Magdalena Wosinska, Photographer
After the week we've had, we wanted to take some time to celebrate the feminine in the best way we know how. Meet, Magdalena Wosinska. The talented, badass, LA-based photographer, who immigrated to the United States with her parents from Communist Poland in search of a better life. When she was outcast for being 'different' from her peers, Magdalena sought refuge in the male-dominated worlds of skateboarding and photography and from there, she developed her no-bullshit way of living and her 'anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better' attitude. This woman has a bold sense of self who understands how to embrace her masculine energy, while continuously celebrating her feminine. She is famously known for her stunning nude self-portraits taken around the world and chronicled through her Instagram handle @TheMagdalenaExperience and via her book, The Experience Vol. 1. If you've been building a fire at all over the past few days, weeks, or months, get ready for some serious fuel... with a few serious F bombs thrown in for good measure...
Tell us about your journey and how you came to be where you are today?
Oh my God, there's so much to say! I grew up in Poland and moved to the US in 1991. My parents escaped communism there, so that was crazy. When I moved here, I didn't speak a word of English. It was a big culture shock. And because I didn't speak the language, I felt like a complete outcast. From the day that I moved here I ended up choosing a different way of living, because I wasn't accepted and didn't fit the norm of most people. When I was really young I started skateboarding. It was a boy's sport, and back in the early 90's girls did not skateboard. It was super weird. Even the skater kids in my junior high didn't accept me, because I was too different from them. So, I would go to the skate park and hang out with older kids. We're talking about junior high, and you're young as fuck in junior high. All we want to be are cheerleaders and be accepted, and I was like, 'Well, that's not happening for me, so I'm just gonna skateboard with a bunch of older stoner kids.'
I started getting interested in photography, and when I was fourteen I started shooting all of my surroundings, my friends and all the people I skated with. Moving from a completely different country, no matter how educated and cultured everyone is in your family, when you're an immigrant it's not like you're just going to roll into money in America. My parents were both psychology professors, but when we moved here they were considered senior lecturers. They didn't even get the credential because we were alien residents. We were really poor growing up, and when I shot self-portraits for a class assignment, I thought, 'Well, fuck, I don't have any nice clothes. I can't afford nice clothes'. So, I took my clothes off. People were like, 'That's child pornography!' But, I wasn't even thinking about that! It was more about the fact that I couldn't afford 'cute clothes', or the clothes my peers were wearing. I guess you could say I started doing self-portrait nudes almost twenty years ago.
My nude self-portrait work is not about sexual stimulation whatsoever. My self-portraits came from a place of poverty. And when you wear certain types of clothes, you identify with a certain social class or group of people you hang out with, what kind of music you like, etc...
We need to talk about @TheMagdalenaExperience, you're project and instagram feed of nude self portraits juxtaposed with beautiful landscapes taken while on travels and in some very compromising positions…
Well that started as something that I've always done, but I had nowhere to place it. You couldn't necessarily just put photos of only nude self-portraits onto your website because then clients judge you. It's really weird because people are so scared of nudity, in America especially. But, I'm not an American, I'm very European and I get yelled at by the cops constantly when I go topless on the beach in Malibu. It’s just a little bit more fat with a nipple, guys have it too! When Instagram came about, I was like, 'What the fuck is this? Filters? Pictures on a phone? This is such bullshit, this isn't real.' But I accepted the fact that that's just where things are progressing, and thought, 'OK, I'll be a part of it. Might as well conquer that thing, too.' You know what I mean? Rather than being scared of technology you have to be a part of it. So I started posting only those self portrait nudes on Instagram about six years ago.
I began shooting self portrait nudes in these beautiful landscapes. I'm not necessarily a landscape photographer, but I travel to the most insane places in the world, and the only person that's with me is me. So, it became about photographing myself alone all the time in different environments and cool landscapes. And then it became about showing the human form in a really natural environment. I mean, Instagram is just a tiny, tiny part of my existence, and its funny because a lot of people don't even know I'm a photographer. Some people are like, 'You're such a bimbo. You take self portraits. It's so vain.' or, 'You're just some twenty year old model girl.' I'm like, 'Thanks! You think I'm twenty? I'm thirty two. Does my butt look that good? That's amazing! I gotta keep doing those fucking stretches!'
I published a book out of this project last year and called it The Experience, Volume 1. And I'll continue doing this when I'm pregnant. Old. Whatever. It will always continue.
Since you started taking nudes of yourself at fourteen, how has your relationship with your body changed over time?
You have to take care of yourself. And as I’ve gotten older, I’d think that my body would digress, but I feel like I'm trying to become more present and pure in my adult life. I'm trying to bring my body to be at it's best. I'm in a place where mentally I feel the best about myself. When I was younger, I was drinking and partying and doing God knows what, and when I was skateboarding, I had bruises all over my body. Now, I like being healthy and feeling good and the older I get, the more confident I get. You really step into your grace as a woman and it's really fucking awesome. This is my own dance with my sexuality about finally feeling good about my body.
Also, I just turned thirty-two and your body gets better in your thirties. You look better. Your fucking skin chisels into your cheekbones. It's crazy. Literally your thirties are your prime. That's when you're just a badass bitch and you know exactly what you want. You become a woman! We're not women in our twenties or when we start our periods...
People say when you have a kid you stop giving a fuck. I'm like, 'I haven't had a kid yet, but I'm birthing myself. I'm having my own rebirth.' Some things still bother me, but they're just bad psychological habits that I can learn to take away with meditation or therapy or just being like, 'OK, stop complaining about this thing in your past.' Everything else, you're just like, 'Fuck, yes. It's only going to get better and better and better.' Life gets awesome.
Do you feel sexy?
Yeah I think so. That's a good question. It's weird that I say, 'I think so', because I do feel sexy but I also feel that people are scared of me because I'm so intense. I don't necessarily feel sexy by society or anyone else's standards, but I feel sexy for myself and within my relationship with myself.
People would probably say, 'You're sexy because you take naked photos of yourself', but I don't really think that guys look at me like that. If we were in a crowd of people, and there were a bunch of women around, I don't think a guy would ever look at me as being sexy because I'm fucking loud and I have a low toned voice and I'm tough and I cuss and spit. I'm kind of like a dude. That's just a part of me. I say I want to get rid of it, but it's just who I am. I don't think guys find that sexy. Guys find it sexy when girls are a little bit more coy and quiet and have a bit more mystery to them and play a little hard to get. I'm just like, 'What's up? Let's do this!' Therefore, the amount of people that can connect with me is a little limited... but, hey, that's okay. I'm having fun and I feel sexy to myself, and that's all that matters. Who gives a fuck about the rest of the world?
Do men and women view your work differently?
Well it's funny, because after I published my book men will never approach me and be like, 'What you're doing is cool.' Men always bag on it. I've accidentally scrolled through comments and they just think I'm a whore and they get so angry and pissed off. Or dudes unfollow me.
But they're the ones that buy all my books. Every time I get a book order it's to a man's address. And then women are the ones that are like, 'I love what you do. It's inspiring.' I started the hashtag #The ExperienceVolume1 and all these women are like, 'Oh my God, I went to the top of the Eiffel Tower and took my top off and showed my boobs to Paris and my husband took a photo of my back and it was so liberating. And I felt so good about my body because I'm a little overweight, but I just felt really fucking cool because if I do this and make this movement a part of me then I can do it!' And I get these fan letters and people all over the world will hashtag #TheExperienceVolume1 now and it's really cool.
But as far as it being sexual, I can't admit to it, but maybe subconsciously there was some part of me being like like, 'Look at me.' Or shock value. But it didn't ever start that way, when I was young and didn't even know what sexuality was. I think society just told me so many times that there's something sexual about being naked that I subconsciously think about it now. And when you pose and you stand, you stand in a certain way where your body looks flattering, but it's never vulgar or sexual or saying, 'Hey, look at me.'
You know what else is really weird? Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, all these fucking greats: they took photos of naked women, other women photographers have taken nude photos before Instagram. And the fact that I'm doing it and it's showcased on this platform automatically makes it tacky, sexual, disgusting, not fine art. Automatically, the work is demeaned. No one views it as iconic. And it's like, do people fucking know how hard it was for me to get across that river, to stand on that goddamn glacier in five degree weather, get butt naked, almost get arrested by the cops because I'm in a public place to take a photo? And people tell me that that's not hard work? And to do it every day to inspire and stimulate people?
Do you think you've developed a tough exterior from skateboarding? From the culture you grew up in? From being first generation? All of the above?
Growing up in Communist Poland, waiting seven hours in line to get butter, and when you get to the counter, the woman goes, 'We don't have butter for another month. Come back next month', is hard. We lived off of limited food. We ate meat because my mom tutored one of her students and his father was a butcher. That's how you can eat meat in a communist country when food is limited. There's one radio station, one television station. I mean, I lived it. I remember everything because I was nine years old. I remember my first memory when I was two or three: I got oranges and bananas for Christmas, while people were getting BMWs in America. I was like, 'What the fuck? You got that for Christmas?' I didn't understand.
I'm really appreciative of the things that I've accomplished in my life because I grew up so modest. But that naturally is like, 'Fight! Fight! Fight!', and if you can do it as good as a woman, do it as good as a man. That tomboy mechanism set in when I moved here and I didn't speak English. Naturally I was outcasted, and I was like, 'Well, fuck. My friends don't like me at school because I don't speak English'. And then when I could finally speak English and stand up for myself and told them that they were mean and to fuck off, my teachers yelled at me and I got in trouble. Automatically I just built this wall, but inside I'm the most fragile, little flower. And as I've gotten older and become more feminine I've let things in and people in, and I'm really open now.
It's crazy because I had to work on that my whole life - I'm still working on it - but I also chose a very masculine lifestyle. Like skateboarding, metal band, photo assisting. Even photography and being a director. It's still a boy's world. A man's world. No matter what people say, it's true. There are still crazy weird sexist things that happen on set when you're a woman. Or people don't take you as seriously because you're a young chick.
How did you work on tapping more into your feminine energy?
I guess I got really lucky with my friends. I have a really amazing group of women who have exposed me to things like Ayurvedic doctors and meditation and just going inwards. And also just being observant to things and people and relationships. I think men bring out the most feminine in you when you're in relationships and you find out their needs. Guys are so much more needy than women.
I used to look at men, and be like, 'You fucking pussy.' And now I'm like, 'Wait a minute. I'm the woman, I'm supposed to be your caretaker right now, actually.' We are mothers and we are lovers and we're sisters and we're daughters. And that's something I'm still working on. It takes a long time, but I've become so much more domestic in my thirties. I really enjoy my quiet alone time and I make ceramics and macramé. And my garden. I just came back from a two month trip a week ago, and the first thing I did the next morning was go to the nursery and buy stuff for my garden. You guys, I'm a fucking grandma.
I also think the femininity comes from how you take care of people. I love to host people. And I'm not the best cook, but I will do my best. I like to put people together and just bring them in. There are a lot of hugs.
Do you have a strong circle of women around you?
I love women so much, they're insane. They are on their high horses right now. There's been a blindfold taken off. The men are very confused at this time, because they're like, 'What's my fucking role? Now you make money and you make babies and you clean and you can ride a chopper and you can build a house? And you're a chick? What am I supposed to do? You don't even really need me.' We're like, 'Actually, yea, we don't really need you.'
So it's a confusing time for everybody. There are so many of the qualities that women have that I think people are really starting to notice, and I'm in love with it. But I'm excited for when that happens for men, too, because that needs to happen. It's not about us versus them. There are beautiful qualities in masculine energy, and men need to tap into their femininity more. I need a lot of masculine energy around me to make me feel more feminine. I do. And, I get that from men, not from women.
At one point when I was wanting to be in a relationship badly, I was like, wait a minute, I have all of the qualities in a man that I like. I have a fucking '69 Chevelle and I love muscle cars, I have a cool house, I have a cool job. I have this community of rad fucking friends. I love to travel. And those are all the things that I want in the guy. I am my own boyfriend! Working on my car and restoring it, or my house, or building my house in the desert, or gardening is my relationship. And that's totally OK because I'm dancing with myself right now and it's fucking awesome.
What are some of the that you do to ground yourself when you're traveling like a lunatic?
I travel with a palo santo stick. It's the one thing that I always travel with because my house always smells like palo santo, so if I'm in a hotel room, I always need a trigger to make me feel at home. Smell is the one thing of memory that triggers the most. So I'll just light some palo santo in my hotel room and I'll do my stretches and a basic little routine, like you scrape your tongue with a copper tongue scraper and do your oil pulling in the morning and drink your hot lemon water. That's what I try to do most of the time just to get grounded. And if I can meditate, then I meditate. But I'm also constantly connecting with people when I travel, so staying in touch with my best friends keeps me sane.
What is your idea of legacy?
For me, it all comes back to the feminine. Being able to have an amazing family and kids and grandkids. And leaving behind good characteristics and traits. Passing down the amazing things I've learned from my hardworking parents, and the struggle they faced in their lives growing up. I want the future generations to come to be appreciative of the world and be able to absorb what's around them.
For me it's about family, but I also want people to understand a healthy way of living and being able to be open and accept oneself and the people around them. It's all about community.