These Montreal Artists Are Obsessed With Naked Butts

Facebook called their page pornographic. Some call the project feminist. But to these two women, it's just art.

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Jan 13 2016, 8:13pm

We are living in the era of the ass, a time where the human posterior is being celebrated for all of its soft, rounded beauty.

And, as with any other zeitgeist, the butt is being immortalized in the arts. Take Montreal visual artists Émilie Mercier and Frédérique Marseille, for example. For the last two years, they have been inspired by and taking pictures of women's backsides.

But their motivations are pure. For Mercier and Marseille, the booty is a beautiful and poetic body part worthy of careful documentation, which is exactly what they are striving for with their recent project entitled 1001 fesses, which means "1001 asses" in the language of love.

For now, their work is limited to a blog and a frequently shut down Facebook page but they have much more ambitious booty goals—just don't call it erotic.

VICE: How did this project get started?
Émilie Mercier: We've been friends for 15 years. Two years ago, I was doing a lot of photography of women and Fred said I should start taking pictures of women's butts. We asked some of our friends, and pretty much everyone was down with the idea. All of our models have been volunteers.

Frédérique Marseille: 1001 fesses [1001 butts] is a visual poem. We take pictures of women's butts to show all the variety of bodies. It's about beauty, force, vulnerability, and anonymity, in front of Emilie's camera. It is not political, it's more of a gift for the women involved.

Now, how do find your models?
Marseille: Aside from our friends, we use a Facebook group called "1001 fesses modèles," which only women can subscribe to.

But you've also had problems with Facebook, haven't you?
Mercier: Two days after launching our crowdfunding campaign, Facebook shut down the public page of 1001 fesses. They asked us to remove all nudity and obscene content from our page. They said it was pornographic. And after a final review, they just deleted our page, with the thousands followers that we had, even if we censored everything. And now, it's over, they killed our community.
Marseille: They even shut down my personal page, saying I was trafficking pornography!

You photograph women's nudity, is your project erotic in any way?
Mercier: Absolutely not. It is not our intention. Some people could say it's feminist, but this is not what we want. We think it's simply an artistic project. We learn so much from our subjects that's it's almost a sociological project.
Marseille: A lot of them tell us their stories. They are no professional models. The relation we have with them is super intimate. I think 1001 fesses is more sensual than erotic, since it's not about sexuality. It's not sexy. It's only butts...

At the end, what do you want to do with those picture?
Marseille: We want to photograph many, many more butts. At some point, we would like to present them in an expo and a book. We don't have a business model—everything is so organic.

And all your pictures are taken with an analogue camera?
Mercier: I've been working this way since I was 12 years old. I've never been comfortable with digital. There is something warm with film photography that I love. Not only with the image, but also with the number of pictures. It changes everything not to volley someone in front of you with your camera. We only shoot three pictures of every subject.

You also took pictures of yourselves. What was the reaction?
Marseille: Yes. I've heard people saying that it's easy for us, since we're two young and beautiful women and we shouldn't have any insecurity. I think it's dangerous to think that way. Insecurity is in the head. A tall and gorgeous women who looks just like a cover girl may be super troubled by her body. I think that judging the relevance of the project by the look we have is ridiculous. Insecurity has nothing to do with your looks. It's all about confidence and your personal history. Our project is relevant for everyone. And we want to shoot as many different people as possible. We even shot an 83-year-old woman. You don't always see the age when you look at a naked women.
Mercier: At the end, we want women to feel beautiful, without touch-ups.

All photos courtesy 1001 Fesses


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