Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Calendar celebrates the naked truth

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Paintings of bare-naked ladies are a classic art form, of course.

As photographs of same can be.

Still, it's not every day that someone sends me photographs of naked Winnipeg women.

In fact, it happened for the first time late last month, when two artfully shot images of two consenting women arrived in my -mail. Along with an explanatory note from a 28-year-old woman named Bonnie Holmes.

"I am a local psychiatric nurse and amateur photographer," Bonnie wrote.

"I recently completed a project involving 11 other Winnipeg women, of all ages and body image issues, allowing themselves to be photographed in the nude. The pictures are all done in natural lighting, without any post-production work, so no one has been 'touched up' or corrected in any way.

"I compiled the images into two sets of calendars for 2010, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to support the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

"I have included a few of the images, to give you an idea of the style of the photographs..."

That's when I stopped reading, saw the attachments, and went "click, click." And impressive images they were.

Later she told me, "it's hard not to make naked women look sexual. But I didn't want to betray them erotically. I wanted to make them look beautiful."

And they do.

Except, as beautiful as the bodies and the naturally lit photography were, I noticed there was something missing.

Faces.

Actually, in honour of the naked truth, one of women did allow her face to appear.

Bonnie.

She took a self-portrait that features her standing, draped only in the slightest of shadow, with her face in profile.

Why did Bonnie allow herself to be identified while the others -- who are all colleagues or friends -- are otherwise anonymous?

Well, in part because a guarantee of anonymity was how she convinced them to pose.

As for why she chose to expose herself entirely, I'll let her tell you in her own way, in her own time.

"Nobody came to me without having fear about flaws," Bonnie said when we met this week to look at calendars.

But lest you think everyone having at least one camera no-go zone was an age thing, you should know the women ranged in age from, 20 to 60.

I think the shyness comes from the way women in general seem to never really believe they're beautiful or perfect enough.

I'm not even going to try to explain why -- in a locker-room setting -- men seem more comfortable around other naked men than women do among other naked women.

But Bonnie sees it this way.

"I've heard it said when women look at each other they look at what they're up against."

Yet, what Bonnie found was despite the list of flaws each woman brought to the shoot, after a while they seemed to relax around the camera.

The self-consciousness and the concern about flaws faded.

Which brings us to why Bonnie wanted to do the calenders and why she decided to reveal her face with her body.

"I want women to be able to see themselves differently. I think we all look at each other through our own filter of our own judgment.

"Posing naked, for me, is something I'd thought about for a long time. I had a lot of struggles in my early years. I went to some extremes with diet and exercise and got myself sick. I thought it would be a way to celebrate how far I've come. A celebration of health and strength. And to put a face on it was kind of a nod to myself that I had finally done it."

There was another reason, too.

It had to do with the list of flaws everyone came to the shoot with.

"Do we never get to a point in life where we get past these things?" Bonnie asked, rhetorically.

"So, to put my face there was a way of making the point. I'm not ashamed. I don't think women celebrate themselves enough and I think that's so sad."

You can celebrate with them, and buy a $20 calendar for yourself Friday at 8 p.m. when Bonnie and her models officially unveil them at the Classic Cafe & Billiards on Portage Avenue.

A classic venue for a classic art form. Makes sense to me.

If you can't make the classic unveiling but want to purchase a calendar, contact Bonnie by email at holmes_bonnie@hotmail.com.

But you'd better hurry.

There are only 100 printed and available in the first edition.

Actually, there are only 99 available.

I was proud to buy the first one.

gordon.sinclair@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2009 B1

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