Body art

Stephanie Hogen

Stephanie Hogen portrays the female figure in this untitled photo.

Stephanie Hogen portrays the female figure in this untitled photo.

Adam and Eve showed it freely in the Garden of Eden. Magazines sell it with great success. Actors flaunt it in the movies. Now, it’s Stephanie Hogen’s turn.

Hogen’s appreciation for the human form inspired her latest show. Women are the subject in Hogen’s photograph exhibit, Retrospective, which features nude females in various still life scenes. Hogen has been a photographer for 30 years. Fifteen of those years have been focused on portraying the natural human figure.

“I have always enjoyed the human form,” explains Hogen. “I can take the form and make beautiful sculptures and art from it.”

The women’s bodies are highlighted in natural environments of lakes and forests. Models sunbathe on rocks in a lake. The subjects stretch their bodies to the widening sky. Hogen contrasts the greatness of nature with the smallness of the human form within each picture and, consequently, within the world.

The women are alone with the environment in the photographs. They sit among the trees and rocks as solitary statues. They blend into the background. They allow their bodies to mix with nature and its elements. They share themselves with the earth as creation intended. They lay still and peacefully in the outside air finding relief in the freedom of their own skin.

Only a few photographs show the calm expressions on the women’s faces. Many of the pictures do not show a face but only a body.

Hogen’s photos are black and white, complementing the idea of the body as a sculpture. She finds the contrast interesting and prefers the look of the classic technique.

“The body is a sculpture with different shades of white, gray and black,” she says. “There is more contrast shown with the black and white colors. It makes it look better.”

Yet, at the show, there is a ripple in the sea of black-and-white images. One sepia-toned piece hangs apart from the other photographs. The picture features a woman wading in a lake, while the undulating water reflects on her upper body.

Shadows and light are an important aspect in Hogen’s art. She uses natural outdoor lighting to achieve her desired artistic effects. Before she even works with her human subjects, Hogen is meticulous in experimenting with shading and lighting. She uses everyday objects and puts them on windowsills to see what shadows will appear. For some of the pieces in her current display, she says she used a plate to reflect sunlight onto a wall, researching the effects. She then tested the lighting on the bodies. Hogen developed this technique when she noticed a piece of glass reflecting on her counter at home.

“I love working with shadows and light. I like to see how it will work with the body,” she says. “I like to see how a body would work in that shadow or how the shadow can work with the body.”

The photos celebrate womanhood in subtle ways. One model sits with her manicured and nail-polished fingertips on her lips. Another sits comfortably in a chair with her foot dangling from the side.

“I feel that women need to love their bodies no matter what shape they are or whatever age they are,” says Hogen, who plans to focus her next show on women over 50. She would also like to feature women of different shapes and forms.

“There are things I may be able to do with a younger body or a smaller body that I can’t do with a body of a different shape. That’s why I use the body as an art form."