Bums! A Bum Study Art Project
I got my butt photographed by a stranger.
Ryerson student and nude photographer, Katie Budd, wants your bum.
Upon seeing the artist’s call on Facebook for Bum Photos!, I got in touch. It was an art project I was strangely eager to contribute to; though I’d imagined that baring my bottom for a stranger would fall somewhere between “really fucking awkward” and “potentially life-threatening” I ultimately figured, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Turns out, not much.
The days prior to the appointment I obsessively wondered about the state of my backside. I thought about this while standing outside of Budd’s studio on River Street, and again, in vain, outside of the nearby Toronto Humane Society, searching for the nearest public washroom. I spotted a quick and easy exit — a Tim Hortons across the street — but rather than give into my crippling social and butt-baring anxiety, I walked the 20 or so metres back to Budd’s house and arrived just as one girl is leaving.
Budd introduced herself and, just like in our three or so text message exchanges prior to meeting, she was extraordinarily friendly and upbeat. Budd took me upstairs where I signed a consent form and told me to bare mid-thigh to waist. I pulled my pants down and lifted my shirt. The shoot took approximately five seconds.
All I could think about were my stretch marks.
A Tumblr link Budd shares of a past photo shoot shares similarities to a 2006 web page archive of fat activist and weight diversity speaker Marilyn Wann’s Fatso magazine, launched in 1994. The page, which shows 12 “fat” derrieres linking users to other pages on the site, is headlined with fat-positive slogan, “For people who don’t apologize for their size.” Further into the website reads Fatso’s “Manifesto #9,” which states, “I realize that this numbers game is no different form the flat world theory: we set weight horizons beyond which we expect to fall off the face of the Earth. But the world is round, and all bodies are possible, acceptable, real,” a notion Budd mentions when I ask about her artistic statement.
Budd says, “I feel like there’s a lot of attention towards ‘small, medium, large,’ but it really has nothing to do with that; it’s all about your bone structure, the shape of your hips.”
In our interview below, the avant-garde arts student describes her most memorable project, what it’s like working with the not-so-gentle-souled, and talks everything butts.
Torontoist: Can you give a brief introduction about yourself, who you are, and what you do?
Katie: My name is Katie Budd and I’m a student at Ryerson. I’ve been shooting for three years; most of my work centres around the body, like this project, and I’m eventually hoping to get my PhD and continue.
On Facebook, you called this project a “bum study art project.” Why bums?
It started off as a typology for a school assignment. We were told we could take pictures of any one thing we wanted. We had to have 16 to 30 images of that one thing. I chose to do bums. One of my favourite photographers is [Robert] Mapplethrope; I really like a lot of his work, it’s really controversial and focuses on the body. I wanted to something that wasn’t too angled by gender, so that’s why I’m doing male and female [bums]. I don’t want it to be too homoerotic or too sexual towards females. The bigger the audience, the better.
What message are you hoping to get across with this installation? Or rather, what’s your artistic statement with this piece?
I just wanted to bring attention to the differences in everyone’s form. I feel like there’s a lot of attention towards “small, medium, large,” but it really has nothing to do with that; it’s all about your bone structure, the shape of your hips. Everyone’s just so different. I think it’s also a little bit humorous, you know, a bunch of bums. I just really feel it speaks for itself.
How many people responded to this open call, and have they been mostly male or female?
I’d say it’s pretty split. I’ve seen a pretty good mix.
I had about 200 people contact me about it. I had about 180 attending the event. People have been bringing their friends. I’m hoping to get 200, though.
How do you normally acquire your subjects? Do you often hold open calls for your nude or semi-nude photography?
I do. Most of my models have been friends of friends of friends, people at school.
What common themes do you pursue when working on a project?
I sort of started taking photos of people by taking photos of myself. A lot of my projects started with more of a self-expression, and then I started looking at other people instead. A lot of it is about physicality and the body. I have a bit of an obsession with the theory of the Gaze so I feel like a lot of my works have to do with the act of voyeurism.
So, you must get a lot of creepy people that show up.
I have. I’ve gotten people that will message me about my work asking me to take photos of them and then asking me to pose with them. It sort of turns into this whole, “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt” and explain that it’s difficult for me to take a self-portrait – it takes more time, it takes me energy. It can be awkward. And then they’ll just straight up hit on me, kind of like, “That’s not what I was doing here. I was under the impression that you sort of respected what I was doing.” So that happens a lot because it does have a lot of sexual undertones.
Out of all of your projects, what has been the most memorable?
I did a series about two years ago and it was nude people with paper bags on their heads – men and women. Some were in a studio, some were more candid in people’s homes. I got a lot of reactions. It was the first full-nude thing that I did.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m hoping to do several of these, this one with bums. Another one with hands or feet. I just really like the idea of studying the body.
What is your long-term goal, professionally and artistically?
With this, I’m hoping to make it into a book. Just to keep doing things that make me happy and trying to do things that impress myself. I’m constantly trying to get better and learn new things. I’d like to pursue academia and hopefully become a professor one day.