Search View Archive
Art Photo Journal

Safe & Sexy

I began the project Safe & Sexy in San Francisco in 1999 and spent the spring of 2001 continuing the series in Sweden where I interviewed and photographed women between the ages of 15-85. I asked the women to choose two outfits, one in which they feel comfortable and safe and one in which they feel attractive and sexy. This is not to say that a woman cannot simultaneously be sexy and safe. However, most women acknowledge that their appearance and body language often function as a barometer for their level of interactivity with those around them. Regardless how consciously, a woman rarely steps outside without considering what she is wearing, how much attention she will attract and her level of personal comfort.

The photographs are taken in each woman’s neighborhood or in another area that they frequent. Juxtaposition of the two photographs illustrates the chameleon-like roles and personae women subconsciously and consciously play out on a daily basis. Images are placed next to one another humorously reminiscent of an anthropological survey or a "before and after" advertisement.

The exhibition is touring in 10 cities in Sweden through October 2003. The work has not been exhibited in the U.S. aside from a few group shows which included only 2-5 women. Sarah Hughes is still looking for venues here in the U.S.

"Glenda Daniels, 23, San Francisco, California," Safe & Sexy. Sarah Hughes.

Glenda Daniels, 23
San Francisco, California

"I don’t think of nobody taking me, but I think about being robbed or stalked. Normally I feel safe. It doesn’t matter what I have on. It depends upon the male. It’s 50/50. It has to do with a woman’s attitude, how she carries herself, first impressions. You can be dressed slinky but present yourself strong. It’s how you travel. Men use women’s sexuality to give them what they want. If a man’s offering to give you something, it’s because they think you’re appealing and they want something in return."

Ahlam, 34
Solna, Sweden (Iraq)

"Society and the people who live in Iraq look at a woman who dresses how she chooses like she’s not a good woman. In pants or clothes without sleeves, they’d look at me like I’m a cheap woman, say very bad words and how I must think of my family. Here in Sweden I can wear night clothes in the day and nobody will say anything to me.
Many years ago in Iraq, society was very good, people used to help each other, now no, it’s the economic embargo, political. Now if a woman divorces, nobody would help her with money, neither her father nor her brother, because of the economy. It’s very difficult, many women stay with men and it’s not good for them. I’m very happy in Sweden with my son because the government gives me money to live safely, I can study, wear and do what I want. There is medicine. The state will protect me and nobody can hurt me here."

Safe & Sexy. ">
"Sarah Filley, 28, Oakland, California," Safe & Sexy.

Sarah Filley, 28
Oakland, California

"My style is something I call ‘Butch Comfort.’ This works well for work clothes allowing for function, warmth, and with the added bonus of one well-chosen accessory. I usually don’t go for inconspicuous. Safe is about attitude for me. I can ‘pass’ on the street as a man, if need be. Dressing is theater. I dress for work to get work done, very a-sexual. Too risky otherwise, working for the most part in an all male metal work field. Socially, I dress for effect


Sarah Hughes


The Brooklyn Rail

JUN-JUL 2003

All Issues