Body suspension seems to be coming together more and more with other areas of the art world. I think it speaks a lot to how much our community is growing to see the work we do in collaboration with photography, painting, music, and even certain aspects of fashion. These photos by Gretchen Heinel happen to bring together several different areas of art, with a suspension by Gisella, jewelry by Purevile, and clothing by Numi Empire. Even with all three items in the photo being such different areas of artistic focus, they work wonderfully together to create an image which draws your eye from one to the next and back again. Surprisingly enough, the suspension was not what the photo was based around, but rather used as an accessory to compliment the inspirational piece of the shoot.
Gretchen, who had been a long time friend of Numi, previously worked with Gisella as a photographer’s assistant when she was first beginning in the photography field. The connecting element that brought it all together was the opportunity for her to photograph for Purevile; specifically the winged cuffs seen in the photos. Gretchen said that she wanted to create a scene which was thematically consistent with the the cuffs, and felt that the act of suspension would work with the theme to create an image in which the wearer’s behavior would be similarly surreal and beautiful.
Purevile describes their pieces as wearable objets d’art, as opposed to simple jewelry. One look through their gallery makes it clear why their work has been called ‘treasures of the flesh’; the pieces they create are odd, yet somehow elegant with simple touches like lace and pearls. For me, their designs create an image in my head of a very dark Alice in Wonderland scene; a beautifully bizarre tea party where the guests’ attire includes taxidermy, horned headpieces, and vacant doll faces staring back at you. Their winged cuffs and collar in these photos really do add so much to the scene. For being two such small pieces of the photo, it works so well to transform Gisella from a typical outdoor suspendee into an otherworldly woodland creature; a stunning dryad moments before she runs away.
When Gretchen began bringing the three elements together in these photos, she decided to aim for a theme loosely based on the idea of ‘summoning an otherworldly spirit’. The red cloaks in the photo were custom made for this shoot by Numi Empire, and add a stark contrast of color to the winter woods around them. Numi Empire is very much in the same realm of design as Purevile, but goes well beyond jewelry and clothing design, providing equally unique and amazing hair designs as well as the production and design of a number of fashion editorials. Numi is much harder to describe because they do encompass so many different elements, and each one is so incredible. I highly recommend browsing their website to learn more about what they do.
Then, of course, there is the suspendee; the piece pulling the whole puzzle together. Gisella has been featured on here several times in collaboration with her husband and suspension partner Dominick, and it’s always wonderful to see the work they do together. These photos are a great example of what could have been a very simple suicide suspension being used in several ways that take advantage of the freedom of movement that comes with this position. It certainly helps to have someone who is so comfortable on hooks, and the relaxed appearance on her face and in her body movement makes it easy to forget that she is hanging from her skin. I always love to show photos like these to people who are curious about body suspension. There is no focus on hooks, blood, or pain. There is simply a beautiful woman enjoying herself, who happens to be hanging from hooks.
Last, but certainly not least, to credit for these fantastic photos is the photographer and creative mind behind the whole project. Gretchen’s final push to take the step into her first suspension was actually inspired by Gisella. She stated that she had always associated suspension with a sort of peace comparable to the eye of a storm. She wasn’t let down with her first experience, and knowing what she learned about herself during that short time in the air, hopes to try it again in the future. I think her personal views of suspension are apparent in the calmness and peaceful feelings in the photos she captured. Thank you so much for sharing this with us Gretchen. I can’t wait to see more of your beautiful work.