(Photo: Highsnobiety via Marilyn Rondon)
Inside Dat Ass, The Zine That Celebrates The Beauty Of Butts
Butts have been having a real moment. They’ve entered the mainstream as everyone’s favourite body part, so much so that gyms offer “twerk and tone” classes and the “belfie” (butt selfie) is an officially recognised practice. Everyone from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s ode to asses in “Anaconda”, to Destiny’s Child bootylicious anthem, to Kim Kardashian’s insured behind, are proof that asses, and our obsession with them, aren’t going anywhere.
The focus on butts isn't a new one, but it has been cementing a place among our prevailing body standards for the past few years. Just last week, a new report by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons revealed that 2015 was indeed the “year of the rear”- every 30 minutes of 2015, someone got a butt job.
And remember when Vogue thought they "discovered" big booties in 2014? To which several women said: we've had big booties for our whole lives, thanks. Like most arbitrary and ever-changing beauty standards before it, however, the veneration of the perky ass has inspired plenty of women who don't naturally have one to seek it out. See: the rise of Levi's wedgie jeans.
But all this ass-talk focuses on making the butt you have (or don’t have), better. Rarely do we celebrate the body we already have, and that constant hasn’t changed with the ever-increasing rise of the ass.
Miami-based artist, DJ and fitness instructor Marilyn Rondón wants to change that, and praise butts - all butts - in her zine. Titled Dat Ass, it’s dedicated exactly to what it says: ass. After shooting three rolls of film of just bums, Marilyn decided to dig through her archive of photographs and make a compilation of images of different shape, size and colour butts. We caught up with her to talk more about the project, which is an ongoing series exploring and celebrating the male and female body.
Konbini: How did Dat Ass zine come to life?
Marilyn Rondon: I've been shooting photos for a very long time, but not professionally. It's always been my way of just hanging onto my life. I was at Ultra Music Festival here in Miami a couple of years ago assisting my friend Wyatt Neumann (rest in peace) on a Nikki Romero job at LIV and there were tons of women hanging out in thongs.
"I was running around chasing every ass I could find"
I found it fascinating and was running around chasing every ass I could find without the subjects knowing I was shooting them on disposable cameras (easiest way to be discreet). If they were in larger groups, I'd just playfully ask them "omg you guys are sooooo cute and funnnnn can I take your photo" and they'd be like "sure" and then I'd ask them to turn around and show off da butt. And that’s basically where it started. I mean, what woman doesn't want to be complemented? AND on the most popular body part nowadays...
How many butts did you actually shoot for the project?
I've been shooting this project now for over 2 years and have shot over 100 different subjects.
How do you find your subjects?
I find my subjects walking down the street, at the beach, at the bar I work at, through friends - and a lot of the time via Instagram. Most of them are actually my friends, they're all kinds of people. Teachers, moms, artists, dancers, strippers, painters, boxers, writers, photographers - rarely are they models.
My subjects are just women that I approach about being a part of my project that are down for what I do and don't feel objectified because I'm not some pervy dude trying to fuck them or make them do anything they're uncomfortable doing. I'm a woman - a straight woman - that approaches the butt the way painters approach a new painting, it's a study... and ass study.
Why butts? Is it just about visual appeal, or is there more of a story behind these behinds?
Everyone has one, correct? And everyone’s body is unique in its own way. If you have stretch marks, does that make you less sexy? Hell no, I have them too and I love my butt. If you have cellulite, or hair on your butt, or it's pale, or it’s huge, it doesn't matter. Human bodies come in all shapes and sizes and everyone’s ass can be sexy with the right amount of confidence, the right underwear, or angle.
"No matter what you look like, you are perfect the way you are"
I’ve been doing this project as an experiment, trying to redefine what sexy really means to us, the women that have society breathing down our necks telling us that we're not perfect. Fuck that! No matter what you look like, you are perfect the way you are. If you want a butt job and think it'll make you feel better, go head girl, get that butt job. If you want to go the natural approach and do squats, lunges and other butt and leg exercises, do it gurl (or guy) get that booty, but most importantly - do not forget everyone’s genetics are different, and just because you don't look like the girl or guy in magazines and fitness blogs, or lingerie ads etc, doesn't make you less sexy.
"I want to shoot anyone who wants to feel empowered by embracing their bodies"
You are your own vessel and you shouldn't allow what society "thinks" is beautiful make you feel any less about yourself. I'm trying to convey that in my work, but of course, I always get criticised saying "you only shoot this type of subject, or that type" without people actually recognising that this is a one woman show, and not everyone feels comfortable taking their clothes off for a photographer.
I myself, have difficulty with it and rarely shoot nude unless i know the photographer personally- It takes a great deal of intimacy. I don't want to just go on model websites and shoot hot girls, I want to shoot everyone, male and female, anyone who wants to feel empowered by embracing their bodies.
We're so used to seeing photoshopped asses that it's refreshing to see "real" ones in your photos. Did you intentionally set out to keep the images authentic, or did it happen organically?
It definitely happened organically. I mean, I can't work a digi cam for shit so having shot most of my work on point and shoot and disposable cameras gives you more of a raw feel to these moments I'm spending with these men and women. I personally dislike digital photography, perhaps it’s because I've been taking photos on film since I was 8 years old, but yeah, it just happened to be that way... I keep it real cause I am real.
How does Dat Ass relate to the rest of your work?
It's repetitive, if you notice, that's an ongoing theme in everything that I do. Most things humans do are based on repetition... it works until it doesn't anymore, I want to continue this project until I'm over it, I'll call it my "ass period.” LOL that sounds mad dirty.
You can buy Dat Ass and more of Marilyn's work though her website.
By Olivia Cassano, published on 07/03/2016