In their book Orgasm Marion Schneider and Linda Troeller portray women with intimate pictures and interviews in their sexuality. Here, Marion Schneider talks about the coming to life of this book project.
What inspired you to start the project?
When I was a student, I realized that even among my most intimate girlfriends, it was taboo to talk about orgasm. I felt that I was all alone in dealing with it, because I also found it difficult to talk to the men involved. I was left with books which I found not very inspiring, as they didn’t really relate to my feelings and questions. So I started dreaming about creating a book in which women would not only talk, but would also be seen by photographing them in the context of their feelings and desires.
How did you find each other to collaborate?
Linda and I are two spa professionals – Linda by taking pictures in the realm of spas, and I by offering spas to the public. We met because I was looking for a photographer in the spa area who would be able to capture the healing and inspiring qualities of the spa experience. I saw pictures published by Linda Troeller and realized that she might be the right person for this purpose. At our very first meeting, I already started talking to her about my dream of a book concerning the eroticism of women. I didn’t dare to talk about orgasm yet. We agreed very quickly and started to work on our first project, The Erotic Lives of Women, which was published in 1998 as a photo book. We started on our new project, Orgasm, in 2005. I think that we needed the first project to be brave enough to face the topic of orgasm.
What was the process before, during and after taking the photos?
There is a very big difference between our first book, The Erotic Lives of Women, and this book, Orgasm. With our first project, we inspired the women to choose the places and their clothing. We also offered them the possibility of being together with their lover if they so desired. The setting was completely designed by the women; Linda and I tried to not influence them in any way – in order to capture their “genuine erotic feelings.”
The topic of orgasm is fraught with a great deal of fear. For this reason, we did not dare to talk too much before meeting the women. We hardly even mentioned clothing or the place for the interview. We accepted everything the women suggested – we either visited them, or they came to meet us in our place, or in our hotel room. When we prepared the meetings with our interview partners, we dealt with clothing only when they mentioned it or asked about it. Otherwise, we omitted the issue of clothing in order to not induce fear in our interview partners. It was important for us to capture the feelings of the women, and this made it imperative for us to develop trust during the interview. Once we had established the camera and created a safe place, it was easy to get into our topic and to help the women remember their past experiences, their feelings and their aspirations. That’s the way it was with our first book. Once the women started getting into it, they cast away their anxiety, and gained their inspiration. Of course, this also had to do with our approach and our behavior. Our goal is to support the women to the point where it is possible for them to talk and show their real and true feelings. We refrain from influencing them in any way, but support them in their flow.
Did their perspectives change at all about what they thought they knew about female orgasm?
I think that the most unexpected revelation was the communication about the first orgasm – not only for us, but also for our interview partners. In the process of the discourse, we often found that the first orgasm and the first erotic feelings had a profound influence on the future lives of the women. I think that it was also very helpful for the women to reflect about the topic of orgasm, starting from their very first feeling up to their fantasies and political aspirations connected to it. It made the women – and us as those privileged to listen to them – more aware of the connection between their orgasms and their everyday lives.
As for me, I did not know about the early feelings of orgasm on the part of a lot of women. It made me very happy that little girls already have such profound experiences with their bodies. I am also very impressed by the variety in the world of orgasm. Women are so very different and feel so very differently. What is particularly obvious is how connected their bodily feelings are with their lives. I am also impressed by the topic of orgasm being seen as very political, and intimately connected with freedom and peace. What a wonderful vision!