By Collin Czarnecki | Photography Nina Covington
There’s a raw vibrance to Nina Covington.
Whether she’s in front of the camera or behind it, her work is immediately felt when it’s seen. It pushes, it pulls, it does everything great art should do – it moves you.
But despite the many emotions her work elicits, when Covington removes herself from the camera, the model and photographer keeps things simple.
“Usually I can be found wearing jeans, shoes and a t-shirt. That’s just how I am. I’m just not the girly type,” said Covington. “There’s nothing wrong with getting girly, but I just feel more comfortable when I’m not. I really feel more confident when I’m in my masculine state.”
Before getting involved in the world of photography as well as modeling for photographers like Thomas Dodd and Jack Spencer, Covington said she had worked in several fields often dominated by males. She often faced discrimination, but never backed down from it.
“I had to deal with a lot of sexual harassment. I wasn’t taken seriously in some of my jobs,” she said. “When I used to train horses I’d hear things like, ‘I don’t know little lady, I’d be careful.’ And I’m like, ‘I just watched that horse throw your butt in the air. Step aside and let me ride this horse.'”
“There’s nothing wrong with getting girly, but I just feel more comfortable when I’m not. I really feel more confident when I’m in my masculine state.” – Nina Covington
From being called a “tomboy” when she was younger to working jobs in the maintenance field, Covington said she has always embraced her masculinity rather than hide it.
“It’s not always something that you can physically see but it’s just a way about yourself,” she said. “Women are powerful, they’ve been through hell and back and they keep going and I want to celebrate that.”
One of her most recent series, Machisma, a black-and-white portrait series highlighting women’s masculinity, focused on celebrating that aura.
Machisma illustrated the confidence and inner strength of each subject through 24 individual, topless portraits.
“They’re all shirtless, so there’s a vulnerability,” Covington said. “A lot of people asked, ‘Why are they all shirtless?’ And I would answer, ‘Because you asked that question.’ If they were men, nobody would even ask that. Nobody would bat an eyelash. They’re just breasts.”
Covington spent two years shooting the series of the 24 different women. Each one of them had their own story, but collectively they spoke the same word: Empowerment.
“It’s all ages, sizes, nationalities – I just wanted it to be very inclusive,” she said. “I didn’t want models and I didn’t want a size 2. I wanted every woman to walk up to a portrait and say, ‘I feel you.'”
The series captures both the beauty of the feminine as well as the masculine.
“It celebrates the masculine side of women,” Covington said. “Women go to war, women are CEOs, women are construction workers, we all do the same damn jobs so why do I as a woman have a law on my body that you as a man do not? How is that fair?”
Machisma was on display at the Corvidae Gallery throughout the spring, but ultimately, Covington hopes to showcase the series in other states and to create a book out of the portraits.
“This was like a therapy session for each woman who stepped in front of my camera. It was very cathartic.” – Nina Covington, Machisma
“It celebrates the masculine side of women. Women go to war, women are CEOs, women are construction workers, we all do the same damn jobs so why do I as a woman have a law on my body that you as a man do not? How is that fair?” – Nina Covington, Machisma
The centerpiece of the show featured a portrait of Covington, exposed, with her arms stretched out in between portraits of her mother and grandmother. When the photographs of her mother and grandmother were taken, Covington recalled how all three women embraced the empowerment that the series exudes.
“Me and my mom and my grandma were running around in my den taking photos, completely topless, and we gave no fucks,” she laughed. “We had the best time. It was not weird, it was not uncomfortable. It’s not a big deal, they’re just boobs.”
Along with drawing from each woman’s masculinity, Covington also told each subject to look within themselves and reflect whatever feeling was found directly into the camera lens.
“When I shot these portraits I asked these women tell me a time when you had to overcome, when you had to be strong,” she said. “This was like a therapy session for each woman who stepped in front of my camera. It was very cathartic.”
In June, Covington shifts her focus slightly to a more playful tone. An opening reception for her new series, Movement, will be held June 11 at Modern East Gallery to coincide with the East Side Art Stumble.
Movement features nudes photographed using long exposure, painting, light and music. It’s whimsical, colorful and like all of her work, vibrant and raw.
“This series is one of my favorites because it’s all about expression,” she said. “It’s a tool for me to express myself. I have all this stuff inside me that I want to get out but through photography and modeling I’ve been able to express myself. It’s freeing.”
Modern East Gallery
1006 Fatherland St., #203, Nashville
June 3 – 25
Follow Nina Covington | ninacovington.net
“It’s not even formulaic because you never know what you’ll get with long exposure. You’re really working hard together, both model and photographer to capture this beautiful image that shows movement.” – Nina Covington, Movement