Counting Solve Sundsbo, Paolo Roversi, Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott as some of the photographers who inspire her, fashion photographer Ausra Osipaviciute who is based out of London, UK uses her images to translate her imagination of a different fantastic universe to the world. She often conceives this vision of hers with the aid of post-production as well as the synergy of other professionals in the field.
To create ‘Fantplastique’, the photographer whose body of works consists of spreads for magazines such as The Rake, as well as commercial campaigns for Lithuanian fashion designer Ieva Daugirdaite, looked outside her own historicity for creative influences. She coins the statuesque Padaung women, also known as the long-neck or giraffe women from the Kayan Lahwi tribe as the main inspiration for the photo series.
She started by conducting a body of research on these women who are part of a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people within the Tibeto-Burman ethnic minority of Burma (now known as Myanmar) – some of whom are currently residing in the hills of Northen Thailand in the Chiang Mai province, in order to escape war in Burma.
These women are usually identified by the spirals of ornamental brass coils of polished golden colour, also known as neck rings around their necks, which weigh approximately between 5 and 20 pounds (roughly 2.25 to 10 kilograms), and are supposedly worn since the age of four or five for their whole entire life. Coils are added sporadically until a limit of 21-25 is reached, at the age of marriage.
They are of the belief that a woman with elongated neck is considered more attractive and more highly valued, enabling them to adhere to the general concept of beauty within this community, whereby an elongated neck would allow one to be as graceful as a swan.
By focusing on this type of body modification which has existed for centuries, and whose tradition was even documented by Italian explorer Marco Polo in the 1300s, Osipaviciute infuses a cultural voice within the series of her photos whilst capturing it through a modernised lens.
Shot in solely black-and-white with a strong usage of contrast within the photographs, she made the impossible possible by deliberately elongating the model’s neck to extreme lengths without the safety net of the rings. Given the fact that most of these women have never gone outside without their brass rings, nobody actually knew how they look like without their rings. This approach of hers thus propels forward an unseen yet interesting take on the agonising practice.
In the old days, there were even myths that indicated that if a woman were to take the coils off, her neck would topple over and she would die from suffocation – a punishment sometimes meted out by the village people if the woman has committed adultery.
Taken as a form of social commentary, Osipaviciute’s photographs also shed light on the prevalent trend amongst these indigenous women as more and more of them are choosing not to keep the neck ring tradition.
By infusing a range of bizarre and aggressive poses that train the eye to focus on the contours of the model’s impossibly long body, her series of photos builds itself upon the notion of breaking away from the restrictive tribal tradition; a form of liberation since this shift in culture is also the result of financial constrains as many families these days often cannot afford the costly, handcrafted rings, while many young girls feel they would be an impediment to getting a job in towns and cities.
Therefore, if there is anything, it is suffice to say that Osipaviciute’s photographs are visual portrayals of actual social context, in truth and in absolute honesty.
This article is published as part of Couture Troopers’s January 2016 issue ‘HYBRIDITY’
This article is also available in PEEK Magazine Vol. 1 by Jessica Ye
Check out Ausra Osipaviciute’s website for more of her works: www.aography.com