In•eff•a•ble /ɪnˈɛfəbəl/ — too extreme to be expressed in words; that which must not be uttered
I met with Heather McKenzie on her lunch break to go through some of her latest photos. As we flipped through images of beautiful women laying in tubs minimally covered in pieces of mint leaves or drops of period blood, we fell into a conversation concerning the discourses of censorship that surround the portrayal of the female body. Looking at a photo featuring two of her modelling friends casually posed with their breasts exposed, McKenzie stated, "We posted this photos on Instagram a couple times and had two cases of it being flagged... it is interesting to think about the fact that you cannot highlight a natural part of a woman's body because historically it has been hyper-sexualized and something viewed as immoral to place in a public forum. I feel like this feeds into a message that women's bodies need to be controlled and maintained in a way that is considered less deviant."
On the topic of censorship, I asked Heather about her decision to use period blood in one of her shoots. "Part of it was to portray that very beautiful, ineffable part of anyone who has a uterus and menstruates. It is a very natural, normal, and beautiful thing. Jo [Joanna Moran] and I worked on putting these photos together and wanted to do it outside, having a natural landscape background to draw attention to the fact that period blood and menstruating is historically tied to growth... We wanted to draw the link between the fact that menstruation is a beautiful process with a lot of historical and natural ties to the moon, the earth, and ritualistic practices. It is also nutrient rich and can bring nutrients to the earth. It was an interesting experience to stop thinking of it as a nuisance or something dirty."
Most of the women in McKenzie's photos are friends of hers. "It was wonderful to be comfortable enough with these other women to partake in this experience, and it is funny to see people's reactions. Everyone has different levels of comfort with it, [and] that has to do with dominant discourses that surround women's bodies... It was also a great experience to develop a closer relationship with people I am taking pictures of, to treat period blood and bodies as things that do not need to be hidden."
Discussing the anticipated effect of her photos, McKenzie stated, "my hope is that people will be comfortable with what the body does naturally and see the beauty in it. To have it be something normalized in conversations with other people... To rid the ideas of censorship and have people share things related to their body, sex positivity, and have a space to be welcomed and celebrated for who you are... I would like there to be a new level of comfort that people feel toward their body, to have more motivation to reflect on their own internalized messages around how their body is supposed to be maintained and viewed. It is interesting to develop a new relationship to parts of your body you are not comfortable with, and not just tucking that away, but talking about it, putting it into photography, and trying to unlearn these internalized messages."