As a private space within a public space, restrooms are the only place where you can truly isolate yourself from the rest of the world. Witness to our most intimate and vulnerable moments, the porcelain throne harbors many secrets.
This hidden aspect of bathrooms is what inspired American artist, photographer and director Maxi Cohen to feature toilets in her latest photography series.
In 1978, Cohen attended the Miami Film Festival for the screening of her first feature film Joe and Maxi. Hoping to flee the endless awards ceremony, she takes refuge in the restroom of a prestigious hotel and discovers a group of octogenarian women adjusting their corsets and putting on false eyelashes.
She decides to immortalize the moment by snapping a picture. And thus Ladies Rooms Around the World was born – a series in which Maxi Cohen explores women's restrooms all over the globe, from Australia to Zambia, India to Bosnia, and Brazil to Israel.
On her website, she explains her fascination with these places that we try to keep invisible:
"As I grew up, bathrooms were my favorite hiding place, and the one sanctuary of solitude in an otherwise densely populated world. In the ladies room, I was always lecturing myself into some courageous act, rehearsing how to be spontaneous or just disappearing from visibility."
Separation of the sexes
After exploring toilets all around the world, the artist began asking herself questions which led her to a sort of feminist awakening. As she spent time observing women in restrooms, she realized how much the words and actions of men have an impact on us.
Bearing witness to fascinating conversations, ladies doing their makeup, crying, and sharing difficult moments, Cohen wanted to give these women a larger platform.
She then decided to begin filming in addition to taking photographs, interviewing women about their experiences in those private spaces. In her opinion, when women have their own space, it makes us feel liberated. She explains:
"In the 1990s, I entered an Aboriginal bar in the Australian outback. A pair of women signaled me, the only Caucasian, to sit with them. Fearing the men might overhear, they dragged me into the ladies room to tell me about the incest and rape of young girls and boys in the community. That was the first video I shot in a ladies room."
Since then, she has continued to photograph and film ladies rooms throughout the world, capturing various languages and styles, even confessions about sex and adultery, violence, fashion, and social concerns.
The captivating series takes us into the most enriching human experiences, in a space that is typically considered to be beyond ordinary. Explore the images below.
Discover more of Maxi Cohen's work on her website here.