Cricket is an 18-year-old beauty Queen from a small town outside of Ottawa. Her first experience with pageantry was the heartfelt, charity-oriented, supportive experience of a hometown pageant which she won. This brought her to compete in the Top Model of Canada pageant which she then won. After winning, the first thing said to her from the judges was “You better lose a bunch of weight if you want to get an agent.” Cricket quickly became disenchanted with the modelling industry. On her way to Egypt to compete in the Top Model of the World pageant she stopped by my studio to shave her head and do a photoshoot/interview for Herself.com via Caitlin Stasey. Cricket’s plan was to wear a wig to all her fittings leading up to the pageant so not to be disqualified and although nervous, managed to get through the lead up without incident. Cricket revealed her shaved head at the Top Model of the World and needless-to-say, she didn’t win. Her interview and photos were published on Herself.com to hopefully inspire women to love themselves as they are. I shot this video throughout the head shaving process which became a rebellious ritual of sorts. Cricket wrote the accompanying poem to give voice to her actions. I found it to be raw and of a high quality. I hope you enjoy it too. xo
This Woman I Know is a series by Jessica Laforet that features self-identified women who show support, act as allies and empower other women. I am honored to have been featured. Here’s what they had to say:
THIS WOMAN I KNOW, her name is Jennifer. She is a photographer, a storyteller, a dreamer, a fighter, a hustler, a feminist, a friend, a lover and a hard working, relentless, passionate, unbridled woman
Jennifer’s focus in the creation of her personal photographic works is the search for ways to work at alleviating the epidemic of low self-esteem afflicting the contemporary woman. She first started with “The Esteem Project” which featured a series of female nudes photographed without artifice – no colour, no makeup, no clothes, no photoshop in natural light. Her aim was to provide a mirror to the arresting, glorious, totally natural beauty of each subject. Evolving along the same vein, Jennifer launched Herself.com with actress Caitlin Stacey in January 2015. Herself.com offers raw portraits of women in both body and mind, laid bare in all their honesty in an effort at reclaiming female agency in a world of media constantly filtered through a male gaze. Earlier this year Jennifer began work on The Goddess Array, a photographic series depicting contemporary versions of ancient Greek goddesses. Printed 8ft tall all 30 goddesses will be shown together creating a space of goddess worship where guests will pay witness, looking up to these large, iconic, strong, female archetypes.
Jennifer believes that the world needs to be littered with images of free, happy, healthy, fearless women standing their ground. The goddesses are her current contribution to this necessary landscape. Anyone interested in posing for the project is welcome to email her at email@example.com
Looking back on my fourth year in the photography business I can only feel immense gratitude, yet again, for the opportunities my craft brought me in 2015. The migration to L.A. for the Summer months to try and make a name for myself in that sprawling city of dreams was a thrilling adventure into the unknown that proved to be fruitful in the end through my contracts with Viola Gardens, Digital 90210, and a smattering of talent shoots. My work in the opera world has continued in full force much to my delight, bringing me to Juilliard just last month to shoot the budding stars of the internationally renowned institution. Herself.com, which Caitlin Stasey and I launched around this time last year, is still making an impact and I am proud to be a part of such an important project. Continuing in the vain of Herself I am excited to announce The Goddess Array, a new project for the empowerment of women. That brings us to highlight #1.
After a full year of shooting for this project, I will be launching The Goddess Array with a one-night-only exhibition featuring a series of nudes depicting ancient Greek goddesses on Monday January 25th, 2016 at Only One Gallery (5 Brock Ave.) in Toronto from 6PM to 11PM.
The Goddess Array is a voice for the power of girls and women. The genesis of the project is the #bringbackourgirls campaign of April 2014 when Boko Haram kidnapped and terrorized 200 schoolgirls in Nigeria. The girls never came back. In response to the kidnapping and all other treatment of women as objects, The Goddess Array is resurrecting the many multifaceted goddess archetypes by presenting depictions of women fully free and celebrating their individuality. The aim of The Goddess Array is to encourage higher levels of respect between men and women, amongst women, and also self-respect.
In its final form The Goddess Array will be an ongoing, travelling exhibition dedicated to sharing my goddess photography with the world. The project has partnered with architect K. Mulla to design a portable structure created specifically to showcase the work. The structure will be lightweight and simple to set up and strike, packing into a single shipping container for smooth travel. With the nomadic museum these strong goddesses will exhibit in downtown city center spaces all over the world. The ultimate goal will be given the opportunity to safely exhibit in Nigeria.
“It is my hope that by inviting people into the space of The Goddess Array, where they will look up to these large, strong, iconic, womanly images, a seismic shift in the base mentality of misogyny will begin to become one of reverence and respect. This is a tall order, I know, but it is one I am willing to dedicate my life to.” – Jennifer Toole
There will be a silent auction of the works at the show between 6PM and 9PM. Limited editions of Goddess Array apparel will be available. Proceeds will support the travelling exhibition.
All are welcomed to bask in the strength and revel in the beauty of The Goddess Array.
2) Vogue Italia
Vogue Italia published three of my photos in 2015, an honor that still floors me. In November they published a soft black and white photo of singer Talvi Faustmann of Prince Innocence called ‘Sad Girls Club.’ Her melancholy expression and silvery locks make a very pretty picture. Then in December, Vogue published ‘Demeter Stands’ and ‘Aphrodite Stands,’ both works from The Goddess Array. Demeter is the goddess of grain and motherhood. My friend Demi posed as the goddess seven months pregnant in High Park in Toronto. The light was on our side that day. She looks golden. Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty who is rumored to have been birthed fully formed out of the foam of the sea. I caught my friend Chanele in shock from the cold splash of Lake Ontario and thought it was the perfect mood for just being born. Many thanks to the photo editors at Vogue Italia for not one, but three nods this year.
In the wake of the website’s launch on January 10th, 2015 over 3000 women from all over the world email us interested in participating in Herself.com. It is a heartfelt project with huge impact that I am proud to be a part of. Here is a bit more about it from founder Caitlin Stasey:
“Herself is a gesture to women for women by women; a chance to witness the female form in all its honesty without the burden of the male gaze, without the burden of appealing to anyone. These women are simply & courageously existing, immortalized within these photos. Within their words, their experiences and stories are offered on Herself in the hopes of encouraging solidarity – that maybe we as women will take comfort in the triumphs of others rather than revelling in each other’s defeats. Let us reclaim our bodies. Let us take them back from those who seek to profit from our insecurity.” -Caitlin Stasey
In April of 2015 I was invited to give a talk entitled NUDE: Object vs. Subject at The Museum in Kitchener as part of their Naked Dialogues Series. The experience was a milestone for me as it was my first booked job as a speaker. As nervous as I was I believe I managed to get my point across.
Humans, us, in our most natural of states, somewhere along the line became ashamed of our bodies. The way naked bodies are treated publically in contemporary western culture is with shame or as commodity. The female nude is made constant use of in art, sensationalist advertising & pornography and is almost always filtered through and presented in light of the male gaze. Indeed, the only public spaces where nudity is deemed acceptable are in the worlds of Internet porn, ‘sex sells’ advertising, and on the walls of art galleries. Through these few heavily curated nude-friendly public spaces the female nude is being systematically objectified and in turn seriously bolstering the epidemic of insecurity ravaging generations x,y and z. We have become a culture of hypocrites regarding our naked selves and I want to know why. How did we become so conflicted? Why are we so ashamed of the female nude while simultaneously obsessed? Why can’t we just be? – Jennifer Toole from NUDE: Object vs. Subject
Give the whole transcript a read HERE.
5) Opera Stars
The opera world has been very good to me this past year. I got to shoot two of Opera Atelier’s big stars, Peggy Kriha Dye & Meghan Lindsay, at the Elgin who both went on to perform in the company’s production of Armide at the Palace of Versailles immediately following the Paris terrorist attacks. The show went on admirably and the healing power of art prevailed. I was flown to New York to shoot two of Juilliard’s most exciting graduates, Miles Mykkanen & Avery Amereau, at the famous school which was such a delight. And wonderful coloratura soprano Ms. Ambur Braid had me out for the second time to capture her striking beauty. I do hope this trend continues into 2016.
My talent shoots this past year took me from Toronto to L.A. to Carmel. I had a blast breathing fresh life into often stiff in style string quartet photography for the Diderot Quartet. Psychedelic rock band Brombones had me in the Hollywood Hills shooting off coloured smoke bombs and getting my feet wet with surreal photography. Toronto concert series Stereo Live had a totally sold out season following our photo shoot and I wish them similar success this coming year. And last but not least, a portrait session with singer Talvi Faustmann of Prince Innocence produced some very classic portraits of the classic beauty.
7) Body Studies
When working with dancers and yoga instructors I get out the body oil, turn down the lights, and focus on the extraordinary lines of the human body. This kind of work is among my favourite, so please don’t hesitate to request it from me if your body is a big part of your work. Pictured here are dancer Pastel Supernova and yogis Erika Abrahamian and Tom Morley.
I had the incredible opportunity to shoot for Viola Gardens in 2015. The work took me to estates all over L.A. to shoot the company’s permaculture-inspired, drought tolerant, California Native landscape designs. In addition to the photography I was also given the opportunity to build www.violagardens.com, contribute to the social media presence, and design a new logo for the brand. Top to bottom brand development is another job I adore and I do hope for more of it in 2016.
9) Corporate Work
Corporate jobs are the bread and butter of most photographers starting out. This year a number of contracts for Rogers Communications kept me very busy and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity. My work with the Incubator Program for The Magenta Foundation, which assists high school kids in the arts kickstart their careers, was also very rewarding.
10) Digital 90210
I got hired on at www.digital90210.com as a writer and photographer in L.A. for a few months. They had me writing cutting edge tech articles. I learned quite a bit about the Dark Web and Injectable Tech among other incredible inventions due to change the world this year. The research was thorough. Click through and have a read.
What a stellar year! My goal for 2016 is to take The Goddess Array on a tour. Please do join me at Only One Gallery on Monday January 25th at 6PM for the project launch. I can’t wait to see you all.
Much love and Happy New Year!
Adam & Eve committed the original sin when they ate from the tree of knowledge. Their first action after acquiring knowledge was to fashion clothing to cover up with. Until knowledge we were naked. Why with knowledge did we cover up? The fact brings new truth to the old saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”
Was it because we are mammals with animal instincts and the sight of genitalia makes all the blood rush out of our heads and deems us incapable of any other task at hand? What about the human being’s capacity for imagination? Do we really think a couple fig leaves or swaths of fabric will deter physical attraction or distraction or sexual objectification? When something is clothed isn’t it immediately more mysterious and desirable? The fact of the matter is that nudity has become taboo, constantly sexualized, surrounded by stigma, and generally an unacceptable public state since as far back as Adam and Eve or earlier.
Fast forward thousands of years to 2015 and nudity is still a contentious issue that always garners attention yet does not have a comfortable, healthy place in our culture. Social media networks Facebook and Instagram are systematically curating the way we consume the female nude through their Public Guidelines that do not discriminate against images of violence, scars or topless men but will remove an account if a photo of a woman breastfeeding her newborn child is published.
Leaked photos of naked celebrities have led to catastrophic levels of slut shaming in the media while simultaneously leaked sex tapes made international stars out of Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian etc. We are confused by nudity. We are fascinated by it and give it a lot of attention while we shame it. It would seem we are completely conflicted when it comes to processing the female nude. Why is the female nude always sexualized? What is shameful about a breastfeeding mother? Why do we make celebrities out of homemade porn stars? Why is everything naked about sex? How ironic is our obsession with sex in an age where over population is the root of every environmental issue? Just a few questions to consider as food for thought.
Thousands of years after the demise of nudity as a normal state, through the experiences of world wars, an industrial age, the creation of the internet and so much more, shouldn’t we by now, being the self-aware species we are, have figured out a mature way to be comfortably naked with one another in an unbiased and respectful manner where our bodies are always subjects with agency not sexual objects? To be sure there are a few major obstacles in our way.
Humans, us, in our most natural of states, somewhere along the line became ashamed of our bodies. The way naked bodies are treated publically in contemporary western culture is with shame or as commodity. The female nude is made constant use of in art, sensationalist advertising & pornography and is almost always filtered through and presented in light of the male gaze. Indeed, the only public spaces where nudity is deemed acceptable are in the worlds of Internet porn, ‘sex sells’ advertising, and on the walls of art galleries. Through these few heavily curated nude-friendly public spaces the female nude is being systematically objectified and in turn seriously bolstering the epidemic of insecurity ravaging generations x,y and z. We have become a culture of hypocrites regarding our naked selves and I want to know why. How did we become so conflicted? Why are we so ashamed of the female nude while simultaneously obsessed? Why can’t we just be?
Perhaps it all started with the fall of Cleopatra, the last ruling Queen in a matriarchal society. She was the last powerful female figure to have enjoyed the tutelage and example of a great number of strong female roll models. Her city, Alexandria, was the most modern of its time. Women and men held the occupations that kept life rich and society running. Women were free to own property, sign legal contracts, divorce, adopt and inherit. Home and work were shared responsibilities between husband and wife. It was not surprising that Cleopatra was such a wily politician and clever Queen as the environment she grew up in was one where women were free to be educated and powerful.
After her devastating defeat at the hand of the Romans in the great battle of Actium the Roman Empire spread and grew like wildfire along with their customs and values. The ancient Roman idea of women was that they should love their husbands, bear sons, work in wool, and keep good homes. Married women of the time could not own property, but essentially were property to be traded from father to husband. The man was considered the head of the household and women could not vote or hold office or divorce. A wife was under the same laws to her husband that his children were. Perhaps it was at this time in history, around 30BCE, that the patriarchy took hold as women’s agency was legally and culturally taken away from them. In a society where a wife is under the same laws to her husband as their children and other property she is no longer a free agent of her own life. Perhaps it was around this time that women began to be objectified quite literally. Woman as property is woman as object; to be bought, owned, sold, looked at, traded, controlled, fetishized, stolen…
With this fever of misogyny taking hold the systemic objectification of women’s bodies began to be an acceptable practice. An object by definition is a thing external to the thinking mind or subject. The sexual objectification of a body is the judgment of it as a completely separate entity from the mind of the subject. In turn, the sexually objectified subject learns to view herself through the eyes of those looking at her. This leads to a complicated relationship of the subject to her objectified self. She learns to see herself through the sexualized male gaze and subsequently puts more worth in her own body than her mind.
Beginning with the victory of the Romans 2045 years ago straight through to today the objectification of women has been constant. Let’s take a look at nudity in advertising.
The first examples that come to mind are the ever nude and ever controversial PETA campaigns. In one ad a reclining, nearly nude Pamela Anderson is presented with butcher cuts drawn and labeled all over her body with the slogan, “All animals have the same parts.” Here we have plastic, blonde, Barbie Pam posing as raw butchers meat in an effort to shock people into vegetarianism. In another PETA ad with the slogan, “Hooked on meat. Go Veg,” a young woman is presented with her wrists tied to meat hook and her stomach gutted and bleeding amongst slaughtered pigs in a slaughter house. I get the shock factor and the message, but why were all the models in these ads women? Why is the abused, objectified, exposed woman an effective object for advertising? These ads have sex appeal. They are totally sexist and have sex appeal. They are all looking through the male gaze. They may work toward their intended message of pro vegetarianism but they also desensitize the viewer to violence against women and the treatment of women as pieces of meat while further reinforcing beauty and body stereotypes.
High fashion and perfume ads often make use of the female nude.In 2008 designer Tom Ford took the practice to the extreme in a campaign by convicted pervert and celebrated photographer Terry Richardson. The campaign featured fully dressed male models and completely naked female models. In one image a perfume bottle is shot full frontal shoved right up against a woman’s naked vagina. In another photo one woman is naked on her back in the grass with a naked man mounting her and two fully clothed male models standing and watching.
The implications of these images are glamorizing the objectification of women and further nailing home the idea that a woman’s worth is in her ability to mirror the male gaze in the nude. She has no agency. She is no more than a body to be molded and used as seen fit. Again, the female nude is being presented as a piece of meat in the name of product sales. The female nude in advertising is a public space for nudity in our culture that always treats the female nude as commodity traded for money aka the female nude as object.
In Internet pornography, the second of the three public spheres where nudity is socially acceptable, the female nude is dissected and splayed out in an almost clinical way. The new ideal woman or type that is consistently featured in modern films is a young, white, blonde, thin, completely waxed doll type with fake nails, hair extensions, color contact lenses, heavy make-up and often with surgically enhanced breasts, lips and labia.
She is a quintessentially unreal real-life blow-up doll. This severe attention to detail can be attributed in part to the development of high definition camera equipment and unforgiving extreme close-ups. Directors no longer make use of the old filters of the film world where it was common practice in sex scenes to fog up the lens to get a soft look. With today’s equipment every nook and cranny is presented in extreme detail. There’s nowhere to hide. So, in part, we can blame technology for the extremity with which the modern female nude is being presented in porn. But this is a question of style as well. High definition close-ups don’t have to be the main shot in every modern porno, but that is often the case. Why? Is it because once you go HD you can’t go back? Once you get the extreme close-up the soft focus shot no longer stimulates? How hardcore can we get before we have an epidemic of impotency on our hands because there’s nothing left to pervert?
There is a generation of kids today who are experiencing sex for the first time online. They are learning about sex on a screen and often interacting sexually more with a screen than with a real person. This 2D virtual sexual stimulation and education leads users down a rabbit hole of desensitization. They need more and more hardcore content as they become desensitized to the videos that once turned them on. This translates into real life as similar hardcore experiences are then expected of the real life partner who may not be object enough, considering she is a real person with her own desires and agency and pubic hair and flaws. Being raised on porn puts a human at a disadvantage to developing a normal relationship with a real woman as they often expect her to be the same hairless, labia-less, 5-minutes-to-orgasm type that he or she has encountered on screen. Often blowjobs and anal sex will be expected as normal first date activities as well. Once again the objectification of the female nude leads women to view their bodies through the male gaze which in the space of internet porn is an extreme, hardcore, fake, performance driven, high definition lens.
In the third public space for nudity, namely art, contemporary players like Richard Kern, Richard Prince & Jeff Koons have made great successes of themselves by objectifying women in their art.
Richard Kern is a photographer/filmmaker whose work has been displayed in reputable art galleries all over the world and the sales of his prints and books have made him a rich man. All of his work is pornography masked as art. If it were on porn sites it would be labeled as “barely legal.”
Kern has objectified young girls so extremely, most notably in his series entitled “Up Skirt” which was a collection of photographs taken up girls’ skirts. Not only did he reduce all his subjects down to their genitals, but he also got away with celebrating sexual assault disguised as art. Kern directed a film entitled “Sewing Circle,” named after a traditionally female setting, in which women are shown sewing up each other’s vaginas. He manages his perversions within the art world because the objectification of women is something we are all used to. Rape and sexual assault are manifestations of objectifying the female nude, separating the body from the mind.
Richard Prince is an artist who has made millions of dollars by taking photographs of other photographer’s photographs. Prince’s photograph of Garry Gross’ photograph of a totally nude, completely made-up, ten-year-old Brooke Shields all but erased Gross’ ownership of the photo but also objectified the subject on more levels than can be understood.Gross paid Shields’ mother $450 to take the naked photo of her daughter. Prince himself said, ““Brooke as the subject becomes an indirect object, an abstract entity.” In his article on Prince’s work, Grag Fallis wrote of the piece, entitled ‘Spiritual America’, “When (Prince) took the picture of the picture he was photographing one object depicting another object, all of which had been sparked by a mother treating her living child as an object. Prince then displayed his recreated object in a way that emphasized its objectness.” Need I say more?
Jeff Koons, yet another rich, white, man making art objectifying the female nude did a series entitled “Made In Heaven” in which he displayed photographic self-portraits engaged in sex acts with Italian porn star & ex-wife Cicciolina.
She never looked at the camera while Koons always did. This celebrated artist stripped his porn star wife of her mind. This work is so objectifying I don’t even know where to start in my critique of it. I mean, you can see for yourself. It’s a joke.
These works by three celebrated contemporary artists all make objects of the female nude.
The Objectification Theory was put forward by Barbara L. Fredrickson and Tori-Ann Roberts as “a framework for understanding the experiential consequences of being female in a culture that sexually objectifies the female body. Objectification theory posits that girls and women are typically acculturated to internalize an observer’s perspective as a primary view of their physical selves. This perspective of self can lead to habitual body monitoring, which, in turn, can increase women’s opportunities for shame and anxiety, reduce opportunities for peak motivational states, and diminish awareness of internal bodily states. Accumulations of such experiences may help account for an array of mental health risks that disproportionally affect women; unipolar depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders.” I would add cutting and suicide attempts to this list as well. The negative effects of the objectification of the female nude are deep seeded and wide spread. Why is this systemic oppression of women something we continue to propagate? What’s the harm of allowing women the room to be self-agents, grown, intelligent, natural, beautiful in their own way, not sexualized, and naked? How can we get back to something akin to the balance of Cleopatra’s time? There is a great pressure on women to be beautiful, young, to be mothers at a certain age, to be keepers of the home, and also to be breadwinners. A lot of the time we are dealing with these pressures alone. There is a serious lack of contemporary female role models and supportive communities for women to flourish in. Something’ got to give.
Have I depressed you enough? My goal with these examples is to leave you with an understanding of the negative effects the objectification of the female nude has on women’s self-esteem. With this new awareness I hope to inspire open minds interested in celebrating diversity and rejecting stereotypes. On that note let’s move into the inspirational half of the talk.
A subject by definition is a thinking or feeling entity, or the central substance or core of a thing as opposed to its attributes. The subject is the heart of the matter. My name is Jennifer Toole. I am a photographer best known for my nude work taken on medium format film with no retouching. At a recent exhibition of my work a visitor to the opening party said something to me that was the inspirational seed for this talk. He came up to me amidst my collection of big nudes and said, “It’s remarkable how you’ve managed to show these women as subjects in your work, not objects. Each one is owning her space and challenging the viewer to confront her thoughts.” He hit the nail on the head. I set out to present the female nude as a subject with agency. The onslaught of content objectifying women needs to be combated with an oversaturation of media content celebrating women in their natural body states, not sexualized, with attention given to their voices. Starting from the bottom of this movement I aim to combat the oversaturation of objectified nude female images in public spaces with images of the female nude as a subject with agency.
I began to do my part in this movement by launching Herself.com, a new online project I was invited to work on by actress and angel in her own right Caitlin Stasey in January of this year. The aim of Herself is to provide a safe online space for women where nude female subjects are presented through the female gaze and given a voice. Along with each photo spread each participant is interviewed extensively on their backgrounds, experiences in the workplace, relationships with their bodies, relationships with their lovers, dreams for the future, political and religious points of view and more. The result is documentation of real women raw in their images and thoughts, out there on the Internet for women and men to ingest and digest, beginning a shift in how the female nude is viewed. Herself is an ongoing project that will hopefully eventually be the largest collection of female shot female nude photography in the world. Please allow me to introduce you to a few of the subjects I shot for the Herself project.
This is Milena. She is in her early twenties and just beginning to explore her desires to be with women instead of men. Back home in Brazil, same sex relationships are still heavily discriminated against and Milena and her beautiful girlfriend were spending their summer in Toronto to make some money and get to know one another better. I went over to their apartment quite early one Sunday morning to get that gorgeous sunrise light. Milena was unabashed in the nude and we got some incredible photos. Her goodness and kind soul read strongly on film.
This is Casey. She is a porn star and a proud feminist. She stated in her interview with Herself that, in fact, “Feminism and porn go hand in hand.” This quote caused quite a stir online and lead to a further interview for her in i-D Magazine. We shot in Redondo Beach down in L.A. at the condo I was staying in. It was a beautiful day as per usual and the condo view was spectacular. Casey is used to being in front of the camera and we got the shots we needed very quickly. Then I made tea and we cozied up on the balcony and had a great talk about the project, its necessity, health, and the safety of the porn industry in L.A. Casey is an incredibly smart, opinionated and strong woman pushing the all the boundaries she can.
This is Chelsea. When we chatted about where to do our shoot we decided my place in Toronto would be best. So she came over one sunny afternoon nervous and bubbling over with positive energy. She was so full of life and happiness in person that the sadness that came through on film really surprised me. This photo is so raw in its essence. It was shot in my tiny bedroom. I was actually doing my best to balance a tripod on my bed while wielding my Fuji645. I couldn’t be happier with the results. Vogue Italia ended up published this image.
This is Demi. I didn’t know her at all before we embarked upon this photo shoot. She came by my place at dawn and we walked down to the water. I reluctantly asked her, “I’m not familiar with your boundaries or thirst for adventure, but Ontario Place is beautiful and deserted. Would you be opposed to a bit of early morning trespassing?” Much to my delight, Demi was down. We threw our stuff over the fence and climbed over. We had the whole theme park to ourselves aside from a couple of security guards we successfully ducked. This shot shows Demi as the true queen she is; confidant and strong and looking forward to the future.
This is Laura. The day we met up to shoot was the same week she had discovered she was unexpectedly pregnant. The weight of her decision was heavy in the air on this day. We had a serious talk about the future, options, and different scenarios. Laura wanted to shoot on the train tracks by her house. Amidst all the stress, worry, and seriousness we got this shot. In her heart Laura is a warrior. She was pregnant in this photo and is eight months pregnant today, happy, and healthy.
This is S. She grew up hating herself and believing she was ugly because she had body hair, wasn’t white, and wasn’t blonde, the things all her dolls were. As we can see here she is an incredibly beautiful and powerful woman. I went over to her high-rise condo for our shoot. She just happened to have a pet snake called Snakey Wakey. Of course we had to give Snakey Wakey his modeling debut. He was very well behaved.
This is Raechl. She was so excited to be a part of the project she drove up to Toronto from Michigan to shoot. We met up before dawn and drove to the rose gardens at The Ex which were in full bloom. We did encounter the gardeners during our shoot but they realized what we were up to and left us to it. The morning mist amongst the roses made for glorious light and scenery. Raechl was liberated. It was her first photo shoot ever and it was nude. I think it opened something up in her, changed her somehow, and gave her a new sense freedom. After I sent her the photos she wrote me back saying, “I am a goddess. How could I have ever doubted that?”
This is Alexis. She is a voice actress and puppeteer. I went to her place for this shoot and her fiancée had laid out a table of delicious snacks for us. They were in the marriage planning stages and their vibe was very exciting. Alexis was firm in her resolve to take part in this project. She believed wholeheartedly in the message and was proud to give her beautiful body and mind to the mix. An interesting fact about Alexis is during her development only one breast developed so she had plastic surgery on the other to even things out. She’s a bionic woman! And a brave one too.
This is Candice. Lethal Lady V is her stage name. Candice is a dominatrix. I went to her condo for our shoot and she was just getting off of a very frustrating two hour long phone call with Rogers customer service. She was all riled up and not mentally ready to shoot in the slightest. I played with her adorable puppies while she got herself made up. I stressed the fact that make-up wasn’t necessary and she replied, “This is as naked as I get, honey.” Fair enough. This was her first nude shoot as well. She was nervous, but she is also an incredible model so once we got shooting things were golden. In her condo itself there was a balcony under construction and her dungeon. I asked if there was anywhere else we could shoot. Candice mentioned her rooftop pool. “Won’t there be security cameras and people?” I asked. “Everyone’s at work and school,” she replied with a smile. So up we went and it was glorious. We captured her strength, her pain, her beauty, and even her vulnerability. What a woman!
I hope you have now experienced the difference between the female nude as object or subject from my examples here. Let’s try to move forward celebrating the female nude in all her agency and diversity. Let’s be aware of the ways she is used as commodity and reject them. Let’s take every opportunity to reclaim how we look at the female nude and realize when she is being filtered through a harmful gaze. I would like to invite you all to continue this conversation with me. I can be reached online through my website jennifertoole.com or on my Instagram @jentoole. Many thanks to The Museum for offering me this stage and thank you for listening.
This is a transcript of a talk Jennifer gave at The Museum on April 26th, 2015.
In the wake of the launch of Herself.com, which went live on January 10th, over 3000 women have emailed to participate in the project. What an extraordinary response! It’s time to take Herself on the road and make sure each and every woman gets to share her story. Thank you all for your support!
Caitlin published a new addition to the site today. Her name is Aniela. Click the photo below to be directed to her interview.
The international press has been quite good to Herself following the launch. Here are is a small round-up of articles featuring the site:
Thank you, thank you, thank you. xo
The launch of Herself.com last Saturday night was a great success thanks to all the beautiful people who came out to support the project. The site has already crashed a couple of times due to overwhelming traffic. Caitlin Stasey and I are pleased to report we officially “broke the internet.” With such a positive beginning we are hopeful that Herself will become an empowering movement. Oyster Magazine and Buzzfeed have already reported the launch of the site with a couple of telling articles. We are excited to move forward showcasing ever more women and their stories. xo
Photos by Dave Gillespie // Shot at the Clint Roenisch Gallery
Looking back on 2014 I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the professional & creative opportunities I encountered this year. Not only was work steady, but it was almost always heart-warming as well. I found myself given full licence to art direct on more sets than not which is rare and why I am feeling so positive moving forward into my fourth year of business. Here are a few of my favourite professional highlights of 2014.
1) Publishing in Vogue Italia Now, getting a nod from the fashion bible that is Vogue Italia has most definitely been on my bucket list for years. I began submitting to the magazine daily at the beginning of the year and one gorgeous day in November they finally deemed the above photo worthy and published it in their ‘Best Of’ section. The slight blur and delicate colours of the medium format film photo featuring Chelsea’s ponderous stare and weighted posture have enough of a painterly quality for Vogue to consider it ‘art.’ We all know Vogue Italia only publishes ‘art’ and it made my year to be recognized by such an influential institution. I took the photo for Herself.com, which is up next on this list of favourites.
2) Herself.comI believe it is very rare for photographers to come across a job that perfectly mirrors their own vision and greater cause. ‘Herself’ has been a godsend of a contract delivered by the angel that is Caitlin Stasey. When Caitlin asked me to work on ‘Herself’ with her back in the summertime I threw myself into the project headfirst booking and shooting all our incredibly brave participants. I shot some women in their homes and some outdoors. We trespassed to get to the perfect locations, made use of the light wherever we could, definitely engaged in some public nudity and had great conversations in between shots. I got to know every one of our participants and am proud to call them friends. Herself.com is a gesture to women for women by women. Through a nude photo shoot and in depth interview each participant is providing a raw example of her uniqueness and it’s that individualism in every woman we hope to celebrate. The site is launching on January 10th online and with a party in Toronto. Please consider the above invitation YOUR invitation. I look forward to seeing you there.
It is always a pleasure to photograph great talent. In 2014 I had the opportunity to travel to France with Opera Atelier to shoot their lead soprano Peggy Kriha Dye in the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. It was a rainy morning and we miraculously had the place to ourselves. Canadian soprano Ambur Braid had me up to the penthouse of the Toronto Ritz Carlton to capture her elegance in a variety of couture dresses and diamonds. Culvert Records had me out to shoot their new recruits The Good Boys in dapper dress in the streets of Toronto. At the Carmel Bach Festival young Yale Music School graduate John Taylor Ward and I went for a stroll to the sea and captured a couple of gorgeous headshots. Toronto band The Wooden Sky had me out to cover their Vinyl Bike Tour on a rainy Fall day where the band and a slew of fans biked en masse to four of Toronto’s best record shops to hear the band play mini sets at each stop. Here’s a little video I shot of the tour:
The opening of the new Clint Roenisch Gallery at 190 St. Helens Ave., Toronto, ON on July 10th, 2014 was the beginning of a new era in Canadian art. Not only did my blog of the event photos have 54,697 unique visitors from all over the world (breaking the blog’s traffic record), but the subsequent workings of the space have been progressively stellar. The exhibitions of Jason De Haan and Harold Klunder’s works were prime examples of lasting Canadian art and also boasted sale numbers unheard of in this country. Clint also put on an elegant event at calculus mastermind James Stewart’s architectural masterpiece of a home The Integral House on July 24th, 2014. The modern estate was full of happy guests enjoying the art installations and live music. We sadly lost Mr. Stewart on Dec. 3rd, but can feel blessed that we all got a beautiful visit in before he left us. I am also very pleased to mention that the launch party for Herself.com will be hosted at Clint’s gallery on January 10th with an exhibition of my photographs from the project. I look forward to celebrating with you there.
Thanks to the endlessly lovely and professional workings of Morcom Media and Tricon Films we executed a seamless studio shoot in L.A. with the four powerhouses that make up the Ex-Wives of Rock for their promotion of season three. With Lil’ Kim blasting throughout, numerous costume changes, notorious voyeurs and lots of swearing we had a blast and got the perfect shot.
Madonna graced Toronto with her majesty’s presence in February to promote the opening of her new gym on Yonge St. named Hard Candy. I was so thrilled to be hired by the gym, working in tandem with Madonna’s personal photo/video crew, to exclusively cover the auditions leading up to the red carpet event and the opening itself.
The fact that boudoir photography is still, going into year four, such a big part of my business is something I will eternally be grateful for. This is the kind of work dreams are made of.
Northbound Leather will always be one of my favourite clients. During the first quarter of 2014 we shot the company’s new line of versatile but always sexy handmade leather goods on a gorgeous variety of models. My favourite shoot featured Ms. Leather Toronto 2014 aka Patty and her wife Saoirse in a number of compromising poses at Oasis Aqua Lounge in Toronto.
When Art Basel Miami issued me a press pass I made it my mission to get down there and put it to good use. What an incredible experience it was witnessing all the notable contemporary art work on the planet today in one enormous pop-up exhibition. Watching a Damien Hirst sculpture sell for 4 million pounds was totally surreal and exciting.
Shooting the Scott’s wedding this Autumn was such a wonderful event to be a part of. I am currently taking bookings for weddings this coming Summer in Toronto and California. My wedding portfolio and contact can be found HERE.
What a year! Thank you all for being a part of it. I hope 2015 is full of TRAVEL, love, friends, great work and charity. xo