Since its invention, photography has been an incredible tool to document humanity and to get the best insights into global subcultures and countercultures that have fed what we now know as new contemporary art. Aaron McPolin is a fashion and beauty photographer, but also, in his own way, a sociologist. Indeed, the artist doesn’t confine himself to the skin-deep aspect of human body, he also enjoys exploring its mind and to document contemporary subcultures.

He grew up near Manchester, England, before moving to Perth, Australia. At the age of 17, he discovered that photography was his calling.

“I’ve always enjoyed people” he says. “Learning more about their beliefs and their ways of treading through life. I find that, through photography, I can personally explore and represent other people’s and my own ideas much more strongly than through any other means.”

Aaron’s observation of humanity often leads him down in the rabbit hole, deeper and deeper. With his two eyes wide open and his camera always nearby, he studies the world of taboo, meets the outcasts, the talented weirdos and beautiful freaks he is proud to know and love. His studies, in the form of fine art series, usually stagger over one or two years. His first one, ‘A Pattern of Rebirth’, in 2014, was exploring identity and acceptance.

With ‘A Tender Dissolution’, the photographer decided to shed light on Shibari. Aaron McPolin explains his choice of subject:

“At first, I was interested in Shibari as a vessel to communicate the taboo our culture harbours in the general public towards anything different and irregular. I wanted to really push the general public’s ideas of what they personally find acceptable. Breaking down people’s barriers isn’t easy, you can’t water something down and expect people to just integrate it.”

But soon, the artist is impressed by the dedication, skill and talent involved in this erotic art. Shibari is a contemporary, Western term to name a Japanese artistic form of rope bondage. It is inspired by Kinbaku (which translates by ‘tight binding’) a provocative yet aesthetic practice that delves into intimacy, trust and bliss. In a ceremonial, delicate process, the practitioner is binding his rope partner with a specially treated jute rope. The practice has diverse forms, most notably ‘Connective Rope’, ‘Artistic Rope’, which is shaped, around aesthetics and ‘Beauty in Suffering’, in which the subject is positioned in contortions designed to create controlled reactions.

To learn the ropes (pun intended), Aaron has connected with Paul Kabzinski, a shibari artist and teacher, to guide him and his team in this special journey.

“I was like: hey, I have a project where I want to tie you up nude and suspend you in the air!” he recalls. “I had everyone go through a class with Paul, including myself, to be tied, bound and put through the motions. Having a team who fully understood the process and the experience was vital to the series coming to life.”

His series of photography, ‘A tender dissolution’, aimed to show shibari in a pure form, with his own interpretation from his experiences of the culture and community. The fully naked models are shot in a delicate light, to underline the connection between flesh and rope. Beautiful flowers are reinforcing the sensation of purity and weightlessness. We get a glimpse in a world at the same time puzzling and harmonious. Aaron states:

“I want people to feel disjointed, to be comfortable with accepting something different. They shouldn’t close up and shun the strange. Normal is an illusion. What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly (you can’t go wrong with a bit of Morticia!)”

‘A Tender Dissolution’ was exhibited in July 2017 and will be available as a book in January 2018. Aaron McPolin hopes that it will help Shibari be more accepting as an art form, and he intends to explore it more over the coming years. His next series, to be released in January 2019, is based around another attribute of BDSM. The photographer concludes:

“I sincerely hope that [my work] gives viewers a new insight into this culture. I want them to question their stance on what may be taboo, to start a new conversation.”

2 Responses

  1. Jason

    Wow! This is amazing, I recently started getting into this with my ex-gf and these pictures show a very sensual side to bondage especially with all the beautiful women you have. I would love to get added here.

    Reply

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