Photographer: Amalya Shandelman
Female Model: Irina Borodina
Makeup Artist: Irina Borodina
1-15: Dress: Teeze me
We pay homage to the cult images of Marina Abramovic, whom Annie Leibovitz saw in precisely that light: As Eve who “wears” nothing but a serpent-seducer. It is a classic theme and an ageless story: A woman, a snake, and an apple. Since time immemorial women and snakes have been engaged in serious conflict. But nothing lasts forever, and nothing is etched in stone.
Take for example our model and her boa. By all indications they get along swimmingly. Irina is a professional fashion model, but her encounter with a ball python who goes by the name “Gucci” is for her an entirely new experience. (And by the way, Gucci too is of the feminine persuasion, and that is her real name.) Moreover, she was at first quite frightened; only a glass of wine (and not an apple) were able to allay her complex of fears in Amalya Shandelman’s photo studio, and to melt the ice between the two subjects of the photo shoot.
For Amalya too this is a new experience. Working with people and telling them how to hold their heads or extend their arms for best effect in the final images is a fairly straightforward affair. But having a snake as a client — exquisitely delightful and charming, but given not much at all to words — that is a completely different kind of photographic adventure. It should not be hard to guess who was in charge of the entire photo shoot, attracting all the attention to herself, adapting and adjusting her poses, even as she fully expected to be featured as the star of all the very best frames.
For her part, Gucci – who not long ago was rescued from an animal shelter and brought to her new home – was herself not quite ready for this new turn of events. It is no joking matter for a snake to coil herself around a half-naked woman under glaring stage lights and the click-click-click of the camera’s shutter. It is difficult work. And very stressful.
Even so, Gucci is well on her way to becoming a star, and, who knows, maybe even a professional model in her own right, just like her new friend Irina. And why not? Only recently Gucci has even acquired her very own Instagram ID, (@gucci_ball_python), and now awaits millions of followers.
(But note, not only Gucci has an Instagram page, of course. Be sure to see Irina’s, too: @irina_borodina_model . And do please subscribe! They will both greatly appreciate that.)
And so, facing the camera we have two fabulous creatures, competing with one another for beauty, grace, and elegance. One of them symbolizes feminine tenderness, sensitivity, curiosity, and thirst for knowledge. And the other represents masculine strength, experience, and power. The portrayals of these two symbols, as found on every continent and in even the most diverse cultures on earth, exhibit unmistakable similarities. Images of woman and serpent together have been discovered among the Aztecs, as well as ancient India and Egypt.
Amalya’s challenge as photographer is to present those two personalities as equals in every respect: equally worthy and equally significant.
But the viewer’s challenge is also not simple. Whose side should they take? To whose inner essence do they feel a greater affinity?
Or, do our viewers perhaps find no challenge in that at all, seeing our two beloved creatures as representing just one unified and integrated whole?
In summation, then, here we have woman and snake together again, but this time without enmity or seduction, without insult or injury, and without mutual demands. Their long-awaited reconciliation has finally become a reality. Or so would we like to think.