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I’m staring at a white backdrop. My feet are exactly where they are supposed to be, with one foot on either side of the mark on the floor. My shirt is lifted above my chest, with my arms bent at the elbow and straight out so they won’t get in the shot.
My back is to the photographer, Katie Budd. I warn her about the scrape that I got from shaving, and the fact that my jeans have left imprints on my legs. She doesn’t care.
I smell a familiar scent — key lime and sea salt — coming from a green candle on the coffee table. I’m pretty sure I have it at home. And in that moment, I feel surprisingly relaxed.
She tells me to go ahead whenever I’m ready. I slowly drop my underwear and wait to hear the click of the camera.
This isn’t about me — the fact that I modeled for Budd doesn’t matter. I’m only one of the hundreds of people who contacted Budd off of her Facebook page, Bum Photos! The project makes the face a mystery, but bears everything else.
“I started taking pictures by doing a lot of self-portraiture. I stopped using my body and started using other people’s bodies,” Budd told The Ryersonian. “I am a little bit restricted in my own body and I find it interesting to see how other people act and react.”
The shoot started as an assignment for school that she said was meant to scare her class. Now, it has turned into an ongoing personal project. Budd, who studies film and photography at Ryerson, takes black and white pictures of anyone who is interested, as long as they are over the age of 18. The anonymity is legit — she has waivers in place that everyone must sign, stating that the only thing anyone will come away with is the image.
“My mom thinks I’m crazy — not anymore, she thinks it’s really neat.” Her mother has also had a photo taken.
The project has become more collaborative. Budd posted extra dates on her Facebook event page, and anyone who is interested can stop by her studio during specific drop-in times.
Most of the people who are interested in being part of the project aren’t her friends, Budd explains. They’re strangers who email or text her asking when they can come.
“People are really into it. I haven’t had many people sort of cringe at the idea or be too nervous,” says Budd. “Everyone seems to really want to know what they look like from that angle.”
While most comments Budd receives have to do with coordinating times with prospective models, one post stands out: a hyperlink to Every Butt Ever, a Tumblr page that displays pictures of butts.
From projects like former Tate galleries curator Spencer Tunick’s large-scale nude shoots or the late Robert Mapplethorpe’s controversial black and white erotic photography, many artists have explored the documentation of this specific body part.
But Budd says it is the artist’s individual context and insight that makes the project authentic, not the subject matter.
“It’s very different aesthetically (from my work),” says Budd. “A lot of people have taken pictures of bums before. But I’m hoping I’m doing it in a way that is a little bit different.”
Currently, a collection of the photos live on her blog and the rest are on her computer. She says she hopes to have them displayed in a way that they can all exist together, like in a book. But she says for that to be possible she needs a lot more people. Her goal is 300. As of now, she is about a third of the way there.
As a thank you for their participation, everyone who stops by gets to keep their photo.
“I’ve had some people want to send them to family members for Christmas cards, or put them in their bathroom,” she said.
Budd is already looking toward new projects. Her recent posts on her page suggest more typology, but this time the photos will “likely (be) hands, feet or knees.”
Originally, I had no interest in being an art project. My five seconds of butt fame was strictly to have the story to tell later. But right before it was time to actually do it, I found I wanted to be a part of it. I signed the form with no hesitation.