Former Suicide Girl Tanya Dakin Is Pretty in Pink

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Jul. 20, 2011

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Photo by Tanya Dakin

For someone who considers photo modeling a hobby rather than a career, Tanya Dakin has had a hell of a run these past several years. Traveling all over the world to work with some of the most esteemed fashion, erotica and fetish photographers around, she’s become known for her compelling look and commanding presence. She’s appeared on Suicide Girls, where she was one of the site’s most popular models, and numerous magazines and books, including ones from art publishing giant Taschen.

Now 40, Dakin, who moved from Boston to Philadelphia 20 years ago, is also a talented and emerging photographer. Her self-portraits—sometimes colorful and racy, other times subdued and haunted—depict myriad personas and explore gender roles. And her work with both male and female models is sensual, audacious and arresting; often, she channels iconic photographer Helmut Newton in crafting scenes that feel like movie stills.

Dakin’s getting ready to give up modeling as she transitions to full-time photographer. But not before she completes one last, bold project.

“I’m working on a photo book all about my vagina,” she laughs.

The lithe, short-haired Dakin says that until recently, despite frequently exploring sexual themes and taboos, she has maintained a strict “no pink” policy. But that had more to do with personal hang-ups than worries of exploitation or blurring the line between art and pornography.

“I wasn’t comfortable seeing a certain view of my body,” she says. “I was embarrassed. I couldn’t stop comparing my parts to other women’s parts. And women have enough strain on them as it is with body types and our breasts and arms and legs, and now that they have vaginal plastic surgery, you have to feel like you need the perfect vagina? It’s absurd that we have that weight on us to that degree.”

“I realized that to be a nude model and have certain parts that you’re almost ashamed of, it felt like a hurdle that needed to be overcome,” Dakin continues. “I started doing this [book] out of a general sense of female empowerment, but it’s really a personal way for me to accept all of myself and take control, and use my creativity and resources in order to do that.”

For Dakin, control has always been paramount. As a teenager inspired by the chameleon-like Madonna and Cher, she gravitated toward self-portraits because, she says, “what subject can you have the most control over but yourself?” Dakin experimented with style, makeup, lighting and setting “to see if I could build an entire image all by myself and make it believable.”

When she eventually began modeling for other photographers, she sought out people whose style matched up with her particular vision and she acted as producer/director—styling herself and dictating every aspect of the shoot. “All they had to do was show up with the camera,” she says, noting that even the most accomplished photographers have been willing to step back and let her run the show. “I can’t do it without them, and they know that. They can make my visions come to life more easily than I can.”

She’s tapped some of those trusted photographers to work on her as-yet-untitled vagina book, which will also include self-portraits, and which she hopes to have published by the end of the year. One photo, the self-shot “Victor/Victoria,” is a striking sepia-toned close-up of Dakin’s vagina with a faux curly handlebar mustache in place of pubic hair. In part, she says, it’s a commentary on fluctuating pubic hair trends—from bushy to shaved—that are typically governed by what men, not women, prefer. “And it’s also a pretty hilarious shot,” she says.

Dakin knows that her book will probably stir controversy, but she’s not concerned. “I’m trying to provoke thought. I’m aware that not everybody is OK with vaginas, but it’s my vagina and I’m free to do with it what I want.”

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 13 of 13
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1. Anonymous said... on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:02AM

“I've photographed Tanya numerous times and can tell you she's one of the sweetest, hardest working people I know. I would wish her luck with her new path, but she doesn't need it.”

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2. James Mosley said... on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:50AM

“Tanya is by far one of the most exciting and creatively inspiring models that I've had the honor of working with. She was a powerhouse from the start when I met her several years ago. Tanya is equally impressive on both sides on the lens.”

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3. Lisa said... on Jul 20, 2011 at 11:16AM

“Tanya, this is incredible - you have a lot to be proud of!”

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4. maggie said... on Jul 20, 2011 at 01:57PM

“what a treat it's been to follow Tanya's incredible body of work over the years. in an era inundated with images, Tanya's stand out, unforgettable <3”

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5. Wolf189 said... on Jul 20, 2011 at 08:56PM

“I have always enjoyed working with Tanya... she is fantastic in what she does... she is creative, funny and very dedicated...

Great article.

Cheers

Wolf189”

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6. marc henderson said... on Jul 22, 2011 at 08:29AM

“dig hot women who photograph their vaginas”

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7. marc henderson said... on Jul 23, 2011 at 11:55AM

“this woman is hot and her art is erotic. it goes in the old spank bank”

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8. wasteoftime said... on Jul 25, 2011 at 12:02AM

“Tell me why I am reading a newspaper story about this...? I think there's more important things to cover than some dumb bitch taking pictures of her vag.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Jul 26, 2011 at 11:26AM

“OK for PW for the feature article -- especially if she can find a publisher for her book and then doesn't end up on the remainder table. Her inspiration was vag. surgery? LOL Lots of egoistical company out there.”

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10. RAS said... on Jul 31, 2011 at 01:10PM

“Tanya was never just " a model " She was always a collaborative artist and cared as much about the creative process of the project as the person behind the camera, so its no accident that she's just as marvelous behind the camera as she has been in front! Go Tanya!!

Rob S”

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11. Cyndia said... on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:09AM

“Give me a break this isn't art this is porn, call it what it is.just another bs model way past her prime! And these idiots kissing her ass, please.it makes me sick! This one will be used as it should, in the bathroom by dirty old men and teenage boys. it will do nothing to empower women.that's a bunch of bs bitches say to deflect from the nastiness of this so called art!”

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12. Cyndia said... on Mar 20, 2012 at 12:09AM

“Give me a break this isn't art this is porn, call it what it is.just another bs model way past her prime! And these idiots kissing her ass, please.it makes me sick! This one will be used as it should, in the bathroom by dirty old men and teenage boys. it will do nothing to empower women.that's a bunch of bs bitches say to deflect from the nastiness of this so called art!”

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13. Nick Faust said... on Nov 6, 2013 at 03:06AM

“Tanya love, it is so wonderful to see your work getting the attention it deserves.
It is sad, in this day and time, that people still cannot make the distinction between erotic art and porn. While erotic art can be used by the monkey spankers, porn will never, ever, be confused with art.”

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