Women, and their skin, have, since time immemorial fascinated us. And rightly so. From art history to pop culture, from the Kardashians to Beyonce, from Goya to Page 3, from Freud to Emin the the way in which a particular culture, at any time, frames the female nude is an insight into an epoch’s political mood and values.
One photographer looking to answer the questions of “whose body is it anyway?” is photographer, Maisie Willoughby, who’s delicate portraits of female bodies are in themselves a stance against the male gaze. “Hello Boys”- this ain’t. Placing the camera securely in the hands of a female photographer, Maisie helps women to regain a sense of agency and empowerment within the nude.
With her 2016 exhibition Girl on Girl, Maisie brought her distinctive eye into the public realm. Investigating her unique approach to nudity, the exhibition presented photographs of 10 girls, taken over 10 years, in various states of undress. Released to critical acclaim, and featured in the likes of i-D, It’s Nice That, and AnOther, Maisie made a splash. Never shying away from the political implications of her work, the opening of the show was accompanied by a panel discussion surrounding the female gaze. Bringing together the expertise of Alex Holder (former ECD at Anomaly), Babyface girl and editing extraordinaire of Polyester Zine Ione Gamble, photographer David Abrahams and model Tia Ward, it is clear that Maisie will stop at nothing to make significant changes.
Proclaiming over ten years of experience under her belt, Maisie has been shaping the female nude since 2006. Instead of robbing her subjects autonomy, Maisie’s lens emboldens a sense of freedom which declares the individual as the most important part of the image. If there’s one stylistic flair that skewers Maisie’s work, it’s her lighting. Strong slats of light over goose-bumped skin, or half lit flanks are Maisie’s signature. Her women simultaneously invite you to look, and make clear their nudity is not exclusively for the viewer.
This simple elegance, and inimitable “eye”, that’s marked in Maisie’s photography, is something that seeps into her full time job and private life too. Maisie is a Creative Producer and Art Buyer for esteemed advertising agency, Wieden + Kennedy. She spends her time shaping the look and feel of global creative campaigns, sourcing new artists, promoting emerging photographers, illustrators and designers and has recently established the company’s weekly “resident maker” series, where a different artist is championed each week with a small in-house exhibition.
An avid collector of Japanese design and fashion, Maisie’s home is as beautiful as her work, all clean lines; waxy house plants, records and beautiful lighting (duh). Something else that keeps Maisie busy is her best friend, her faithful little pooch, Tetsuo who comes everywhere with her dressed in his tiny Carhartt jacket. We suspect he may be Maisie’s original muse, as every time we pop round for tea, he’s poised on the sofa, soaking up some late afternoon sun, paws folded, practically waiting to be photographed.