Reka Nyari Tells Four Different Stories Inked on the Female Form (NSFW)

Reka Nyari focuses on the art of tattoo and the different stories they map on the female form without the highly sexualized approach to nudity.

The female form has long been the subject of art, photography, and many other creative pursuits. But there’s more to female nudity than the highly erotic imagery typically associated with it. We see the work of Reka Nyari as perfect examples of this, in the way she captures the stories intricately inked on her subjects’ bodies. Captivating, raw, and highly creative, her photos celebrate both the beauty of the female form and how her subjects themselves have taken to artful tattoos to transform themselves or immortalize their personal stories.

We had a brief chat with the Finnish-Hungarian artist and photographer ahead of her solo show in New York City to dig a little deeper into her motivations, creative style, and inspiration for her work.

Phoblographer: Hello Reka! Can you tell us something about yourself and what you do?

Reka Nyari: I’m a Finnish Hungarian artist, based in NYC. I work predominantly with photography.

Phoblographer: How did you get into photography and discover the kind of imagery that you make now?

Nyari: I wanted to be an artist since I can remember. I was studying painting at SVA, and created these large, photorealistic oil paintings. Since my models couldn’t sit for me for hundreds of hours, I ended up taking lots of photos as a reference, and really loving it. When I graduated and lost my studio, I continued shooting with the intention of painting my photos at a later date. It all changed when a rather successful photographer friend saw my photos, and asked me why I was painting my photos.. they were powerful in their own right. That changed everything. Like so many female artists, I started shooting these edgy, raw, black and white self-portraits. Although I shoot variety of subjects, I always end up coming back to capturing the female soul and body.

Phoblographer: Please tell us more about your work on tattooed women. What led you to put your focus on them and photograph them the way you have?

Nyari: I have always been fascinated by the way our bodies tell stories. Our walk, our scars, posture, and gaze. Our experiences make us who we are, and often the harder those experiences, the more interesting we become. Tattoos are often a visible life story, written on the body in ink. People I shoot do not view them as mistakes or regrets, but as visible markers of life lived, obstacles they have overcome. I love the way my subjects have taken charge of their lives, and literally transformed themselves into who they want to become.

Phoblographer: Women and nudity have almost always been put together with a highly sexualized context. How do you make sure that your work brings something new in terms of depicting sexuality and the female body as an art form?

Nyari: I grew up in Finland (the land of the Sauna), so for me nudity and sexuality are two very different things. It’s highly limiting that nude female bodies are always sexualized. It’s important to me that my work portrays a woman that’s comfortable in her skin, not hiding or covering, but also not overly flirtatious. She simply is; unapologetic and aware of her power.

Phoblographer: What do you think is the most common misconception about the visual style and subjects that you tackle? How do you address this?

Nyari: People sometimes refer to me as an erotic photographer, which could not be further from the truth. This again boils down to the misconception that nudity must equal to sex.

It’s a difficult argument, especially here in America, where a nipple seems to be worse than violence and guns. The female body is such a taboo. As an artist I always make sure that my work comes with a strong artist’s statement. Most people do see that although my work portrays a sexually liberated woman, the work is not erotic. Most of my collectors are women, which is a huge compliment.

Phoblographer: Where do you draw inspiration for crafting the story or concept that defines your series?

Nyari: It all comes from the person I am shooting. There is a channeling of sorts. Once I have connected with a subject, we talk about her life story and experiences. I aim to tell their story as authentically as possible, and feel privileged that these women allow me to capture and share their stories.

Reka Nyari will be exhibiting some never-before-seen pieces from four portrait series that she shot over the last four years in her solo show at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City on February 28th. Do check out her website as well to see more of her stunning work.