“I believe it’s highly important that we, girls, are kind to ourselves. What helped me in accepting myself and my sexuality was taking numerous auto portraits in puberty.”
Pictures: Karolina Hanulak, Text: Natalia Fiszka,
Karolina Hanulak is a young Polish photographer exploring nudity in her work. She came to spotlight after getting into trouble at school because of her pictures. Luckily, a famous Polish top model Anja Rubik supported Hanulak in her struggle for freedom of speech and photography and included young photographer in her “controversial” campaign #sexedpl aimed at educating youth about sex in a laid back and non-judgmental setting.
Natalia Fiszka: Female nudity is the main focus of your work, what is the message behind your pictures?
Karolina Hanulak: Taking pictures of nude people allows me to reveal stories imprinted onto their bodies. Stories that we like to conceal with clothing. It’s essential for me to not only show naked skin and my models in a true, natural way, but also present how well they feel in their own skin. Naked body is quite controversial as we often give it to our partner as if it was more theirs than ours. But, frankly speaking, this naked body should, first and foremost, be ours. It’s up to us what we want to do with it and how much we want to share.
NF: You were accused of propagating pornography at a very early stage of your career as a photographer. How did you respond to these allegations? Would you change anything in your reaction if this happened today?
KH: My high school teachers claimed that pictures of not fully dressed models, as I didn’t take pictures of completely naked people at that time, were pornography. I was genuinely shocked by their accusations for I did not see this coming, especially that I took those pictures off school and school’s premises. I decided that I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of winning this dispute and I continued taking pictures of nudity. Today I am extremely proud of myself for defending my freedom to what I love despite young age. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I surrendered back then. My reaction was real and I wouldn’t change anything about it. I learned a lot due to this situation.
NF: Sexuality, which is an integral part of our identity, is often veiled in shame. How do you think a young girl can overcome this destructive feeling?
KH: Our sexuality is an extremely delicate and personal subject. The whole shame around it starts at an early stage, often because parents do not know how to talk about it with their children. I believe it’s highly important that we, girls, are kind to ourselves. What helped me in accepting myself and my sexuality was taking numerous auto portraits in puberty. My body went though massive changes at that time and I remember how critical my peers were of the way I looked back then. I think puberty is generally a tough period to go through and many insecure youngsters build their own confidence on deprecating others. Today I feel very good about the way I look. It seems that I achieved balance. I’m sure that my recent photographic success added to it. When my parents realised what I do and how important it is to me, sex and sexuality stopped being taboo at home as well.
NF: What was your role in Anja Rubik’s #sexedpl project?
KH: I was both a model and a photographer. The end result of this project was a book of the same title, which was meant to represent sexuality of Polish youth. Four of my photographs were featured in the publication and shown at the exhibition organised by #sexedpl and VOGUE POLAND in Powidoki. I was one out of ten lucky ones to be exhibited, while there were as many as 500 aspiring to this exhibition. I am extremely happy and honoured that Anja Rubik gave me this chance.