A Very Human Adventure [visual art feature]


{© Michael Wildman}

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(A Very Human Adventure | by Sergio Burns) Michael Wildman's plan was simple. The photographer and artist would shoot women from different ethnic backgrounds, naked and in Auguste Rodin's crouching woman pose. He would also ask his models -- none of whom were actually models -- to choose the location of their shoot, with the proviso that it resonated with their homeland or said something about them. So, the idea was to present a series of Rodin-inspired photographs with an ethnic feel.

Rodin had peasant girl Adele Abruzzezzi, model for the original Crouching Woman work. Adele is often accepted as Rodin’s favorite model, and indeed, the sculptor was known to admire her greatly. Abruzzezzi, whose pose was said to be spontaneous, is credited with modeling for the artist on several projects.

Wildman became interested in Rodin's work when he spent nine months working with sculptor Michael Snowden. The photographer later traveled to the Royal Academy of Arts in London for an exhibition of Rodin's work.

"It really brought the work to life for me," Wildman explained. "Seeing the pieces … as they were created really brought them to life."

Paying homage to Rodin, Michael decided to use the crouching woman pose as the centerpiece to his project, though he would allow his models to copy the pose as they wanted.

"None of the models actually did it exactly the same, their interpretations of the pose were all different."

The outcome was Wildman's September exhibition "In the Day of Cold Light" at Attic Salt Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, a project that took him almost a year to put together.

"This is not the end," an enthusiastic Wildman told me on opening night. "There are many more girls from many different ethnic backgrounds still to be shot. I can see the project traveling around the world and why not."

At the private viewing I had watched women -- who, before the opening night of the exhibition, had never met each other -- greet, hug and exchange compliments. It struck me that Wildman had achieved what religion, politics and wars could not. He had brought about a unique international and multicultural togetherness with nothing more than his ability as a photographer and as an artist. So, the natural question for me was why he had decided to add an ethnic dimension to the work.

"I wanted to photograph as many different nationalities as possible. The project is about place and a sense of place and belonging. It's about being born in a certain place and how you are brought up in a certain culture, climate, religion to certain parents and grandparents. Everything in our environment influences us."

Where did Michael meet his women, his dog walkers and occupational therapists, photographers and waitresses? How and why did the women become involved? Why did they agree to take their clothes off to be photographed in the awkward pose of Rodin's model? What did they get out of it? How did they feel about it?