Elani Jacobs is a photographer from Bloemfontein whose photographs that she uploaded to onesmallseed.net have featured in many Images of the Week selections, and in November, 2012, her album One Last Shoot became Album of the Week on onesmallseed.com. More recently, her eye-catching portraits of women have also been in the spotlight through our media partner We Love Sexy — a social activation platform that will soon launch an online Magazine, a coffee table book and a monthly exhibition event. They got hold of her to find out who the person behind the magic is and she inspired with a story about the first picture she took on a disposable camera, her views on sexy photography and her snapshot-like shooting philosophy.

When did you realize that you had a talent for taking photographs?

It was more a question of realizing that THIS IS WHO I AM than realizing about any talent. Photography is what makes me tick, what makes sense to me. I love to look at the world through my lenses.
Maybe when I succeeded in being selected for the photography programme at the University of Technology I started to also consider that I might have talent.

And what was the first thing that you took a photograph of?

The earliest memory I have of taking a photo was when I was five years old, I went to London, UK, with my mother. She bought me a disposable camera when we got there, to keep me busy while we were there.

In one of the photos I took, there was a perfect shot of my mother and her sister in front of the Jan Smuts statue with Big Ben and Westminster Abbey in the background, and the red and yellow tulips in the front, and a red bus and black taxi whizzing by.

Can you describe the emotion you felt after capturing something beautiful for the first time?

A definite sense of pride and inspiration to get even better, with the smallest fear of ‘I hope that wasn’t an accident, but my actual talent’.

How did the process develop from then to now – what sort of steps did you have to go through to reach the level you’re at now?

Touring overseas for a number of times with the Bloemfontein Children’s Choir gave me the opportunity to visit interesting places, and I was initially totally trigger happy with my camera. Slowly I started focusing on the composition of the photos, always trying to improve. But it was during my first year at the University of Technology when we were required to do black-and-white film photos, and to develop the photos ourselves, that I really learned the most. The excitement of having to wait to see what the photos look like is a thrill that many photographers will never experience. It teaches you so much. You will notice that I still love black-and-white photos, even if it is digital.

The level that I am at now? I do not think that I am at any specific level. I do not measure myself. Every shoot is a beginning.

Image by Elani Jacobs

Image by Elani Jacobs

What does ‘sexy’ mean to you?

Being sexy is in the first place about feeling good about yourself, and not focusing on how others view you. Knowing who you are, focusing on your own sensuality, and not about impressing others. Being comfortable with yourself.

Would you say it’s a recurring theme in your photographs? Why is that?

The raw emotion, or the lack there-of. The work that I am the proudest of always has an emotion attached to it. Even if the model is without an expression, there is still an emotional portrait to look at.

What role does ‘sexy’ play in photography in general and how related is it to the female

A human body is a work of art, but it is also a canvas on which you can create a work of art, and a medium that you can use to create art. With every shoot I try to create a work of art, and to work best with the media that I have.

For a model to look good, she must feel good. And feel good resonates with sexy.

When does it cease to be beautiful?

Does it? Depends on who is looking at the picture.

Image by Elani Jacobs

Image by Elani Jacobs

And when does it become pornography?

Art is something timeless that you can hang on your walls with pride. As soon as you don’t feel comfortable displaying your nude artwork, that is when it starts bordering the line to the pornography side.

Would you agree with this quote:

‘What is pornography? It is printed, spoken, photographed or filmed material, which is
specifically intended to create a fast short-circuit to physical release. It does away with
the niceties. It is generally breathtakingly crude, bland, predictable, and leads quickly to
the desired result while heightening the search for even more intensified pleasure. All
over the world people are hunched over their computers in search of such experiences.’ –
(Taken from ‘Nude or Naked’ by Patricia Anderson)


Can pornography be beautiful?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It is subjective. Personally, I don’t see the beauty in it.

How would you say does ‘sexy’ relate to nakedness or nudity?

If you are at ease with yourself and in touch with yourself, then you are comfortable with your body and with nudity. Nakedness, to me, has a different meaning. Nakedness relates to being stripped, and is not always a choice.

Here’s another quote:
‘Nakedness reveals itself. Nudity is placed on display…. The nude is condemned to never
being naked. Nudity is a form of dress. ‘ – John Berger

Does this relate to the way you capture people without clothes in your onesmallseed.net
album Nudes or Soft to the Touch for example?

Nudity is a personal choice.

So yes, it is the ‘clothes’ that you choose to wear, not the lack of clothes due to choices of others. What I aim to capture in my nude pictures is the liberation through personal choices, being yourself, and the art of the human body and spirit.

Image by Elani Jacobs

Image by Elani Jacobs

A lot of your models look aware of the camera’s gaze – often their gaze engages directly
with the camera’s. Yet sometimes – like in ‘Madonna’ for example – the observer seems to
be granted a complete ‘Peeping Tom experience’. Is it a conscious decision of yours to refuse
the viewer’s wish to indulge in voyeurism in some pictures and not in others?

I capture the model in whatever zone she is in.

I feel that when the subject isn’t looking at the camera, it shows a more true, vulnerable side of the subject. I even sometimes tell them that I am still testing the light while taking photos, then they are not posing, but just being comfortable.

When I am lucky, this results in some of the best shots of the shoot.

Would you say that being a female photographer helps when building a relationship to your
female subjects and thus improves the quality of your photos?

It definitely helps a lot. Talking and chatting, as girls do, throughout the shoot helps them to get comfortable, till we reach the point where we forget about the nakedness and both of us just indulge in the sheer art of it all. One of my first nude subjects was a very close friend of mine who specializes in nudes and body landscapes, and we were both very comfortable, because we both understood that the final product was going to be a work of art projecting all that is feminine.

Interview by Christine Hogg

Images by Elani Jacobs


1) Become a member (if you aren’t already!) on onesmallseed.net and upload your image making sure you use the hash tag #welovesexy in the ‘Tags’ box (see image below). If you have a full shoot you would like to submit, simply create an Album called We Love Sexy. (use the hash tag for all the photos in the album too!)

2) Like the We Love Sexy Facebook page and tag the page in any album/image you upload to Facebook that is content-relevant.

3) Email your submission/s to welovesexymag[at]gmail[dot]com

4) You can also upload images on Twitter (tag @WeLoveSexyMag) and via Instagram! Just make sure you always use the hashtag #welovesexy

There will be prizes up for grabs for the best submissions, find out what you can win here.

Image by Elani Jacobs

Image by Elani Jacobs