The Landscape of Skin: An Interview with Anllel Tanús | Hosted by Millie Norman

Through the intersectional and interdisciplinary framework that she adopts, photographer, writer and activist Anllel Tanús' work seamlessly voices the purity and vulnerability that exists within political spaces and acts. Speaking to us about her subject matter, her work with Ecuadorian feminist collective La Resistencia and the ways in which her separate artforms speak to each other, Tanús shows us the power in the collision of the personal and the political.

Anllel Tanús

MN: Your work is beautifully intimate. What relationship do you have with your subjects? How do you decide what and who to capture? Does the relationship change once you are behind the camera?

AT: My subjects are the elements that my eyes deem as desirable and pure. Every image I capture, from landscapes to streets, bodies, flesh and nipples, highlights a sort of metaphysical force in the soul and essence of each object/subject. All of these elements move me, either emotionally or sensorially.

I don't feel like the relationship with these elements changes once I’m behind the camera - I actually feel like it's exactly the same. My camera is a just an honest extension of myself.

MN: A lot of your work centres around de-sexualising and celebrating the naturalness of the human body. What fascinates you about the body, and why do you want to explore it creatively?

AT: For me, naturalizing the body, especially womxn’s bodies is a political act. In a society that has taught to be insecure and scared of our own flesh, and valuing covering up as a way of social and mediatic control, having the courage to own our skin, show it, and feel comfortable in it, is a revolutionary act.  

The body fascinates me because there is so much creative territory to explore. Every photograph, every session helps me reconcile with, and be continuously amazed at the unique details that exists in each one of our bodies. There are so many creative possibilities with the landscape of skin.

Anllel Tanús

MN: What do you love about photography? What separates it from other mediums for you? And further—what drew you to shooting in 35mm?

AT: What I love about art is the power that it has to communicate and sensitize humanity. With photography, my favorite element is having the possibility to tell stories through my visual sensitivities. I feel like we live in a society where we are used to immediacy. We spent our days scrolling, swiping and receiving instant gratification. Working with 35mm film teaches me patience and dedication to the craft, plus I have room for experimentation. As a result, the photographs look more intimate, and have an organic warmness that you only get with film photography.

MN: You are a poet, as well as a photographer. Often, you share your visual work and your written work together. How do your writing and photography intersect? Does one inspire the other?

AT: I started writing way before I had my first camera, it is the way I process my emotions. I usually aim to arrange texts with images according to the emotion I experienced at the time that I photographed. For every photograph that I’ve taken there is a text that aligns with the emotions I had. My writing and photography are two different realms that heavily intersect, in the way that both help me process my emotions and solidify my aesthetic interests.

Anllel Tanús

MN: You are also the co-director for Resistencia, a feminist artistic and expressive space in Ecuador. Could you tell us a bit more about the collective?

AT: Resistencia is an independent multidisciplinary feminist platform. In a city and country (Ecuador) were these spaces are scarce, this project is a kind of response to the need for justice, expression, and sorority in womxn circles of my hometown.

We held our first event in February 2019, where more than 30 womxn artists and cultural organizers were involved. Artists from different disciplines and ages participated, with poetry, music, photography, performance, dance, video, all connected for one reason: Feminism.

The collective works in different ways, but its mission is creating awareness through arts and education. During the quarantine we organized a series of free seminars where a lot of important information was shared. The project is still in process of transformation and mutation but I sincerely feel like its energy and potential is truly powerful.

MN: How do feminist politics intersect with your photography?

AT: I believe that everything that's personal, even intimate, is political, so i do take advantage of my art to speak explicitly on my political views. My photography embeds my views about a solid feminist ethical framework for living.

Anllel Tanús

MN: Where do you want to take your work next?

AT: I currently study Humanities and Social Science - the art that I create will always intersect with my beliefs. In the near future I could see myself working on ambitious projects with anthropological archives and social studies on the topic of womanhood through history. I have multiple ideas in my mind but I still have to sift through them. Whatever work I do I want my archive to inspire future generations and invite them to feel.

Anllel Tanús