Photographer Morgan Maher’s spent five years photographing women in bed. The end result? A 200-page book that doubles as a love letter to femininity.
For women, the bedroom is a fraught space. A source of pleasure and of pain. The site of adolescent sleepovers with girlfriends, secrets shared amid giggles under the sheets. Of tear-filled dark nights of the soul. Of sexual encounters, both the wondrous and the rotten. Women artists have long found themselves gravitating towards the bed. Be it Tracey Emin’s groundbreaking 1998 artwork My Bed—an installation of her real bed, complete with empty vodka bottles and period-stained underwear—or Frida Kahlo creating some of her most dynamic self-portraits from the confines of her bedroom.
Photographer Morgan Maher continues this legacy with her compelling new book Girls in Bed. Described by Maher as a ‘love letter to the girls in the hearts of women’, Girls in Bed features intimate portraits of 75 women captured by Maher over a five-year period. It started from a logistical need. ‘I was living in my first apartment in New York City on my own, and the apartment wasn’t the prettiest, so when people came over it was like, ‘Let me shoot you in bed’,’ Maher tells Par Femme. She quickly realised there was a kind of magic in these shots. ‘There’s something that’s so pure about the experience of sitting in a bedroom, which is such an intimate space, with someone that you really trust and believe [in] and want to collaborate with.’
Courtney Eaton and Gabby Richardson; Images by Morgan Maher
The women are an eclectic cross-section of artists, writers, actors, musicians and other creatives, all of whom Maher has come to see as friends and—to borrow an overused term—muses. Among them: Chase Sui Wonders, Willa Bennett, Rachel Sennott and Salem Mitchell. ‘They’re all women that I admire, who are so remarkable and full of joy and life.’ There is something profound about Maher’s images, something that transcends their beauty. For so long, the sight of women underwear-clad and in bed was sexualised through the lens of male photographers. Images in the style of Maher’s felt inherently seedy, voyeuristic, performative. Through Maher’s camera they are rendered soft, introspective, nuanced. The phrase ‘divine feminine’ springs to mind.
‘There’s a level of comfort that I think comes across, because I have been in the same position as these women and would never have any of them do anything that I wouldn’t be comfortable doing myself,’ says Maher. ‘And I think part of it is that I just truly love women. It hurts me to say this, but more often than not when women are having conversations about the bed, some kind of trauma or abuse will come to light. And sometimes when we were shooting, we were able to use this experience as a healing space.’ Girls in Bed is available now from friendeditions.com.
Chase Sui Wonders and Isabella Manderson; Images by Morgan Maher