Denmark is famed for its stunning women and their insouciance about nudity. The Nordic nation has long shrugged off sexual conventions, setting a carefree standard for the rest of Scandinavia.
So it's surprising that Danish photographer Mathilde Grafström sparked a media firestorm when she attempted to show some of her recent work in Copenhagen’s Nytorv Square. Her photo series, entitled “Female Beauty,” features nude, natural-looking women in nature—all for the purpose of easing prudishness and promoting healthy body image. To Grafström's chagrin, police blocked her attempts to display the series, claiming her artistic shots were “indecent" and "offensive."
Grafström isn’t going down without a fight.
Her cries have resounded across the Internet, sparking debate over rising Danish conservatism and the differences between nudity and obscenity. In an exclusive interview with Maxim, Grafström discussed the photo series that is heating up her countrymen and how she is fighting censorship at home.
What was the concept behind the "Female Beauty" photo series?
I have an eye for seeing beauty in women, and I love photography, so I nailed it together into this project. I’m working with these women to see their beauty when they cannot see it themselves. At the same time, I’m working on finding my own beauty, so it’s a therapeutic project for the girls and me.
How do you get these girls to open up?
During the shooting, problems can appear. The girls meet these feelings that they are not beautiful enough. I try to instruct them 100 percent, but it’s often the photos in-between I use—of them tripping or sliding over. I just try to make them relax more and not have to think about anything. And the more I accept them, the more I can accept myself. It’s like a mirror.
How did you react when you found out your work had been censored?
I was very shocked. I couldn’t really understand because I don’t see my pictures as offensive. And I saw these commercials on the buses in Copenhagen for breast jobs, and they’re allowed. Big companies are allowed to show their pictures. There’s this double standard from the police. Mine are aesthetic and natural, and theirs is an advertisement for silicon breasts that’s convincing a lot of young people to get surgery that is unnecessary in my eyes. It’s suppression of my art.
But I always thought Denmark had a healthy attitude about nudity.
We have this wave here, where everything is getting more closed. Girls are dressing up more and more and hiding themselves more. 10 years ago, you could easily swim on the beach with no top and just bikini bottoms. But these days, if I’m doing it, which is normal for me, I get these looks. It’s a big debate in Denmark, but we shouldn’t be moving in that direction. I’m hitting some nerves by showing these pictures. It’s very provocative.
Are you fighting the police on this one? How can people help?
I filed a complaint and also reported this plastic surgery advertisement to the police. I heard back that they’re looking into it, so I’m waiting any day now. I have a lot of supporters on Facebook, and they’ve been sharing my pictures. That’s the best support I can get.