Visit her homepage: lindatroeller.com
What inspired them to start the project? How did they find each other collaborate?
Marion and I met when I was photographing for my Healing Waters, Aperture book at Terme di Saturnia Spa in Italy. Marion and her husband were looking for a photographer to capture their new therapy, Liquid Sound, at their Bad Sulza Mineral Spa in Germany. They commissioned a selection of my photographs for the walls and gave me the shoot which
led to getting to know her. Marion had already been interested in the topic and had written some friends to tell her their thoughts on orgasm. At that time I was planning a book project, “Hot Old Women,” but when my younger boyfriend broke up with me, I didn’t want to shoot that topic. Eventually Marion and I evolved into the idea of ‘erotic’ inquiry of women of all ages with Marion interviewing and me photographing. We found women had more to say, and that we could do deeper into sexuality which led us to the orgasm project..
What was the process for the before, during and after taking photos?
Marion or I would meet or contact a person who was interested in participating. We gave them information about the queations ahead. Most often we travelled to their homes or a nearby hotel where they felt secure and protected to speak and be photographed. After the session we showed them the photographs and got their impressions and deleted any images they felt did not represent their feelings.
Did their perspectives change at all about what they thought they knew about the female orgasm?
I was surprized by the curiousity and desire of the 20 – 30 year old generation. Although they grew up after the pill and women’s lib, had quite liberal parents, with access through social media to pornography and sexually based advertising, they desire more meaning around their sexual freedom. They still felt there is too much shame around orgasm and want more dialogue. They see orgasm as a way to bring more peace and health to the world.
I researched and found there was not much visual documentation of women’s early experiences with orgasmic sensation so it was exciting to bring these stories out. Most of the women had not had the chance to share that with friends, mother’s etc.
Linda Troeller is an award-winning photographer living in New York City. The work in her acclaimed book about her many years living at the legendary Chelsea Hotel entitled Chelsea Hotel: An Artist’s Memoir was exhibited at the F/Stop Photography Festival in Leipzig, Germany; the University of the Arts in Philadelphia; and the Melkweg Gallery and Coda Museum in The Netherlands.
She has been published by Aperture with her Pictures of the Year awarding winning book, Healing Waters, and by powerHouse Books for Spa Journeys. She has co-authored two books with Marion Schneider — the pioneering volume, The Erotic Lives of Women (Scalo, 1998) and Orgasm: Photographs and Interviews (Daylight, 2014).
Troeller’s photographs are in the collections of the University of Texas, Austin; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Smithsonian Museum; among other venues. She exhibited Self-Portrayal, a collection of self-portraits, at Ververs Gallery, Amsterdam, and won an IPA Award for the work in 2009 for Self-Portraiture. A documentary on her photography, Inside the Frame: Linda Troeller, will be released in the fall of 2014 by Canadian filmmaker, Jeff McKay.
Visit her homepage: marionschneider.com
What inspired you to start the project?
When I was a student, I realized that even among my most intimate girlfriends, it was taboo to talk about orgasm. I felt that I was all alone in dealing with it, because I also found it difficult to talk to the men involved. I was left with books which I found not very inspiring, as they didn’t really relate to my feelings and questions. So I started dreaming about creating a book in which women would not only talk, but would also be seen by photographing them in the context of their feelings and desires.
How did you find each other to collaborate?
Linda and I are two spa professionals – Linda by taking pictures in the realm of spas, and I by offering spas to the public. We met because I was looking for a photographer in the spa area who would be able to capture the healing and inspiring qualities of the spa experience. I saw pictures published by Linda Troeller and realized that she might be the right person for this purpose. At our very first meeting, I already started talking to her about my dream of a book concerning the eroticism of women. I didn’t dare to talk about orgasm yet. We agreed very quickly and started to work on our first project, The Erotic Lives of Women, which was published in 1998 as a photo book. We started on our new project, Orgasm, in 2005. I think that we needed the first project to be brave enough to face the topic of orgasm.
What was the process before, during and after taking the photos?
There is a very big difference between our first book, The Erotic Lives of Women, and this book, Orgasm. With our first project, we inspired the women to choose the places and their clothing. We also offered them the possibility of being together with their lover if they so desired. The setting was completely designed by the women; Linda and I tried to not influence them in any way – in order to capture their “genuine erotic feelings.”
The topic of orgasm is fraught with a great deal of fear. For this reason, we did not dare to talk too much before meeting the women. We hardly even mentioned clothing or the place for the interview. We accepted everything the women suggested – we either visited them, or they came to meet us in our place, or in our hotel room. When we prepared the meetings with our interview partners, we dealt with clothing only when they mentioned it or asked about it. Otherwise, we omitted the issue of clothing in order to no induce fear in our interview partners. It was important for us to capture the feelings of the women, and this made it imperative for us to develop trust during the interview. Once we had established the camera and created a safe place, it was easy to get into our topic and to help the women remember their past experiences, their feelings and their aspirations. That’s the way it was with our first book. Once the women started getting into it, they cast away their anxiety, and gained their inspiration. Of course, this also had to do with our approach and our behavior. Our goal is to support the women to the point where it is possible for them to talk and show their real and true feelings. We refrain from influencing them in any way, but support them in their flow.
Did their perspectives change at all about what they thought they knew about female orgasm?
I think that the most unexpected revelation was the communication about the first orgasm – not only for us, but also for our interview partners. In the process of the discourse, we often found that the first orgasm and the first erotic feelings had a profound influence on the future lives of the women. I think that it was also very helpful for the women to reflect about the topic of orgasm, starting from their very first feeling up to their fantasies and political aspirations connected to it. It made the women – and us as those privileged to listen to them – more aware of the connection between their orgasms and their everyday lives.
As for me, I did not know about the early feelings of orgasm on the part of a lot of women. It made me very happy that little girls already have such profound experiences with their bodies. I am also very impressed by the variety in the world of orgasm. Women are so very different and feel so very differently. What is particularly obvious is how connected their bodily feelings are with their lives. I am also impressed by the topic of orgasm’s being seen as very political, and intimately connected with freedom and peace. What a wonderful vision!
Marion Schneider is a scholar, ethnographer, and spa entrepreneur living in the state of Thuringia in Germany. She is the co-author, along with photographer Linda Troeller, of the acclaimed 1998 volume The Erotic Lives of Women (Scalo, 1998) that paved the way for her second book project with Troeller, Orgasm: Photographs and Interviews (Daylight, 2014).
Schneider’s interest in exploring female sexuality originates from her work as an ethnographer and historian. In the 1980’s, Schneider interviewed Balthasar Ehret, the leader of the resistance movement against the building of a nuclear power plant in Wyhl that started the environmental/green movement in Germany.
Her interviews with Ehret will be published in 2015 by Metropol Verlag, Berlin. Her book of poetry and prose and a book about Thuringian culture and history will also be published in 2015, both by Groessenwahn Verlag, Frankfurt. Marion Schneider is the co-owner of Toskanaworld, a renowned group of spas and hotels in Germany that offer preventative and rehabilitative therapies to people who seek to reach their full potential both physically and emotionally.