MODEL / Hannah
PHOTOGRAPHY / JASON LEE
INTERVIEW – CHAPTER I
“It’s just like the most powerful thing to do.” – Hannah
Hannah is a treasure. We have worked together on several occasions and on the drive out to our most recent shoot, I got to ask her a few questions and she agreed to allow me to record our conversation and share it. She wanted to share with me about how the experience of shooting nude with Genesis Modeling and Photography has helped her overcome personal battles following sexual abuse. It was a long conversation and so we’ll break it up into a few chapters. We talk about some heavy topics, so if that triggers you, be forewarned.
Here are some excerpts from our interview:
Jason: Can you describe how shooting nude helped you after being assaulted? You called it something like “taking back who you are?“
Hannah: I think after [the assault] happens you kind of lose a sense of yourself, and you just kind of think like, okay, well if that’s all I’m really going to be used for, then maybe that’s all I’m only meant for…. It sounds kind of pitiful I guess, but at the same time, it’s like I went through something and came out basically feeling broken.
And so to be able to gain that confidence and vulnerability back in a good way, it’s just, it’s such a relief-feeling to know that you can still love yourself after that happened to you. That it was not your fault. And I think a lot of people that are victims of those things blame themselves, or they’re like, well, what if I just didn’t go to that party? Or what if I just didn’t have that drink? You know what I mean? And it’s being comfortable again with your body. Like literally, I could just never look at myself naked. It took so long for me to be to do that.
J: Why do you think that was?
H: I felt like it was my fault and I was stressing: how did I let that happen to me? And then I had to realize like a lot of things are out of my control and that I didn’t choose to have that happen. I needed to let it “break you or make you.” I told myself that it’s fine to have the grieving process, but you have to get on your feet sooner or later.
One of my friends is a rape victim as well. And it’s just crazy to think like how often it happens. And then when it happens to you, you reach out to other people and you find out that’s happening a lot more. It changes your perspective, I guess a little bit. So you don’t feel so alone.
J: So by sharing your story, embracing community, it gives you power over…
H: Yeah. It’s basically like, OK, you took that part away from me, but you’re not going to take away the rest. Like you’re not going to take me away from myself. Yeah, for a moment, you tore my identity apart, but now that I found out who I am, again, it’s like, you can’t touch me anymore.
If I can embrace nudity in a non-sexual way, then it’s like, what else is there to see? I think it’s very empowering for us to embrace being comfortable naked.
I think a lot of people are very immature and I admit that I also struggled with insecurity for sure, especially after what happened. I thought no one would ever look at me the same way if I told them what had happened. But being able to look at yourself in a better way – being able to see yourself naked pushes you to realize that it doesn’t really matter how the other people think. It’s how you feel about yourself.
J: Do you think that rape is more about the physical or about the emotional?
H: I think it’s definitely both. Personally, I feel like every rapist, even if they don’t want to extend it, they definitely feel remorse for what they did. Although there are some people that don’t feel that emotion like that, but I think the majority of people do understand that their actions cause pain. My rapist – He tried reaching out afterwards, like after a month and apologizing, but honestly, I just didn’t really want to hear it. I appreciate him understanding that what he did was wrong, but I don’t want any communication of that because it was his choice to do it.
I think people that feel the need to do that didn’t get the love that they needed growing up and they searched for it in the wrong way. They don’t get it from the ways that they’re searching either, because they go out and hurt someone and take away their happiness.
J: How do you think that society contributes to the environment of allowing or promoting rape?
H: I think it should be harder [on rapists]. So I think there’s the legal part where a lot of people that rape don’t get in trouble. It’s very rare for a rapist to go to jail, or anyway for a long time, or a real reprimand or consequence for their actions — whether it’s a female or male, you know, it can come from both ways. So I think that because of the way you view community and sex and stuff like that, like if you go onto like porn sites, a lot of it — it’s very rough — like not what real sex is. And I think people that don’t experience healthy ways of experiencing sexuality and nudity and being subjected to nudity very often have a difficult time distinguishing what’s right and wrong when it comes to sex. I think society play a huge part in that though. Especially now, if you go on social media, it’s all about girls’ bodies. Like it’s never about like personality or who they are, which might sound cheesy. But like, I feel like nowadays people shop for girls — or men as well — like it’s very subjective.
And I think society needs to do a better job at allowing helpful nudity. So I feel like if we subject everyone to more nudity, I don’t think [sexualizing] nudity would be a huge thing anymore. Like rape would still happen obviously, but I don’t think it would be as severe as it is now.
J: That brings up an interesting question to me: Does sharing nude photographs on social media help people see more normalcy of nudity to you? Or does it add into that shopping culture?
H: I think it definitely depends on how the nudity is being portrayed because you can take two different types of nude photos. You can make sexual nudes, or you can take artistic nudes. Like a girl eating a banana while wearing lingerie is likely insinuating something there. But like, for example, your photo of me, nude near a waterfall, definitely not sexual, it’s just nude.
You know what I mean? Like there’s a difference between sex and nude. And I think we have a hard time distinguishing that in society. And as soon as they see a naked person, they’re like, Oh my gosh, sex, that’s the first thing we are taught to think about. But instead, why, like, why do we think that way? Why can’t we think of it as just like an art form? And I mean, that’s what it is. We’re all born naked.
J: How did seeing yourself in the photos adjust your outlook?
H: I think a lot of what follows after sexual assault, is a lot of shame. And guilt. And I just wonder, like, why me? To get over that, you just really have to be vulnerable again with yourself. Like I literally never thought I’d be able to look at myself naked again, after the whole thing happened. And then like doing that shoot, I was like, why am I so scared? Like, I’m not going to die if I’m naked. Like nothing bad’s gonna happen!
J: What do you think the mental switch was?
H: I think I just stopped. Like I just stopped allowing my past to determine who I am as a person and as my future. I just allowed myself to embrace who I was and it just felt so good to just be who I was again. And being naked at our shoot was kind of like a turning point for me. I don’t know if it’s the vulnerability aspect or like having the ability to be in a safe place and feel that emotion as well and not be scared. It’s just a really great feeling.
J: Any closing thoughts?
H: I want more people to shoot nude! I don’t know why people don’t just go for it when considering a nude shoot. You know? Honestly, like it’s scary at first, and then when you do it, it’s just like the most powerful thing to do. And it’s just, why was I scared in the first place? It’s like not even worth being afraid about. It’s like everything worked out great. And you learn to love yourself again. 100%.
Stay Tuned for Chapter II.