Expression, Identity & Sex: The Photography of Aunt Singe

Aunt Singe - rabbit ears

Aunt Singe” is the artistic persona created by our interviewee. She wants to give women—and herself—the ability to freely express themselves during photo sessions.

Sometimes this creative freedom takes the form of eroticism, sometimes darkness, and sometimes just the bizarre. Her photography switches between self-portraits and shoots with models, all of which address the themes of nudity, fetishes, and masks and wigs. Aunt Singe pulls inspiration from vintage TV shows, old editions of Playboy, and Shakespeare, just to name a few. Read on to learn more about the artist behind the camera.

Top: This is Xara, a model who is featured in many of Aunt Singe’s shoots.
Aunt Singe - woman sitting on floor
Aunt Singe’s interest in photography began with fashion magazines.

Tell us a little bit about how you got interested in photography.

I honestly fell in love with fashion photography. I would buy magazines with those big fashion editorials—like Vogue—and skip all the articles to view the photo story. I loved it. I’ve never been big into fashion per se, but I adored the scenery and mood those images would create. It was like creating a movie—but with images. Now, of course, I have grown and I adore a different side and style of photography. But fashion is where it started.

Aunt Singe - Barbie dolls
Much of the artist’s work plays with slightly NSFW subject matter.

Your work has a very analog, natural feel. Do you shoot digitally or with film?

I shoot digitally, but I try to invoke the analog feel. If I had unlimited funds, I would shoot analog and get rid of my digital. One of the drawers in my refrigerator is dedicated to expired film. I hope to use it more often. I’m just a little nervous about processing my own film, and I am too impatient to get it developed elsewhere.

Aunt Singe - dark portrait
Photography is a welcome way for the artist to express the other, darker sides of her personality.

What do you do to stay creatively motivated?

That’s wicked easy: I am constantly inspired. I almost always have something on in the background throughout the day. I work from my home for my actual day job, so having the TV on or playing an audio book is quite easy. Lately I’ve been re-watching “The Addams Family” (the original TV show), the old “Dark Shadows” TV show (it’s beautifully horrible, and I just discovered it), and romantic movies—lately Shakespeare (“Romeo & Juliet” and “Shakespeare in Love”).

Aunt Singe - wig portrait
Other models who work with Aunt Singe have found that her style allows them to express themselves.

Your subject matter is pretty scintillating, but it isn’t just “sexy.” Tell us a little bit about the messages or emotions you try to evoke with your work.

I created the idea/identity of “Aunt Singe” as a way for women to completely express themselves, including myself. I wanted to be able to be weird, psychotic, or inadvertently sexual without my identity being known. In everyday real life, I’m blonde, bubbly, and a space cadet. I think the outside world would see me as wicked “vanilla.” I am not only bubbly, silly, and fun … but also dark, strange, and I fucking love sex. I put on my bob wigs and feel like I can express that side without being shunned or judged. I have a hard time being both sides of myself in real life. Aunt Singe is an outlet for that. I think other girls feel the same way, and I have started to work with really talented and beautiful women because of it. Some share the same issues I do. For example, I have major anxiety. It’s been a huge part of my life and identity. I think some models have come forward loving the expression I evoke in some of my images. They may also suffer from a mental disorder and want a healthy way to express it.

Aunt Singe - posing on bed 2
The artist shares both self-portraits and work with models.

What is an average studio session/photoshoot like?

Ooof. Difficult question. It depends if I do a self-portrait session or work with a model. What I love about self-portraits is that I don’t have to plan anything. I’m inspired, I get up, put on a wig with a bondage item or lingerie, and get my camera. Sometimes I only take 4-10 images—just enough until I have something I think I can work with in post[-production]. It’s very random and disorganized, but I love that about it. A shoot with a model is a little more organized, but I like working with girls who can shoot last minute. I am not very good about setting up a shoot weeks or months in advance. It’s normally the week before, or sometimes just two days. I also don’t really like shooting for more than an hour—I blame my impatience. So we get about 1-150 images from a shoot. I talk a lot, so sometimes I get too excited about something and will forget to shoot, or forget the idea I had … I am ADD and OCD … so I would like to think the model might be entertained?

Aunt Singe - harness
Aunt Singe shoots digitally but tries to convey an analog feel.

Are there any types of collaborations you would like to do with other artists?

Oy. Haven’t thought about it a whole lot. I would love to work with more makeup artists. There are really fun ideas I have but they require a good MUA to do. That, and more designers: I’ve had a particular interest in masks as of late. Something with that would be amazing, as well. I would really love to collaborate with harness/leather work designers.

Aunt Singe - posing on bed
Aunt Singe looks forward to doing more work with makeup artists and harness/leather work designers.

Some of your work could be characterized as “Not Safe For Work” … do you have a hard time sharing it on social media?

It’s just annoying. I don’t think I have a huge enough following to really cause any issues. I hate that I have to white out nipples (the only other platform I really use is Instagram). I noticed that if I make something black and white, it most likely will not be reported. Just silly. I once posted a photo of me touching myself, but I posted it twice. One in color, one in black and white. The color one was removed within the hour or two … and the black and white one is still up.

Aunt Singe - portrait with crossed-out eyes
The artist pulls inspiration from TV shows like “The Addams Family” and “Dark Shadows.”

Is there any different subject matter or new techniques you’d like to experiment with in the future?

I would love to do more with analog photography. I also just discovered the 1973 issue of Playboy, with Salvador Dali and Pompeo Posar … that spread was epic. Surrealism and naked girls. I would love to somehow incorporate surreal elements to my work. Also: more themed sets … I am still learning my style and developing it. I’m excited to see where it goes. Who knows!

Aunt Singe - black and white nude
Aunt Singe thinks the outside world would see her as “wicked vanilla.”

What do you like to do when you’re not taking photos?

Movies/TV shows are a huge influence. Also, I live in Portland. So going out to eat great food and alcohol happens a lot. I’ve been reading comics and Hemingway lately.

Follow Aunt Singe on Ello and Instagram.

Images © Aunt Singe
Alexi Ueltzen

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Alexi Ueltzen is Ello’s Community Evangelist. If she’s not at the office, she’s probably swimming, getting muddy with her dogs, or baking cookies. The best cookies. Seriously. Follow the author @ Twitter , Instagram, and view more articles.