EDITORIAL: Eliska Sky teamed up with Michael Moon and Lydia Chan to create a technicolour spectrum celebration of the female form
Interview: Katharina Lina
Photography + Art Direction: Eliska Sky
Body paint: Michael Moon
Hair sculptures: Lydia Chan
Hair: Eliska Sky + Michael Moon
With her series Womaneroes Eliska Sky wanted to create a safe space in which her subjects could show their au naturel selves with a light-hearted playfulness that, most of the time, still isn’t afforded to womxn’s bodies in media. Not trying to comply with any beauty ideal fads, or cater to gazes of desire, Sky’s models place themselves in unapologetically neutral stances, wearing nothing but an array of rainbow paints by Michael Moon and matching wigs and hair sculptures by Lydia Chan as armour. “This project brings about new ways for interpreting femininity by transforming the female figure through body paint; all shapes and sizes are welcomed.”
Tell us about this shoot. How did you first get the idea and how did you develop the concept? The acceptance of my own body image has always been a big topic while growing up for me. I had an average body type and acne and felt that I was not beautiful enough. When looking back, I think I was quite hard on myself and felt the pressure, not from my family and friends, but from the media and imagery around me. This experience made me express this topic in photography and prove to myself and others that diversity is beautiful and we should celebrate it. With Womaneroes, I was first inspired by the colours and ombre effects of various Kanekalon hair extensions and came up with an idea of colourful body statues reflecting this colour palette. I connected with body painter Michael Moon who helped me style the Kanekalon, and later on, I collaborated with set designer Lydia Chan who created unique and elaborate hair sculptures for the project.
For many people anything body-image related can be heavily loaded with emotion and stigma. How did you cast and approach the models / your friends? I did one of the first photographs as a self portrait. Then it was easier to show my friends and models the direction and style and explain the concept. I felt that it was a liberating experience for a lot of the women including myself.
Can you tell us about the direction you wanted for the hair looks? We experimented with various looks. In the first shots, we just applied the wigs and hair extensions to cover the face and I borrowed already made pieces by Lydia and combined them with the looks. In later stages, I bought various hair extensions and left Lydia to play with them. Lydia is a true artist and she really transformed the extensions to hair sculptures. The body painting and hair styling was used by various tribes as a way of portraying strength and powerful warrior expression. So that was one of the inspirations as well.
You mentioned the models saw themselves differently once their bodies were painted and the wigs covered their faces. In what ways did their perceptions change? They were pushed out of their comfort zone and I think they suddenly saw new versions of themselves, especially with this heroic body paint which transformed them. Also, with their identity covered, they had to focus purely on their body shapes and sometimes couldn’t even recognise themselves. I think this made them find a new connection with their body image, their self-perception.
What do you think needs to happen until seeing unposed, unedited, natural bodies beyond slim-thicc ideals in mainstream media is not only accepted for diversity quotas, but actually welcomed and the norm? I think the media needs to stop sexualising women and presenting them as objects. There should be more emphasis on showing the inspirational women and their achievements instead of discussing their appearances. Women also need to know their own value and not feel embarrassed to be powerful and confident.
What is an unlikely source of inspiration for you? It’s hard to imagine something which hasn’t inspired me at some point or another. A recent shoot of mine, 2 metres distance was inspired by the current pandemic and creative inventions of people making their own hand-made masks.
Where can you be found when you’re not working? I feel like I’m ‘working’ all the time, in terms of getting inspired and thinking of ideas no matter the location. But I like to go for walks and hiking trips to nature with my partner, travel, visit exhibitions and make handmade soap and shampoo bars. I like to go jogging, especially when it’s slightly rainy and not many people are outside. I also love to have a cup of hot mint tea in bed and watch movies, real crime stories, and fashion and art shows or documentaries.
Who are your Womaneroes? Great question as women need celebrating! For me Womaneroes are any inspirational women who make positive changes around them like Jane Goodall, Greta Thunberg and Aurora.