Em & Lo: How did you two end up taking part in this photo shoot?
Mike: I heard about the project somewhat based on my working as a figure model, as a male, I would clearly not qualify but mentioned it to Mary. She agreed to pose and wanted me to pose with her as well.
Mary: And I am always up for a trip to NY.
E&L: We love how Susan Seligson describes in the intro how baring her breasts took the power away from the oglers by making a preemptive strike, she felt that it shifted the power base. Did you experience that?
Mary: I felt a little self conscious but also feel it should not create the “scene” it did. It should be normal.
Mike: I agree it should be normal. I don’t believe is shifts the power base to any great degree. Females always have power; I understand the intent of the statement but based on what I bring with me but don’t know that it shifts a power base.
E&L: Do you think this project worked? Do you think the photo shoots did change people’s view of what it means to see bare breasts? Or is there the chance that guys who like to ogle breasts will just see this book as one more chance to ogle?
Mary: I believe the project worked based on what people have said, combined with the photos. There will always be guys who don’t want to expand horizons and will not get past the ogling.
Mike: I agree the project worked, from an artistic and and visual environmental base. The actions are a strong statement. I also agree that not everyone will get it on that level and simple oglers will see what they simply ogle.
E&L: Did this photo shoot change the way you think about your own bodies or your boobs?
Mary: I don’t know that it changed what I think of my body, but being part of it (the project) is good.
Mike: It did not change what I think of my body at all, but I’ve worked as a nude model for years and don’t even think much about being bare. From my standpoint, the barefoot sandals I wore got as much attention as being shirtless.
Em & Lo: Do you think this project worked?
Ellie: I don’t know if it is big enough to put a dent in our society’s puritanical views when it comes to nudity, but I hope it did. I hope it’s seen as beautiful and normal and not risque. Breast shouldn’t be shocking. And besides, if we were covered to our chins, they’d ogle at our ankles.
E&L: How did people around you react to the shoot?
Ellie: There’s a very angry looking man in the background of one of my photos. Most people seemed uncomfortable with it. A female cop threatened to arrest us. Others giggled or became indignant. My favorite was a gentleman standing near us during some shots outside Port Authority — for the 60 seconds I had my shirt off he ran a very colorful commentary about his ideal female breast, how mine compared, and how he appreciated Jordan’s choice of subject matter.
E&L: Are you glad you did it?
Ellie: Like most people, I had really poor body image. I am glad I did it because it led me to art modeling and that experience helped me appreciate what is mine and why I should be happy with it. It’s kinda of fun just to say I did it, especially since I tend to be shy. And I like the context, the whole message of the project.
E&L: Who have you showed it to?
The first person I showed it to was my mom. Most of my friends have seen it, both male and female. The guys I’ve dated find it really exciting. It’s not something I hide, but I don’t necessarily promote it either. Never coworkers, at any job. The guys I worked with in construction already saw me as just boobs and ass with no brains. Showing it to them would have not improved the situation.
E&L: So what did your mom say when she saw it?
Ellie: My mom thought the picture was really beautiful, but it was shocking to her, not because I was topless in the middle of NYC, but because she suddenly realized her little girl was all grown up and is a c-cup.
E&L: Women constantly complain about what it’s like to walk past a construction site; working in construction, are you dealing with that kind of attitude 24/7?
Ellie: I actually stopped being a carpenter, as much as I loved it, and keep it as a hobby. Maybe I’m a terrible feminist, but it’s very tiring to have everything you do, your entire competence second guessed, undermined, just because of gender and for no other reason every single day. If I had been in a union or working for a large company, maybe it would have been different. But I was working for a really small company, I was the only girl. My boss told me flat out he would never pay me more than any of the guys, even though he acknowledged that I was one of his best employees. I ended up going in a whole different direction. Plus it’s nice leaving work not entirely covered in dirt.
E&L: Was it your idea or Jordan’s to pose in the hard hat? And how do you think this image differs from the kind of images you see on calendars that, say, a construction worker might put up on his office wall?
Ellie: It was Jordan’s idea. I avoid wearing them unless absolutely necessary. He actually wanted to do it a little more dirtied up, make me look more sweaty and grimey, but was afraid of crossing that line from tasteful to pin-up. So we decided on just the hat and work boots to contextualize the image and its background, and help tell the story we see all the time on work sites, just a normal contruction worker, taking a lunch break and cooling off by removing her shirt. Just like the guys.