Free now

PHOTO ESSAY

An awkward and candid photographic series of naked abandonment.

Words by & photos by Pierre Liebaert


It all started with an ad in a local newspaper looking for models, male or female. The photographer then initiated conversations with the models that replied: they got to know each other and exchange correspondence. . For the 2 years this project ran, Pierre Liebaert and his models kept in touch, creating a relationship based on anonymity, nakedness and their feelings on the project. The result is a strange mixture of both anonymity and intimacy.

Despite the original ad announcing he was looking for both female and male subjects, after some time, women disappeared from the project. They initially agreed to take part, but eventually, as the conversations developed, dropped out.

The reasons are unknown but, in the end, “Free now” became an all-male project. Not only that, but most of the people depicted are mature, their bodies past the prime of youth as we are used to see it in the general beauty ideal. And, for once, it’s good to see something different – young women have been portrayed naked quite extensively in all possible means.

There is something challenging in this project, in its willingness to show a different idea of beauty and the frailness of not fitting into the mould.

Sessions were held in pay-by-the-hour motels. Just rented for one or two hours, these rooms were a neutral place, void of meaning for Pierre and his models. These places are also closely related to nudity and intimacy. However, meeting a total stranger in a pay-per-hour motel room to take nude photos just emphasizes the awkwardness of the process.

The ones who decided to participate accepted the only condition: to pose naked in front of a stranger-photographer they found in an ad. In that sense, “Free now” is almost an act of rebellion. The men replied to set themselves outside of their everyday lives and push their boundaries, anonymously showing themselves to the world.

To combat the embarrassment and erase the potential discomfort, usually the models spark a conversation, they get intimate, share their stories.

But, in the end, their stories won’t matter. “Free now” is about anonymity, trust and candid awkwardness.

There is something quite contradictory in these models who, by their own accord, agreed to be part of the series for their own individual reasons and yet masked or concealed their faces. It’s as if there is a willingness to be comfortable in one’s own frailty and nakedness and the disconnection that has with real life.

Maybe is in this equilibrium that the appeal lies: how comfortable one is with oneself and his willingness to show vulnerability in a very awkward and almost surreal situation.

Regardless, more than their withered skin, these men expose themselves in their most beautiful versions: candid defencelessness and powerful risk-taking.  


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Pauline Bordaneil is an independent curator. Her research focuses on the underside of artistic creation through its objects and rituals; as well as the relationship between artist-curator and theory-practice.