Struggle with Waclaw Wantuch

Waclaw Wantuch is a Polish photographer known for his black and white photographs of the nude female form. His images all carry a sense of emotional drama due to his use of deep shadows and highlights in high contrast – a photographic style known as low-key lighting. Much of his work features women in complicated poses, and his cropping choices are often abstract. This creates unique scenes that cause the viewer to focus primarily on texture, shape, light, and form, rather than simply the fact that they are viewing a naked body.

In this image, we can see a woman’s torso in a moment of action. She is lying on her back, spine arched and hips rotated towards us. The smooth interplay of dark and light is mesmerizing, and the cascading rivers of her abdominal muscles are beautifully shaped by Wantuch’s choice of light direction. Her belly button creates the illusion of being a black hole in the visual landscape, drawing in the surrounding light and creating even more depth in the image. To me, the most striking part of this image is the negative space that exists – the areas underneath her back and above her stomach. The contraction in this woman’s muscles truly spurs the imagination…what is she experiencing? Is she caught in a moment of ecstasy or is she simply stretching? Are her legs and arms extended, is there tension or relaxation in her face?

This photo can be described as a moment of ideal female beauty. For me, this image proves to be quite thought provoking. In this day and age, it is common for both women and men to struggle with personal body image, and it easy to get lost in comparing one’s self to others. With the rising popularity of social media, it is even more tempting to get caught up in the temptation to feel imperfect and worthless if your physical appearance does not match that of popular celebrities, models, etc. American culture projects its perception of the “perfect” female body under a very narrow set of beauty standards, and for those who have struggled with weight or with eating disorders as I have, an image like this is a little upsetting. It represents an unattainable beauty standard, and provokes feelings of both inspiration and depression. As is possible with most art, this image creates a series of clashing reactions – some may view it as beautiful and worthwhile, others may see it as impractical and insignificant, and some, like myself, may see it as both.

What do you think of this image?