These captivating images are courtesy of Thomas Dorman, or Dr. Benway as he is better known with his photography, from Cape Town, South Africa. This exhausting setup involved the suspension of nine individuals at the same time, and was made possible with the help of Wildfire Body Piercing Clinics. I don’t think I have ever used the words dirty and suspension together in a positive way before, but the gritty feel of these pictures was one of the first things that first drew me in. The earthy textures of the skin provide more than just a view of what is happening, it gives the scene an almost tactile quality.

In describing the visual direction that was taken, Dr. Benway had this to say, “When I initially approached the styling for the shoot, I wanted it to appear as a photograph of a sculpture hanging in a art gallery…  it soon became apparent to me way before the shoot that I should be going for a textured image. I used cosmetic mud to partly disguise the person and to bring across a unity between the various photographs taken on the day. It also partly removes the traces of modern subculture, making them seem more universally human, and less of a segment of humanity, which is what I was going for at the time. The mud also brings across a ‘shamanic’ feel to photographs, which was an aspect of the experience I wanted to highlight.

The interest in body suspension, which resulted in these enticing photographs, started for him back in the early 1990s. Like many people in our community, reading books like RE/search’s Modern Primitives and Adam Parfrey’s Apocalypse Culture opened his eyes to the world of body suspension. In 2008 he attempted his first suspension, and although he didn’t get completely off the ground that day, it did set in motion the idea of this photo shoot. The day after these photographs were taken, he achieved his goal of being suspended.

Many of us know what an incredible moment someone’s first suspension can be, and I would like to offer him a huge congratulations on his. To see more work by this amazing photographer, be sure to check out his portfolio at Deviant Art.

Rigging and suspensions by Stuart Woods, Lliezel Ellick, and Nicci Friend-Smith of Wildfire Body Piercing Clinic.

Makeup by Riette Hayward and Gabbi Katz.