‘Intimate images’ for a unique gift

2008-02-07 00:00

IF you are a woman and looking for something completely different to send to your Valentine next week, then Jill Charlotte of Poppy Magic in Howick might just have the answer. Why not have a photograph of yourself taken in an erotic setting to give to the man in your life?

Charlotte sent an e-mail headed “Intimate Images” out to her mailing list, and, intrigued to find out who goes along to be photographed and how Charlotte came up with the idea, I set off for Howick to investigate.

I find Charlotte and Ashley Garde, an artist who works with her at Poppy Magic, in Charlotte’s house. It is a riot of colour and fabric but most of the pictures on the walls are of poppies, not people, and it was with these poppies that the idea started.

During the poppy season, Charlotte opens her house and garden, and often takes portrait photographs of people among the poppies. Besides the photographs and the poppies, Poppy Magic offers psychic readings, healing, intuitive counselling and web design.

A major interest for Charlotte is sexuality in women, and issues of women being properly represented in the world. “About a year ago, I photographed a couple of friends, and then one or two other people asked me to take pictures for them. The idea grew from there,” she says. “The point is that it’s not necessarily nude — it’s all about sensuality. Everyone is beautiful.”

She also gives workshops on Sacred Sensuality — there is one coming up on March 1 — and the photograph idea ties in there too.

“The workshops are to help women to feel comfortable with who they are, and how they look.” The focus is on the self, and exploring ideas of sensuality — what it is and how it feels. Pictures are another way of seeing yourself, and how others see you,” she says. Using them as a Valentines gift is a light-hearted idea, but behind it is a serious intention.

For props Charlotte uses sofas, beds and chairs in her house, and swathes of multi-coloured fabrics, including shiny satins and chiffons. Then there are hats and flowers.

People are welcome to bring along their own props — one client came with a lion skin and a pith helmet. Or someone might fancy the kind of poses seen in the film Calendar Girls, based on the true story of a Women’s Institute in the north of England whose members posed nude for a fundraising calendar with strategically positioned props taken from Women’s Institute activities.

“Women of all ages want to have their photographs taken — most are in their 30s and 40s. By then, they know themselves, and are confident in that sense,” says Charlotte. One woman in her 70s expressed an interest, but has not yet been back to have the pictures taken. Charlotte gives the photos to the client on a disc, so that they can arrange their own printing. She doesn’t keep them — after all, these are very private, though she insists they are all tasteful.

This kind of photography has a long history — erotic and intimate photography was very popular with the Victorians, not quite as ludicrously prudish as they are often portrayed.

But at this time of year, it’s not the historical background, or even the getting in touch with the self that is important. It’s all about having a bit of fun on February 14.

• To contact Jill Charlotte at Poppy Magic, phone 082 834 0679 or e-mail justjill@telkomsa.net

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