The Naked Interviews: Interview with a Shibari Photographer

Shibari (from the Japanese term, to tie) is an intricate and beautiful art form; the tying of a person with rope that is beautiful, effective and formed to a Japanese aesthetic. Shibari is the term generally used within Western BDSM culture, often interchangeably with Kinbaku, the tying of another as a connective, sensual and sexual practice.

Get tickets for the Shibari rope photography exhibition by NikonRope

Standing over six-foot tall, with the beautiful features innate to those of Swedish extraction, one might be forgiven for thinking she was the wrong side of the camera. Statuesque and svelte, with huge smokey eyes and a wry smile that seems to laugh at life in a gentle way, the natural beauty of this talented young photographer shines through her urban aesthetic, and dances onto the beautiful images she creates.
Let’s settle into the warm vibe, cool gaze and find out where London’s hottest new Shibari photographer finds her inspiration.

How would you define yourself?

I’d say I’m very relaxed, calm, but I overthink a lot so I guess it’s more internal. I think I appear to be super-chilled all the time, but I can definitely get caught up in my head. I have always been creative in one way or another, fascinated by abnormal things, always questioning things.

What drew you to photography?

I started painting and drawing when I was very young, so always felt the need to create things. I always painted from pictures, real references, a lot of portraits and stuff. I suppose photography was a better way to capture these things in a realistic way. When I was painting I would always beat myself up about the fact that they would never look “real” enough, so pictures worked better for capturing this.

What areas of photography have you worked in?

I come from a fashion photography background, although I realised very quickly that I didn’t have much interest in fashion or this type of photography. I started doing more portraits, pictures of my friends, documentary moments. As I started getting more interested in kink this fed into my photography work as well, taking pictures of partners, parties, and now it is almost solely what I shoot. 

What interests you about Shibari?

Shibari, for me, is connection. I think the physical conversation and intimacy you can achieve through rope is amazing, even with people you have just met. It’s a beautiful way to get close to people, whether in a  sexual way or not. The rope scene also interests me because people are so incredibly committed to their craft, which I truly believe rope is. 

I think my work is different in a few ways. The general Shibari photography that we see often focuses on suspensions, poses, aesthetic of patterns, and is often shot by the rigger (person doing the tying). For me this removes the element of connection, as you only have one person in the image. I really wanted to capture that moment when people are tying, communicating, moving together. 

How do you feel your work is different?

Being a woman I suppose I also have a different perspective, the female gaze if you will. Coming from a submissive point of view, I am very aware of not wanting to objectify people through my work. I always try to make people feel beautiful, the best representation of them, not wanting to exploit people’s own experiences or flaws for the benefit of my work. I never use images that the models aren’t 100% happy with, as it’s about telling their story at the end of the day. 

What do you think people mostly assume about you that is completely wrong?

That’s a hard one…Perhaps that I’m quite confident and have my sh*t together? Which I really don’t. I also think my appearance (over 6ft, shaved head, etc.) can be intimidating to people sometimes, which I get, but I’m genuinely very friendly.

What do you feel people most misunderstand about Shibari?

That the goal is suspension, perhaps? Which I think is a shame, as people can get hung up on the technical side of things; just tying a body for the purpose of suspension, as opposed to experiencing something with a partner. Don’t get me wrong, suspensions can 100% be connective experiences as well, I’m not saying that. But I suppose as a newbie it could be intimidating to think that this is the “only” way to do rope, or the point of rope.

How do you choose and pose your scenes?

I will either contact people or have people come to me; ideally they should have a partner in mind already, as it is about connection. If possible, I photograph in the person’s home, as I really like shooting rope scenes in domestic environments. I think it removes it from this idea that all rope and kink takes place in a dark dungeon: this is something people do in their homes too. I think it adds personality as well. 

I try not to direct the scenes much at all, as I really want them to be a genuine portrayal of that couple’s chemistry. I will give them a space to work in that fits the frame I am shooting and then I let them do their thing. I try not to interrupt scenes, unless there is something really wrong. I want them to tie as if I wasn’t even there. 

What do you love most about your work?

I love all the amazing and interesting people I get to meet through it. Most of the people I shoot I will meet for the first time on the day, so I will always spend a lot of time just talking to them and making sure they are comfortable. Sometimes I have ended up talking with people for hours before even shooting, and I have met some great friends through it as well.

I love the trust that people place in me; I am really grateful for it. Being allowed to capture such an intimate moment between two people is really special to me, and I don’t take it for granted. 

What advice would you give someone interested in becoming a photographer for a niche area like this?

I would say be prepared to spend a lot of time in the environment you are wanting to shoot before even getting to the point of taking a photograph. I spent about 5 months in the rope scene socialising, going to classes and getting to know people before approaching someone to shoot. I didn’t want to be seen as an outsider, someone who was just there for their own benefit. I think it’s important to get to know the area first, as the more you learn, the more it might change the way you want to photograph it. 

What do you think of the London scene?

It has its positives and negatives, for sure. I dip in and out a lot, depending on how much else I have going on, and also very dependent on my social energy. I guess it’s nice to know that it’s always there; even if you’re gone for a while you can always come back to the same people and places. I think it caters for a lot, so much more than other cities, so we are very lucky in that sense.

What does the future hold in store for you?

I will continue shooting my rope scenes, as it’s something I don’t think I will ever get tired of. I hope to do more kink and boudoir shoots for clients, as it’s something I really enjoy. I have also started shooting some parties, which has been a lot of fun and something I want to do more of.

Where can people see your work?

I will be launching my book “Rope.” on the 28th of August, which is a collection of work from the past year of Shibari shoots. There will be a launch party and exhibition at Anatomie Studio from 7pm, where people can purchase the book as well as see my work displayed. I post regularly on my Instagram @nikonrope and have a website under construction. 

Get tickets for the Shibari Rope photography exhibition

  • All images of Shibari rope bondage are produced and photographed with explicit, informed consent and no persons were harmed in the making of these images.
  • All images are copyright and property of NikonRope, used here with consent
  • It is not recommended to attempt Shibari or any form of bondage before taking professional instruction.

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