Sofia Mendoza is a testament to the #itchysilk aim: to highlight names purely based on their work. They do not need huge followers they just need to have work we like. The twenty-two year old Sofia Mendoza from Mexico City started photography for a module in Industrial Design at Centro University. She admits at first, she “hated the class”.
Three years later she states with assurance: “photography has become my best tool to express me”.
In those expressions, Sofia Mendoza intrigues, forcing the mind of the viewer to delve deeper than the apparent simplicity of the images. We were particularly taken with her stirring images of her feet accentuated by the impenetrable beauty of a black background.
As we learnt talking with Sofia Mendoza about her three year project Our Human Body, she encourages us to understand our own relationship with our bodies and challenge (in part) the amount of value we place on our bodies.
One can argue there is a collective sobering need for this challenge. Subjected to images of the idealised body by ubiquitous social networks like Instagram the ability to resist the ‘perfect body' has become ever more difficult.
The hatred of photography leads to the best form of expression
Yes, it was just like that. I started photography three years ago. I was told I needed to take photography classes because it was part of my course. At first, I hated that class. I was not even able to focus properly with a film camera, but with time and practice it has turned into my hobby. Later it became an important activity in my development as a designer. It has helped me to practice my aesthetic skills. Most importantly, photography has become my best tool to express me.
Inspirations and the sacred human body?
Photography led me to this approach to visual arts. It allowed me to become more conscious about my surroundings and to question myself about the things that I am visually and conceptually attracted to. This is particularly true for my street photography. It has become an exercise leading me to self-knowledge and sometimes existentialism.
I am attracted to shooting nature, especially plants, mountains, water, and tiny insects but I also enjoy taking images of architecture and spaces. The human body inspires me the most. It is a material, structure and sometimes an object. After 3 years of a career in Industrial Design you begin to objectify everything.
In fact, I have a personal project exploring the aesthetic and conceptual values the body can reach. This archive is called Our Human Body-started in 2018. It is a series of images, drawings, and some writings of my authority. The project seeks to explore the perception we have of our bodies and the relationship we have with other human bodies; it is about the social and personal value we give our bodies.
One of the first sub-projects of this archive is the comparison between beef from a butcher shop and a naked woman. The project tries to understand how the human body can be valued as something beautiful and to a certain extent sacred. The counter to that idea is the human body is just a body-we are ultimately also animals.
Light, camera, feet
I had previously shot naked models and those images make up the archive. It was not until this quarantine however that I started taking self-portraits addressing this project. It was very challenging to be the photographer and the model at the same time. I was exposed to light and confronting my self-perception. It was an enjoyable process-dancing in front of the camera and embracing me.
At the same time, I was exploring contemporary dance. I was encouraged to make a video-dance by my teachers. However, I ended up making images of videos instead. Due to the light disturbance in the space, the way I was dancing on the floor and the angle of the camera it led me to this choice. It all naturally just came together.
Feet are the basis of any dance genre and I realised this could be a collection of powerful images. That is why some of the images show a relevé foot position. The results are relevant to the exploration of the relationship between the movement of my body and the value and perception I have of this.
Generally, I like to take images of all parts of the body: belly button, ears, mouths, nipples, hands. There is no need to show a face to talk about the identity of a person. We are constructed by the shape, dimension, colours, and textures of other parts of our body. They too express identity.
My images are not meant to be sexual in anyway, but it is interesting how some people are attracted to feet. Others think feet are repulsive. I have received more sexual comments or jokes from these images rather than nipple images or naked women. Perhaps the feet are not widely sexualised. It becomes easier to comment on but difficult for the social media to censor.
The project tries to understand how the human body can be valued as something beautiful and to a certain extent sacred. The counter to that idea is the human body is just a body-we are ultimately also animals.
The toxic idealised body
I do not think anyone is completely happy with their body. In my experience as a photographer and as a person living in this digital age, I realised it is difficult for people to show some parts of their body. We all have insecurities. Something intimate, something that we do not consider pretty, something we are ashamed of.
Nowadays, it's true that the media has toxically idealised the body. They have created impossible standards of beauty that people aspire to but can never truly attain. We are constantly trying to change our appearance, or we hide and show the specific body parts we think people will like. Maybe that is why I like to see my own body deconstructed. Each part separated and I can analyse which parts I like and the parts I do not like. I want to be conscious of it as a social construction or something merely personal.
When I share the images, I aspire that the viewer perceive the image just as it is-a body. A body that does not claim or deserve to be sexualized, judged, compared, classified, or attacked. I try to celebrate and embrace my own body, as well as other people's.
I am curious about all the body forms and how their owners feel about it. Talking about the relationship you have with your body also talks about the relationship you have with other human bodies.