Against a golden background, the title appears in red, bleeding letters: ‘Women’. The cover of this new book by photographer Nadia Lee Cohen, published in 2021 by IDEA, already sets the tone.
You may not have heard of Nadia, but she has been present now for some six profound years in the fashion, art and cinematic scene, creating photographs heavily inspired by the aesthetic eras of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Sprawls and trails of negatives, polaroids or prints represent the glamourously kitschy talent of Cohen, woman being the dominant subject matter, whilst emblazoned and surrounded by intriguing narratives and stories unfolding by each page flick or phone swipe.
It is in her latest book release however that we witness the true feminist burliness of Cohen's work. A compendium of photographs aiming to pull into focus a contemporary vision of what a woman should be. Strong and diverse, unsacrificial of their femininity, yet the furthest from societal limitations of existing beauty standards. The goal of a modern woman is to be univocal of political ideas and multivocal of their inner selves.
Nadiac working like a vampire on acid would work to capture her images day or night, powered undoubtedly by caffeine and her ravenous appetite for culture. The naked streets of Los Angeles are her backdrop, with scatterings of domestic interiors highlighting the glorious days of post-war America with their flowered wallpapers, vintage furniture and fitted carpets, in supermarket aisles, in churches or in local ballrooms, the models embody this diversity by revealing their unique fashion styles. The dominant and totally un-ignorable continuous theme throughout the publication however is above all else: nudity.
Aside from the young and lanky silhouettes of some models such as Georgia May Jagger’s, your eyes will grace upon less stereotypical "beauty": older women with breasts drooped and dropped, thicker waistlines and ample hips, overly tanned skins likened to aged leather, avant garde makeup styles and wigs, amidst teeny tiny choking corsets worn by drag-queens such as Violet Chachki.
Six years ago, Nadia Lee Cohen started this ambitious series without yet grasping its purpose and grand finale. She is after all STILL a student, but nonetheless has an already very fond following thanks to her of autoportraits. It's by simply wiishing to photograph the things and people who inspire her perception of beauty that this young British woman has taken the 8 ball, shaken it, and seen it spell out promise and praise.
What I truly love about Nadia the most? Is that she, much like one of her inspirations Quentin Tarantino, will always feature herself somewhere in her photographic projects. Like a cameo. She too, with her lithe limbs, striking facial structure, come to bed eyes and sensuous nature will pose in front of her camera, aiding and acting as an anchor to her other models. She is inarguably the North Star, whilst the other subjects are but her stardust.
One glance at Nadia's archive will instantaneously remind you of LA movie directors such as David Lynch, the photographs of Alex Frager, David LaChapelle and, of course, of queen of metamorphosis Cindy Sherman, and the hyperrealist sculptures of the American artist Duane Hanson. But she doesn't stop there, and probably never will. Her latest works that we are about to dive into, as though swimming in a skyline pool of an LA manor itself, all come with their own story... prepare to be ravaged by numerous expressions of nudity, sunny side up warm colours and movie-like set-ups. For it is these images that deceive and thwart female archetypes in order to best redefine them.
“The most important characteristic of these ‘Women’ is that they are not weak : they feel powerful, and in turn, make the other ones powerful.“, writes Nadia Lee Cohen in the book’s introduction.
I couldn't agree more, Nadia...
I couldn't agree more.