If you were asked to capture your inner child, how would you go about it? Bust out some crayons and let your imagination run wild, put on some music and dance like nobody's watching, dress up in absurdly mismatching clothes? For fine arts photographer Loreal Prystaj, it was capturing herself in a bathtub filled with colorful plastic balls... She explains:
"In 2011, while living in New York City, I was exploring different ways of capturing my 'inner child.' My first attempt to do so was a scene created in a bathroom.
I filled the tiny room to the brim with fun balls, set my camera and timer up, submerged myself into the tub, and photographed myself closing my eyes and blissfully smiling."
Intended for Loreal's project Inner Child, that particular photograph [below] never made it to the list – instead, it took a life of its own eventually spurring the ongoing series featured here, Body in Bathworks.
So what is Body in Bathworks exactly? Well, at the very base level, it's a series of portraits that feature Loreal laying in a bathtub covered in all sorts of props – from balloons to tree branches to actual ramen noodles (!). The shots are taken from a bird's eye view, the composition is very symmetrical and each shot has a well thought-out color palette.
However, there's more to it than meets the eye. As Loreal explains, the project was born out of a need for structure, a set of rules to find new creative direction. The bathtub, confined by its own structure and the surrounding walls, became the perfect setting to create the orderly universe she's been striving for.
At first, she wasn't really concerned with assigning meaning to each of her shots – what mattered more was decorating the tub in exciting, aesthetically-pleasing ways. Soon though, Loreal's focus shifted to the subject. She discovered that her self-portraits were echoing the many different chapters from her personal life.
"Down the road, the question became, what should I look like in the tub? At this point, I started to become a character, but oftentimes dead or gazing off into the distance.
Later down the line, the question became, how should I interact with my environment? During this phase, my characters came to life, interacting with his or hers environment that existed only in the bathtub.
Presently I ask myself, what character should I be? With this question, I actually interact with the viewer by making eye contact with the camera."
From nude portraits in decorated bathtubs, Body in Bathworks grew into a project exploring the complicated relationships between time, space and the human body. But the element of entertainment is still there, Loreal assures.
Since the project's inception in 2011, Loreal has already captured herself in almost a 100 different tubs. She says locations vary from a friend's apartment to abandoned buildings and hotels. "Each bathtub has been a mix of seeking, stumbling upon or being invited to," she tells Konbini.
When it comes to decoration, Loreal's inspiration can come from just as many different places as her tubs. According to the photographer, sometimes it would be certain objects found in the bathroom or the color of the tub. She admits that creating these settings takes a lot of hard work, no matter how simplistic they may look in the shot.
"I would have to say all the images that have water in the tub are quite difficult. One in particular that was literally painful was photographing myself in a tub with deer antlers.
Each antler stabbed me, and I ended up contorting my body in such a way I had to call for help! Thank goodness someone was there!"