ANJA | A Photo Essay by Lilli May Waters.

Even for the most creative amongst us, inspiration seems to dry up once in a while.

It might happen after finishing up a long-term project, or maybe when too much is going on in other parts of our lives. Either way, while some downtime can feel rejuvenating, inspiration and ideas are the lifeblood of artists and creatives. Without them, life seems to lose its meaning, to start feeling slightly pointless. One way or another, inspiration needs to be found again.

When inspiration evaded Lilli May Waters, a Melbourne based photographer, she did the only thing that seemed logical. She picked up her camera, and started shooting almost as if being on automatic pilot. As an extension of her SHE RAW series (published last year here), Lilli started the series ANJA, an ongoing body of work which focuses on women and the infinite ways to explore feminity and beauty.

Through the process of “just meeting up at a location with no props, ideas and a ‘let’s see what happens’ attitude”, the fine art and wedding photographer slowly got her mojo back, as ANJA takes on a life of its own.

With ANJA, Lilli May Waters proposes an exploration of  what makes us, women, feminine and beautiful, wearing our vulnerability and strength on our skin, for all the world to see.

This series contains nudity. NSFW.

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Hi Lilli, who is ANJA? What does she represent? Why is she important?

The name ‘Anja’ means graceful and compassionionate, the way I see my female friends, peers and women in general. It’s also an ethnic Russian name, so it makes sense to have it represent the different backgrounds of the women I am photographing.

How does this series differ from SHE RAW?

SHE RAW was my first ‘attempt’ at photographing so many subjects for a single project. ANJA started off being less ‘set up’, and more of just meeting up at a location with no props, ideas and a ‘let’s see what happens’ attitude. I think the main reason for this was because I felt I had no ideas happening in my head at the time, and was somewhat fumbling around in the darkness, hoping that shooting would inspire me again. As it slowly progresses, I think I’m returning to planning the shoots more and perhaps exploring concepts from my imagination, which is slowly returning.

How would you define ‘femininity’?

There is not one way to be feminine, and many ways for a woman to be beautiful.

Women and nudity in our magazines and on our television screens is something that needs to be flawless and should come in ‘one size’. There is an almost alien idealised standard of how we ‘should look’ portrayed by the media, using unrealistic and photoshop manipulation and calling public icons that aren’t stick thin, ‘fat’. Sadly, it sends out a strong and very wrong message that ingrains itself into most of us, one of fear, insecurity and one that we are not ‘good enough’.

My hope that all girls and women can find the courage to be imperfect and to treat ourselves kindly. To let go of who we think we ‘should be’ to be who we are, and embrace vulnerability, which is part of what it means to be feminine. To let ourselves be seen and be kind to the women around us.

“Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness.

You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.”

– Chogyam Trungpa

What are your intentions for this series?

I am aiming at photographing forty one women again, as I did for She Raw, but only exhibiting a selection of the series. I’m looking into donating the profits of any sales to an organisation or charity, but am still researching this side of the project.

Last time we were in touch, you were promoting SHE RAW, what’s been happening between then and now?

In between the SHE RAW exhibition and now, I have started a new wedding photography business , quit my day job, opened up and renovated my studio with other photographer friends in Melbourne, travelled around the States and up to Alaska, became engaged, moved into a lovely house, and taken many many photos 🙂

Thanks Lilli! Wishing you the best of luck and success in all your endeavours.

See the series here as it continues to grow.

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