This article was originally published on May 16, 2017.
If you're trying to find the words to describe photographer Maisie Cousins' work, "visceral" is a good start — but that barely covers it. Cousins creates images that are at one time sensual, raw, glamorous, and maybe a little gross. But all of that is extremely intentional.
Cousins tells Refinery29 that her body of work is an ongoing exploration of sexuality and nature — and how those two themes intersect. She's just as likely to pose a slug in a way that makes it seem sexy as she is to cover her nude models in flower petals and grass, all in order to reveal how erotic our world is (even if we don't always realize it).
In other words, yes, butts, breasts, and mouths feature heavily in her photos, but many of them are abstracted. For example, plants playfully stand in for the female form in many of Cousins' images. (She says she chooses her subjects partly based on "what's looking nice in the flower shop that day.")
More than anything, Cousins says her senses drive her work. She tends to feature bodies and objects with a glossy, greasy, even grimy, sheen on them. "When I start to make the images, I think about textures I want to touch and mix together," she says. "Sometimes [these combinations] surprise me."
And we'd argue that that element of surprise is a big part of her work's appeal. Whether shooting a butt, a bunch of ants, or a flower, Cousins takes photos that we want reach out and touch — just to see if our hands are wet when we pull them away.