (Not Objects)’, is an exploration of women and their relationships with the Earth and their bodies. All photographs have been taken on various film cameras (Minolta Hi-Matic E, Fujica STX-1).
Up until this project, Marisa had been a kind of enigma floating around the peripheral of my mind; sometimes I would see her walking through Newtown, or I’d keep up to date on her creative pursuits via Instagram. Either way, I knew she was just around the corner. She always seemed like a pretty happy lady, but when I met her for the first time to take some pretty “bare-all” pictures, I couldn’t help but think “fuck, this woman is like a radiating ball of sunshine”. Being in an environment with a woman whose mood is so contagious is a glorious and super endearing quality to the experience.
Everything about this shoot just felt natural. Conversation flowed easily about both of our thoughts surrounding a multitude of issues, mainly, why being naked has started being this hyper-sexualised experience. My mind usually goes 10000 miles an hour, but I found that the conversation with Marisa made my mind slow right down. And that, I believe, is an incredible feat. So here she is, in all her glowing glory, Marisa.
1. What do you think is the answer to all girls being able to accept their bodies for what they are (ever-changing organisms capable of anything) at a young age?
To perceive and to believe that females – young and old are all beautiful works of art. As women, we are walking and breathing miracles. We are all unique and timeless and transient and ever-evolving. We are the source of life and givers of abundant love and beauty – for us to be able to give birth and also love unconditionally is an innate quality that we harness wholesomely. Our bodies are a vessel of life – we are powerful masterpieces.
If we are taught and enforced this understanding of ourselves and our qualities – how could we not appreciate and love what we are gifted with? Female.
2. Do you like your body? Would you say your relationship with your body is considered “healthy”?
Do I like my body? In all honesty, there are moments where I look in the mirror and wish certain things were different but then I find myself shaking my head and laughing to myself and saying “ nah fuck that, this is who I am. I’m into it”. Self-love and self-validation is the answer to the most important relationship in your life; the one you have with yourself.
3. What has brought you to the conclusion that you like/dislike your body?
I think the ultimate conclusion for me to feel the way I do has always derived from the resemblance I have to my late mother. I’m not talking exclusively about my body but also my face – this is my identity and I associate myself heavily to the biggest source of inspiration and wonder in my life and that is my beautiful mother. How could I perceive myself in a negative light when all I see is colour and a powerhouse woman?
4. What do you do to make yourself feel good?
All the simple pleasures that make our days. I’m talking walking around naked, dancing naked, watering the garden naked, painting and drawing, making art and reading under a tree – laughing and being amongst nature and good company.
Happiness is all around us if we open our hearts and eyes to it. It is the little things that make us realise that the little things are not so little after all.
5. Do you like to define yourself by anything in particular? Like being a good dancer, artist, writer etc.
An exhibitionist who has no filter.
6. What’s the “big thing” you want the world to know about you, if anything?
A colourful person of integrity and value. This is my personal mission statement I live by every single day of my life. I want to empower and inspire positive change within people through art and understanding.
7. What would you deem to be your biggest challenge in life so far?
Thinking that I have a good grasp on my self-awareness but then always shocking myself with how I handle certain circumstances. Sometimes it feels like you are leaping forward but then all it takes is one trip up and you feel like you’ve stumbled back to the beginning. I try not to be too hard on myself but the self imposed pressure I put to be my optimum self is immense and even more so for my creative practice. The biggest challenges I find are in the day to day moments where I feel like I am quietly drowning – this is when I need to have the self-awareness to step back – breath – and realise that I am doing a lot better than I am giving myself credit for.
And that it is okay to trip and fall – as long as I always get back up. And it sometimes takes longer than usual- but I always stand tall.
I believe we are defined by how we handle hard circumstances – it defines who we are and what character we have. I am a strong woman, and it takes a big person to admit when they are feeling small.
8. Where do you feel most at home, outside of the place that you are currently living?
People often associate home as a specific place but I feel like we are always changing and progressing and learning about ourselves that every time we return to a familiar place – we are different and feel different. For me, my home is in the hearts and company of my soul sisters that I met whilst solo travelling around Europe a few summers ago. I return back there every year and always make a point to go back to Florence, Italy to see them and to feel that overwhelming sense of LOVE – the sisterhood we have created is a home place that I can never really articulate into words – just feelings. It just feels right – like my heart and soul belong with them as theirs does with mine. I get emotional thinking deeply about it because I feel them here with me. Yeh, that’s home for me.
9. Do you think women have a particularly special bond with nature? If so, how would you describe this bond, and what relationship do you personally have with nature?
I think everyone has a connection with the natural world but for us females – I think when you feel the way we feel things, which is deeply and unconditionally – I do believe that we appreciate and connect to Mother Nature quite strongly.
I feel so free and liberated when amongst sunflower fields, valleys dense with greenery, cascading waterfalls and mountain views and treehouses. I love and feel it all. I breathe easier when in nature. I think that says a lot about our human condition and also the relationship we hold when respecting Mother Nature. We are She – we are Woman.
10. What song or album can you always put on to bring you back to yourself?
Sade – ‘Your Love is King’.