I am a woman of water

Guest Story by Sarah Kornfeld

There have always been images of women in water. They are often standing upright, cascading like water or rising up on shells. Soft, flowing, delicate...annoying! 

Why are there so many women in water who look oblivious to the real world? 

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Two years ago I was waking up in my life, and I wanted pictures of it. I wanted the images in water. I did not want to cascade anymore -- I wanted images to help me get back to my long lost self.

I met Lone many years ago through our friend who suggested we would be great friends. Though, it wasn't until I was going through divorce that I reached out to her, and through getting to know her (and trust her!) I decided to be photographed by her. There is something about Lone that is a dare: do you want to be here or not? Do you want to see yourself? Ok, I'll help... and I dare you!

I took her dare, and dared myself to start what became a two year project with Lone - exploring being photographed, as well as using the lens consciously to change up my life. For the first set of photographs we met at her almost empty barn studio. It was winter. Her studio felt a bit like me -- a ghost-town that was moving on to a new life. What I experienced in that first sitting was that I wasn't a fetish for her, I was a person and she was bearing witness to myself. I was hooked.

With Lolo's Boudoir, Lone had founded a true salon in our modern culture where women could go to explore who they were, in their bodies, using her camera as a tool for expression. The romantic in me was smitten with this 19th century soul of a person, and her passion for finding you in yourself, thought her lens. I wanted more.

The second time we met we wanted to go into nature (to get to that water). We trekked into the Redwoods behind Sausalito and found a spot. There was a bridge and a stream and a small waterfall. There were also people hiking and small animals and natural light and I was wearing stripped socks a gold necklace and an ankle length purple sweater. It was hilarious, and very hippy, and fun.

Though as we worked, and as the "posing" wore off (we all pose in life, though in this case, with Lone, you are meant to pull yourself from your poses...) nature became less of a backdrop, and I began to experience being a participant with it...I believe Lone did as well.

What happened next was the unexpected/expected aspect of exploring your inner visions before Lone's camera: I put a sheer cloth over my head. I felt like ancient Rachel at the Well, as though some Jewish part of my DNA was sneaking out for a peak...just to say hello -- a bit timid.

It is odd to be Jewish in Northern California, mainly because many of us don't look very "Cali"...no one looks twice at me in my hometown of New York (and Brooklyn)...my nose is not a surprise, my mouth does not seem disquieting, my hair is genetically recognizable.

Though, here in Northern Cal we seek each other out...those of us with Jewish faces and bodies...we look for each other quietly and with great yearning. In those woods, that day, I felt the ache of "other". I felt how often I don't feel like I "look normal" and that the ancient, juicy, lovely curve of Jewish women are not often seen against the backdrop of yoga bodies and lithe, lovely Cali life around us. Oy, was I homesick.

So, I took off all my clothes. I walked to the creek, now running fast. It was very cold. It got very quiet. I lay back into the water and everything froze.

Where was Lone?

Where was I?

Where are the organized moments of ritual in my life, I demanded of myself?

Must I Mikvah, alone?

Yes, I thought. I do.

Mikvah is the ancient tradition of Jewish emersion. Some call it cleansing, though many now see it as a confirmation of yourself to yourself, to the unknown and a spiritual commitment to be awake. A Mikvah is literally a plunge into water. It's an ancient rite, and I was doing it while being witnessed by Lone.

I could feel only the silence in the water around me. My skin was covered in goosebumps. My heart was adapting to freezing cold and I let go. I just let go of all of the pain I'd been feeling for many years and let it run down the creek and out into the ocean. 

I then felt lifted up. Perhaps it was the lightness inside after releasing stored up pain...I experienced the rising feeling after the necessary fall.  I stood before Lone and whipped my hair up and down, and up and down and up and down. I let go of the water. I let go of the past. I felt the ritual of renewal invade me as she snapped and snapped and snapped each moment of truth.

I was shivering, smiling, dripping wet. I was free.

I looked at Lone. She let her camera down. Tears ran down her cheeks.

Yes. 

We had arrived someplace together. We had created a ritual together and captured it forever. And, everything has been different for me since that moment of return.

I am a woman in water.