Baryta pigment prints

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The art of looking at a human being.

"There are several ways for a body to be a body, and several ways for consciousness to be consciousness." - Maurice Merleau-Ponty

A meeting with a person who took my ideas seriously, respected me and was genuinely interested in what I had to say. Later I learned that this is the way that Massimo relates to everyone he works with, whether behind or in front of the camera. Precisely the same way that he relates to longterm collaborator and subject of this book, Iselin Steiro. Put simply, Massimo listens as he sees. I should know, I have spent hours with him waiting for just the right situation, just the right light and just the right form. For his art, everything must be real and nothing edited. It took me years to understand how significant the experience of working with Massimo has been to me, not only in identifying myself as a writer, but specifically as a feminist writer. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote in The Second Sex, ”The body is not a thing, it is a situation, it is our grasp on the world and our sketch of our project.” In my opinion, Massimo immerses himself in that sketch. It may seem easy, perhaps, to read well respected feminist philosophy into the work of a male photographer, but in my experience there is little that is easy about Massimo's work. Just as there is little that is easy with women's experiences of their bodies. We are sexualized because of our bodies. We are killed because of our bodies. And yet our bodies also give life. Just as Iselin's body has done during her ongoing collaboration with Massimo. In this way, women are close to nature but also close to men due to our mutual reliance on life. These are not images of a naked women in the highly sexualized way that we very often see them today. These images are glances by one human beings of another human´s body as a composition in and with nature. This is not the idea of a supermodel in a feigned setting, it is the actuality of a person in the most essential form of the world; nature. That the eyes doing the looking belong to a man and that the body is that of a woman (a body which has so often been placed in other peoples’ ideas and made-up settings) makes this project a significant contribution to the conversation about what the body is today. I write this not only from a theoretical vantage but also from a personal point of view, because I have been into the woods with Massimo myself. I have seen firsthand the way he photographs and that he relates to naked women with the same respect that he has to me or to anyone with the same interest in what is authentic, genuine and real. I have tried to reflect on what it was in Massimo’s images that initially caught my interest. The answer, perhaps, is that the images gave me, a 23 year old girl - with all the body insecurity I had back then - a pause that I didn’t even know that I needed. It was as thought the images pushed a button in me. Because I, like many other women, needed a break from ubiquitous sexualization and from the noise of men around me explaining what I should see, think and do. A pause from all the gazes that didn’t, first and foremost, see people. Our bodies are not a problem in themselves. Rather, it is those who take our bodies from us and make them into something artificial or into the property of others. That Massimo is a white, heterosexual man who gazes at naked female bodies through a camera lens, not with desire or to exalt us, but for the exact opposite reasons - taking womens’ bodies out of a sexualized setting and giving them an obvious place in the world - is not just unique but also important. In the novel De Polyglotte Elskerne by Swedish writer Lina Wolff, one of the male characters writes a letter describing the first time he sees a woman as a human being: "Maybe my wife was right. It was the first time I viewed a woman without trying to see my own desire, or the effect of my words." And perhaps it is precisely the ”listening gaze” and the absence of desire that excites me about Massimo's photography. He doesn’t attempt to force my body, as a woman, into an artificial setting. Or explain to me anything about myself which I do not intuitively already understand.

- Madeleine Schultz

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