Projects

Thea Elder's first published project with the world, "Women as People (not objects)", is an exploration of women and their relationships with the earth, and their bodies. This project aims to connect women through stories about the journey they have taken with their bodies, and what various different women think is the answer to creating a more body positive upbringing for young girls globally. All photographs have been taken by Thea Elder, using various film cameras (Canon A-1, Minolta Hi-Matic E, Fujica STX-1). If you, or anyone you know, are interested in getting involved in this project, flick Thea an email at theaeldersyd@gmail.com. 

Part 10

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Meet Sundari

"I find it empowering to take up space, claim my beauty and own my body." 

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My first meeting with Sundari Zuleta was your classic uni-project chance meeting. If it hadn't been for our shared interest in Anthropological studies, perhaps we would have never got to chatting about meeting up and taking photographs together. That's the thing about creative energy, it has a funny way of bringing people together in the most unexpected of circumstances. Sunnie, like her namesake is a big ball of radiant positivity who has such brilliant views about life, art, and the human body. Here is everything she has to say about both her creative practice as a photographer, and her relationship to her body. Enjoy the vox-pop below and don't forget to check her out on Instagram. 


What are you trying to explore through your photography/art?

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The short answer is that I don’t particularly know and in many ways what I create, and capture is just a natural expression that I try not to intellectualize too often. But it’s inevitable that certain themes arise in my work. I think it is very common for your ethos to come out in your creative projects. When I look at all of my creative practices (art, collage, poetry/writing, photography) I can definitely see different things come up again and again. Things like women, nature, people interacting, landscapes and sensory experiences. Authentic expression, sustainability and natural environments are all important to me and I think that they reveal themselves in what I do.

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How has your photography/art helped further your understanding of women and their connection to nature? 

I think it has enhanced the correlations that I see between women and nature. I see nature as something rich in creative energy, full of interesting shapes and abundant with different cycles and rhythms. It’s interesting to see how these things manifest in humans. 

Why do you take photographs; what emotions does it make arise within you that makes you an unstoppable creative force? 

I like to capture moments. I like to capture things and people that are beautiful and intriguing to me. Every person has a unique way of seeing the world. And for me a medium like photography helps to express that. Also, drawing from my own experiences of modelling I have found that being in front of a camera can be very empowering. I find it empowering to take up space, claim my beauty and own my body. So, when I photograph people I try to facilitate an experience like that. It brings me a lot of joy to capture people claiming who they are.

What’s next for you? 

One of my main goals is to start organizing my work and putting it out there more, so I’m intending to create a website and blog. I’m going to be working on more zines, photoshoots, short films, poetry, collage series and hopefully collaborating with other creatives.

Women as People (Not Objects) 

1. What do you think is the answer to all girls being able to accept their bodies for what they are (an ever-changing organism capable of anything) at a young age?

I think the answer lies in having more open, realistic and diverse conversations about sexuality, gender identity and self-love. Education is key; not just in a formal sense but also in a social sense. We need to learn from one another and keep talking about these things. I think it is also important to portray more realistic and diverse body representations in both mainstream media and social media. We need role models out there who love themselves and understand their bodies. Knowing how to take care of your body and being aware of the processes and cycles that occur within can make your relationship to your body a creative practice.

2. Do you like your body? Would you say your relationship with your body is considered “healthy”?
Do I love myself? Yes. Is my relationship to my body healthy? I think it is. Do I always like my body? No. My relationship to my body changes depending on how I feel internally. What I put into it, what I do with it and where I’m at in my cycle are all things that impact how I perceive my body. I don’t think it’s about feeling amazing towards your body all the time. I think the body is always transforming and shifting through different seasons and landscapes. Self-love is something that is always deepening within me. And the way I learn to love myself is through understanding what is happening on a deeper level. Spending time with myself, feeling grateful for what my body is capable of and treating it with respect and care help me to have a good relationship with my body.

3. What has brought you to the conclusion that you like/dislike your body?
Continuing on from what I said earlier liking my body is something that is fluid and therefore has no fixed conclusions. There have been many things however that have helped me arrive to a space of self-love. Whether it has been inspiration through other people, something I’ve read or seen or just getting real with myself and putting energy into things I like to do.

4. What do you do to make yourself feel good?

I create, I make art, I read, I listen to music, I dance, I write, I spend time with people I love, I feed myself beautiful nourishing meals, I take time to myself, I move my body, I set intentions, I meditate, I learn new things, I practice honesty and communication, I spend time in nature, I travel. The list goes on. Essentially, I surround myself with people, places, things and materials that inspire and enrich me.

5. Do you like to define yourself by anything in particular? Like being a good dancer, artist, writer etc.

I think we live in a world where we are so often asked to define ourselves. I like to think that I am many things and fluid in those things. I’m evolving, discovering who I am. I respond to the things I see around me which manifest themselves in different forms of creativity. So, I guess in some sense I define myself through my creativity.

6. What’s the “big thing” you want the world to know about you, if anything?
I hate olives. 

7. What would you deem to be your biggest challenge in life so far?

Learning to let go of my anxieties and live fully in the present.

8. Where do you feel most at home, outside of the place that you are currently living?

In natural surroundings. By the ocean, next to trees, under the sun, in the desert. And anywhere where there are people that I love.

9. Do you think women have a particularly special bond with nature? If so, how would you describe this bond, and what relationship do you personally have with nature?

I think anyone can have a special bond with nature. Processes like menstruation, birth and even specific anatomy can correlate quite directly with nature but I don’t think this bond is confined to womanhood. I also think people who live in harmony with nature or share history with nature have a particularly special bond to it. This could be anywhere from people who carry indigenous traditions, people who work in conservation or organic farming, people who surf or hike frequently or people who simply cultivate a garden in their backyards. The amazing thing about nature is that it is unique to everyone.

My relationship with nature has always been magical. The place I grew up bordered a beautiful national park. So, from a very early age I had a special connection to the native forest. Moving to Australia helped me to form a really lovely relationship to the ocean. And through all of my travels I have always had an intense attraction to natural places. My relationship to nature goes deep. It is where I feel safe, peaceful and completely myself. I learn so much from nature and discover much about myself when I spend time in it.

10. What song or album can you always put on to bring you back to yourself?

Depends which self. I’m bad at picking favourites, but if music can be a pathway home, then these are some artists that take me there:

Devendra Banhart

Erykah Badu

A Tribe Called Quest

Francoise Hardy

Tuxedo

The Doors

Khruangbin

Princess Nokia

The Velvet Underground

Ali Farka Toure

Bob Dylan

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