I am wrapping up production on a book and exhibition, and am looking for women to model their labia. More information can be found at www.LabiaProject.com and images from the book can be found at www.LabiaProject.com/model2.html
I will be in Denver for one day only (Sept. 22nd), and would need to know for sure that you would be available that day. The shoot only takes 20 minutes.
The images are completely anonymous, closely cropped, and have nothing to do with sex. It’s a series about abstraction and the beauty of the lines and form of this unique body part, though the series is not intended to draw excessive attention to or objectify this one part.
One hope I have with the series is that people will not see this part as dirty or sexual, but simply as beautiful. In many cultures, a woman's labia is perceived as an unsanitary and unsightly body part that contains a woman's sexual desire. More than 3 million girls between 5 and 8 years old undergo female circumcision each year, largely in African and some Islamic countries. Why? Because men rule there, and somewhere they decided that they didn't like this body part, and decided that if they circumcised women it would make them lose their sexual desire, and be faithful to their husbands. In these cultures, a woman who is not circumsized is considered a social outcast. Practices of FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) are often done crudely and without sanitized equipment, and often result in infections, painful complications, challenges for childbirth and can even result in death.
Well, it is my hope that this series will seriously challenge that notion, and that hopefully some of the people that believe in that practice will see this body of work, see the inherent beauty of this part, and questions their beliefs and practices. It probably won't change the whole world, but if it helps even one person, it has served a tangible purpose, which is the intent of all my artwork.
It is also my hope to present these images so detached from sexuality that the people who view a woman's labia as something purely sexual also challenge their own notions--that something that is often seen as perverse and only shows up in pornographic material, can be, of itself, simply pure in line and form.
Also, it can be a challenge for a woman to see this part of their own body as beautiful, and have issues of self-confidence, so it is yet another hope that women can see this series, and come to terms with their own beauty.
And, since most everyone that has ever lived has passed through one to come into life, it holds an additional meaning of huge significance as the human portal of life, though again it is not my intent to put this, or anything material on a pedestal, but rather to elude to the qualities of it, in idea and perception, that are lasting and spiritual.
It is my intent to challenge people with this project, though not to cause disgust or shock, but rather to cause an appreciation based on life, elegance, and the beauty of the artistic way in which we were created.
If you are interested in being a part of this project, feel free to email me. No experience is necessary, most any age (over 18) and body type is fine, and a wide range of shapes and uniqueness is encouraged.
All work is done in trade for a gallery print from the exhibition ($300 value), a signed copy of the finished book ($60 value), or the nominal wage of $30 for the 20 min. shoot.
Words from models who have been a part of the project:
"I'd like to be a part of your photography project. I appreciate your efforts to de-stigmatize and reveal the beauty of this much-aligned body part, and I'd like to contribute to the body of work."
~Monika Thomas, Radio Host, San Francisco, CA
"Thank you for making me a part of The Labia Project. I really appreciate your intention and I know the results will be beautiful. It takes guts and a certain sensitivity to approach a subject like this, and I admire what you’re doing. You’re a complete professional and I would work with you again in a second. You made me and the other models feel comfortable, especially given the delicacy of your artistic vision for this project."
~Maria, San Francisco, CA, MM #573086
"It is hard to say what has not already been said about Joel Belmont. I have never been so comfortable in front of a Photographer before and found that it was all due to his talent and professionalism. Even though we only worked for a short amount of time he left a deep impression on me that I will forever be grateful for. He was also so willing to let me assist him through out the project with the other models, and provided me a chance to see a different form of art through his lens. Working with Joel is a great honor as he has inspired me with a deeper understanding of what The Art of Nude truly is. He also helped me gain more self confidence in modeling in that form from only a first photo shoot with him. I look forward to working with him later on in the future and wish it was sooner."
~Karina V, San Francisco, CA, MM #633549
"I'd like to say that my experience with you was a life-changing venture into the feminine spirit. I was able to explore the beauty of the body I was blessed in a space that you provided. This space allowed me to feel self-actualized in a lifted manner, which is seldom provided in our society. Since a young age we are constantly hammered with tools to analyze our bodies for improvements and adjustments. In moments behind the camera with you Joel, not only was I naked physically but also my spirit was raw with present acceptance of who I was then and there. MY soul felt more beautiful in those moments then I had felt in moments of intimacy. Looking at other photos by you I see the beauty of realness, of sheer physical and emotional beauty. I can only speak of congratulations and appreciation to you for allowing myself and so many others to have insight into this dimension of the soul."
~Meghan, Aspen, CO
"Joel is by far one of the most talented and professional photographers I have had the pleasure of working with. He has a clear idea of what he wants to capture and the skills to realize his vision yet he welcomes new ideas and works hard to incorporate creative input from his models. Working with him was a pleasure and I couldn't be happier with the results. Suffice it to say, the images Joel and I created are not only beautiful but some of the best work in my entire portfolio (as many who have viewed it have commented)! Joel is professional, talented and easy to work with. I highly recommend him both as an artist and a professional."
~Excelsus, San Francisco, CA, MM #10487
"Every once in a while, the common person has thrust upon them the opportunity to touch the work of a visionary. Joel Belmont provides that and more when he touches the life of a model. Often, in the pursuit of being a model, the model is lost—herself and soul put on hold in order to achieve the vision of someone whose claimed artistic talent exceeds her own. These models, in an effort to assist in the achievement of greatness, often find themselves quite alone and apart from their work. Joel Belmont intentionally seeks out that which is unique in every woman he photographs. He sets forth an artistic agenda of his own, and seeks to let his models truly make that experience of art their own.
Joel takes the time not only to see, but to listen. It is in this listening that he is able to find that which is truly unique to the experience of the model and meld that experience with his own vision. He challenges that bit of every model that aspires to conform to the place in society which she feels she must aspire to fit. He does this by proving that she, within herself, possesses that which makes her a truly wondrous human being. The Labia Project is just one such example from a body of work that is consistently representative of this experience. Being present for the shooting of this project allowed me the opportunity to witness this first hand. It’s a hard project, hard in many ways because many women have the sense that there is something inherently wrong with this part of their body….they struggle with this idea that their body does not “fit in” with what it is “supposed to be” as dictated by a set of social norms too complex for the average woman to articulate…too long, too small, too big, too thin, too puffy- the list of “toos” is as endless as the number of models who have been brave enough to confront this project head on.
Joel Belmont understands this about his models. He simply does not feed into that language, does not use it, and gently tries to persuade each model that this most intimate of parts is not only acceptable, but beautiful it its own, un-comparative right. There is no “look” he is looking for; instead it is the uniqueness of the woman that makes her valuable, even necessary to this representational project. He revels in the beauty, taking time to appreciate each line and fold as if it is something extraordinary and worthy of documentation. “To model” often carries the implication that others should seek to emulate that which has been published. That concept is at odds with the mission he has set before his “models”. Their task is to represent that which is distinctly personal and unique….so as to make acceptable that which is different, that which could not be changed to make her more.
In this, perhaps initially unsettling environment, Joel Belmont’s complete lack of judgment, combined with an almost reverent attitude toward each of his models quickly sets even the skittish at ease. That which is valued (and each woman is) is treated with the utmost respect and dignity. Suggestions and a passion for the project drive him. There is no leering, no comparison, not a single touch to control the models perception of who she is…she is simply allowed to be and encouraged to explore her own identity—almost alone with herself in her personal display of her womanhood.
While the Labia project is one of extreme focus, perhaps only 2-3 square inches of flesh, it is perhaps one of the purest expressions of individuality; one that sets aside issues of race, class, occupation, age, religion, politics, relational status, sexual orientation, financial status, and core beliefs. The Labia Project exposes the universal truth of uniqueness while fostering a sense of oneness through distinguished and cherished commonality.
The very act of participating in the project speaks to the success of the project. Each model that is willing to take that first step toward allowing the celebrating her uniqueness is taking a step toward deconstructing those ideas that would seek to change her. Each model is able to take an empowered step toward liberating that which has been subtly controlled and sought as a means of molding her personhood.
To work with Joel Belmont is to touch the surface of changing attitudes toward self and society. It is personal, and yet it is one small step toward making universal the acceptance of womanhood for what it is. There is no paint, no garnish, no dressing, no pills, powders, potions or tonics. He is seeking to allow women to simply exist…to cherish themselves as a part of the human race, to accept their difference, and to allow others to marvel in the possibility of human acceptance."
~DePhedre, Denver, CO, MM #775164
"I was initially very nervous about working with Joel because though it says I'm comfortable with nudity on my profile, I had never actually done any work in that line. He was very professional and the shoot turned out to be an amazing experience. I never felt uncomfortable and I truly believe that we created something beautiful that day. It was so much fun and I was at ease the entire time. He spends time actually getting to know who he's working with too, so you really feel like you're apart of a team when you're at one of his shoots. His wife was extremely sweet and talented too! smile It was like being with old friends...
Overall, it was a life-enhancing experience and I would definitely recommend and encourage others to work with him. Especially if you want to create photographs that will be valuable and creative."
~Bianca, Longmont, CO, MM #768008
"You were very professional and take your craft seriously. You're a great artist & it was a pleasure working with you."
~Leila, San Francisco, CA, OMP #14402
"I had the opportunity to work with Joel Belmont on the Labia Project. The shoot was held at a local woman's home that was also involved with the project and there were several other woman there for the project as well. Joel was professional and I could tell he has a lot of experience with photography and working with models. Even though I was posing naked in front of a new person which could make me a little shy, Joel was professional and kind. I felt comfortable and he was respectful. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished images and am interested in working with Joel for future projects."
~Mandy, San Francisco, CA
"I really enjoy modeling for Joel. He makes beautiful images and is fun and easy to work with."
~Lacey, San Francisco, CA, MM #9777
"I enjoyed working with Joel. He was very patient, helpful, kind and open."
~LXV, Los Angeles, CA, OMP #198400