- Victoria Applegarth
Reclaiming the Frailty of Flowers: Women are made of Beauty and Power
© Photography by Alina Gross
Meet Alina: the photographer wholeheartedly altering the visual composition of female selfhood and motherhood.
A site of endless interpretation, conversation and disputes; the female figure is fraught with friction, highlighted through the innumerable ways it has been portrayed throughout art history. Today, however, women are retrieving ownership and envisioning multiple female identities - counteracting the singular, predominant narrative of the past.
One creative doing just that, and who we had the pleasure of speaking to, is Alina Gross. A German-based photographer, Alina masters the genre of provocative, avant-garde imagery inspired by “flora, body and still life.” In this way, she vividly exceeds and parodies traditional ‘erotic’ visuals of the nude female body; where the language of photography, instead, advances the endeavour to invoke the equivocation of gender and sexuality.
Having once been the face in front of the camera, Alina decided to switch things around; “I fell in love with the medium, I thought it was great to be able to implement my idea quickly. I found experimenting with photography fascinating. Today I just feel good in my body and I like to work with it.”
Since then, she has rightfully been circulated in multiple publications, including Vogue and Allure, has worked with the Vagina Museum in London and is represented at Trunk Archive in New York.
Alina's work summons us to re-examine our mental procedure of observing realities, demolishing our distorted perception surrounding beauty ideals. Her photography honestly illustrates bodies with all their 'imperfections', markings and forms - of bodies that are the signs of the realities of lives lived. She learnt from American artist, Cindy Sherman, that “you can work photographically with staging your own body and don't have to be afraid to make the less beautiful visible.”
Noticeably, her shots present a more authentic representation of motherhood; a topic that resonates with many women but not many freely discuss.
“Becoming a mother and giving birth are part of my life. Considering that, it was a logical consequence to include these processes as well. When I became a mother, the stereotypical representation did not apply to me, so I wanted to show my own feelings about it. There were melancholy moments - I wanted to show the pregnancy, the birth and the body after the birth as I experienced it. The birth in particular was a great inspiration for my work.”
Aesthetically breathtaking, Alina's capturing of motherhood commemorates - rather than conceals - the sumptuousness of the body and its changing form. She highlights the physical and emotional vicissitude of pregnancy and birth and aligns a woman's sexual agency with their role as a channel for human life. There is intimacy, serenity, connection and peace within her shots, showcased further by the metaphorical use of botanical life. This, combined with Alina's sensitivity to textures and use of a colour palette that shifts from deep, fluorescent blues and greens to glowing pinks harmonises the body and flora as one.
“For me, flowers are metaphors for lust, fertility, transience, growth itself, sexuality and much more...Colours can be used to subconsciously express emotions.”
Whilst her work pushes, in fact smashes, through unrealistic beauty standards and the relentless striving for 'perfection', Alina explains that showcasing her work on social media is not such an easy process. More specifically, she describes the censorship problems she has faced on Instagram.
“Instagram was and is a very important platform for me. My great achievements; six double-page spreads in the print editorial of Vogue Portugal, foreign exhibitions in Athens, Berlin, London or Lisbon have all developed through Instagram. I've also experienced cybercrime too; I got hacked and my five years of work were gone. I have also had other negative experiences; shitstorms and attacks on my artistic work as well as the censorship that dictates an artist what their pictures have to look like.”
However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon; Facebook and Instagram could soon free the nipple as Meta's oversight board has called for an overhaul to the company's rules banning bare-chested images of women.
Alina is redefining the landscape of contemporary photography, and is creating a safe space for people to open up about taboo affairs and their worries and aspirations.
“Photography is a medium that is very much subject to change - technically, legally and ethically. It is evolving rapidly. For me, photography is a universal language that can be understood on all continents of the world without prior knowledge. Therefore, as a photographer, one should be aware of the responsibility of what one actually wants to show and how visual communication works today.”
Her images reflect realities, not expectations and after scrolling through her work, I certainly came out thinking 'yes, imperfections are perfect, beautiful and all mine.' Ultimately, as Dorothee Achenbach sums up: “[Alina's work] shows one thing: The great strength, self-confidence and power of women. Women's empowerment at it's best."
Follow Alina on Instagram and buy her book: 'The Beauty of Imperfection.'
Sneak peak into the book: “My book is divided into two parts. On the one hand there are recordings where the point is to establish a connection between the flora and the people. The other "Body" part is about showing my vision of the human being, which can be seen in all its diversity, with it's apparent "imperfections". It's about creating tolerance for yourself and others and addressing taboo topics, entering into a dialogue with my audience.”