Unchartered - PhMuseum

Unchartered

Pippa Samaya

2020 - Ongoing

Czech Republic

Ladies, gentlemen, girls, boys, and everyone identifying as something in-between…

This series is a self-portrait of our three-way relationship 18 months into the voyage. We shot every photograph ourselves, striving to capture the different dynamics, nuances and combinations of relating that we experience in a romantic partnership together. Our goal was to offer an insight to those outside the triangle, question any preconceived notions of gender and its limitations on us as a group and as individuals, and to capture a moment in time for our relationship. The result was immensely empowering. It was also surprising.

One of the most unique elements of our relationship is the fluidity it offers us to explore our sense of identity. All three of us have an unsolidified affinity to our gender and sexuality. Being three proud women, we embrace the flexibility that can be exercised through the expression of womanhood. All the while, feeling comfortable in our masculinity and all that comes with that form and countenance. Assuming the age-old sentiment of “we humans define ourselves in terms of that which we relate to,” there is an unexpected and unparalleled richness to relating to two lovers and partners at once. Thus, living with two mirrors, two counterweights, two oscillating bodies of energy. The input is immense. The output at least double.

To be unbound by preconceived ideas of gender opens up an incredibly empowering new world. A creative space that is in constant flux. A flavour that can be bold yet sweet, a power that is both strong and gentle. We share the reins, jointly bending and flexing for each other. We bow, just as we stand proud. Together, we celebrate a reunion of the masculine and feminine within us. A single shared breath can take us into the softest of tender places, so innately feminine only flowers seem to comprehend our delicate nature. And in the very next breath, we stand together, strong and fierce in a passionate heave even a raging flame could not rival. Within us all there is infinite potential. Between us a push and a pull, which in the context of three opens an even more diverse playground.

Our relationship breaks us open, freeing us from any conventional notions of gender, of love, of power and trust. A brave new world, where any one can be anyone; together we gift each other with the possibility of choice and transformation. We are not merely the other half of a whole, but the third corner of an autonomous triangle. The roles we can step into fluctuate as a result of not one, but two ebbing and flowing individuals, in addition to their mutual relating to each other.

Ours is a world, where nothing is truly solid, the safety latches are off, and we thrust into a place of both liberation and surrender. As we make new ground, we unearth old territory. There is nothing left to grip onto, only knew pathways to create. Now, the heart is our one true compass; the place we have learned to trust more than the voices in our head.

Consequently, an element that has been deeply humbling and has required rigorous development on all our parts, is the multiplicity of connections that exist within the confounds of a seemingly small establishment. Within our monogamous relationship of three, we are not only navigating the needs and growth of the individual and the trio, but an additional layer of involvedness exists in holding space for the relationship of the other two. Because this group, council, woman’s circle doesn’t roll without weaving.

We are each part of two teams devoted to the third, rooting for each other, while being the emblem of a team wholly devoted to loving us also. The classical notion of 1+1=2 still rings true; but also, a more sophisticated formula rapidly starts to develop around this simple calculation. To be a partner of partners is a constant paradigm. Through necessity, at some point one learns to release, to surrender and then, perhaps, even to float.

Through our photographs we want to exemplify this unique component of our relationship, which is loving and being loved alongside another. The at points confronting and unexpectedly supportive nature of holding the one you love with the aid of another. Of being a pillar for not one, but two hearts. The emotional seafaring through oceans impacted by multiple weather climates. The reality of two sets of eyes gazing at you in moments of deep vulnerability and intimacy.

For every moment of unprecedented empowerment and sense of safety, there is a shadow of double the insecurity, double the exposure and risk of hurt. The invitation to be brave here is often intimidating. The rewards always extraordinary.

Remarkably, the physical process of creating this series revealed not only elements about us, but also for us. Because we took all photographs ourselves, chose our locations, costumes, and used a remote shutter, there was a real sense of consent and emancipation throughout the photoshoot. A reclamation of power in response to a history shaped by the male gaze and the repression of both women and homosexuality.

However, some unexpected realisations accompanied many of the images captured and added real value for us as partners and artists. Since we set out to depict and photograph different arrangements of gender and connection between the three, it was here that we were surprised at some of the traditional stereotypes that we fell into despite our intentions to challenge and uproot them. Shocked by some of the stories even our own photos elicited in us, we reflected on the associations they reinforced for us all. How a more masculine portrayal of a couple of us unexpectedly influenced our ability to stay fluid in how we related to the more femininely identifying third. How easily we found ourselves fortifying age-old gender roles with no intentions to do so. In fact, aspiring to the contrary. It was important and insightful for us to recognise just how deeply the delineations of gender are engrained in us, despite any queer outlook we might have, and thus how remarkably complex the destabilisation of them truly is.

At this point in time, it is still somewhat unusual to be in a same-sex relationship, but society is becoming more familiar with this reality. Yet, we have all three been profoundly humbled by the ask of this bond between us. A whole new hurdle lays heavy in our path, to defy societal structures and expectations we have been born into. It feels like coming out all over again, with even less chance of acceptance.

The work required to adjust to a framework of relating that none of us have ever engaged in is frankly still a challenge. The lack of examples of a relationship like ours has at points felt deeply defeating. The personal evolution demanded by this relationship is shocking and inspiring all at once. And the richness it offers our lives and creative expression continues to amaze us. Plainly put, the odds are mostly stacked against us within the structure of society, family and... well, life. However, the motivating drive of a strongly bonded female force is undeniably somewhat badass. And at a time like this, the feminist within each of us is rejoicing in the “F#*k YEAH” of it all.

Our hope is that this series offers a glance into a world of alternative ways of loving and relating. That our photographs spark questions around new ways of being and push the more familiar traditional notions of what it means to be a woman, a queer woman, an empowered woman further into expansive, tolerant territory.

Text by Ivy-Victoria Otradovec, Pippa Samaya & Tara Jade Samaya

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