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The book of my body
Being photographed naked is supposed to be a racy, sensual experience. But for one woman, it was a matter of life and death. By Kathryn Harrison
'm standing, naked, on a small, boxlike platform in a Manhattan photographer's studio. It's a late afternoon in January, rush hour, but outside his shuttered windows traffic is moving slowly, its usual clamor muffled by a heavy snowfall. Months before bikini season, my pubic triangle is beach-ready, not a hair out of place. I got it waxed three days ago, just to be sure that any redness that resulted would have faded by now. These are color shots, life-size.
"Can you turn your right knee farther out?" the photographer asks me. "I need to get all the inner thigh. Good, good-that's great. Perfect. OK, now we'll do the back."
I turn around to face a blank white wall. The room is comfortably warm, especially where I am, under two umbrella lights.
"You really have to spread your legs wide for these. If you move your feet all the way to the edges of the-right, that's the way." I hear the wheels of the stool the photographer is perched on roll toward me over the white floor. He must be about eye level with my buttocks, a word that's always sounded aggressively muscular to me, certainly more than my own would merit. The flash keeps popping; the directions keep coming; the lens ascends.
"Wow," he says, when we're done. He thrusts his hand forward to shake mine. "You were excellent."
"Really?" I say, surprised.
"Really," chimes in the woman whose job it has been to chaperone this session.
"Chaperone" was how the photographer described her when I made an appointment with him. …