Tessa Kuragi is a London-based model who’s been photographed by the likes of Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Ellen Von Unwerth, and Nick Knight. But she’s earned a measure of notoriety not for her work for them but for her provocative Instagram account, where she embraces all things erotic, like bondage and Japanese Kawaii characters for her over 11,000 followers. Not surprisingly, she has a few thoughts on Instagram’s nude policy.
Occupation: Artist, model, muse, and part-time ‘oculolinctus-phile,’ among other things.
A hashtag that describes your Instagram:
How do you want your followers to feel when they see your posts? Intrigued, embarrassed, curious, turned on, appalled, angry, admiring. I guess anything more than the malaise that comes with looking at an Instagram image of an underwhelming plate of food? Though to be honest, I create content primarily to satisfy myself.
How do you feel about Instagram’s nudity policies? I think it’s done to save our innocent eyes from the ‘dangers’ of nudity and to ensure our continued adherence to ‘morality,’ a wholly pointless and farcical mission in my opinion. It doesn’t even stop the relentless stream of c–k photos I get private messaged, not that I have anything against seeing [the photos] if it’s interestingly or artistically portrayed. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with nudity, there is no point trying to censor the Internet and it’s bloody annoying having to ruin my photos with black censor boxes.
Has your account ever been blocked? If yes, how did you respond? If not, what would you do if it was ever taken down? I have already had my account deleted once. I tried to contest it with Instagram but did not get a reply, so I just cut my losses and created a new one.
Do you read your comments/DMs? If yes, do you engage? What are some things people say to you? How do you deal with these comments? I try to read all my comments and direct messages. I enjoy hearing others’ opinions of and reactions to my work. Though I can be somewhat shy and am completely inept at small talk, I am open to being approached. Apart from the c–k pictures and other incompetent attempts at flirting, I get a lot of people—mostly young women wanting advice on making it as a model/artist. I am not sure I have ‘made it’ but my advice is generally to be yourself, do something that means something to you, carve your own niche, have the confidence to approach your idols for collaboration, avoid the ‘game playing’ side of fashion if you can. Instagram has also been a great tool in terms of helping me connect with some truly amazing people—Nick Knight, Mario Sorrenti, Olivier Zahm, and Zana Bayne, to name a few.
What’s the meanest comment that made you laugh? When Riccardo Tisci posted a photo of me shot by Nick Knight there was a plethora of comments like: ‘freak’, ‘disgusting’, ‘weirdo.’ These echoed almost exactly the words I was taunted with by bullies at school, so it’s interesting to see how young, narrow-minded bullies grow up to be older, narrow-minded bullies, as if in a self-sustained bubble world. The same photo also got many admiring and highly praising comments. I find my work splits opinions in to extreme poles of opinion and I’m cool with that. Better to arouse strong bipolar feelings than uniform mediocre praise.
Have you ever taken a post down? Only if I look back on it and think, ‘Jesus that was a boring photo Tessa, what were you thinking?’
Is there anything you would never post? No. I guess anything can be made interesting. Why limit yourself?
Any tips for feeling comfortable in front of the camera? I tend to go into my own world when I model and it’s usually a dance where the photographer follows me. I guess that comes more with going with an emotion or story of strong personal relevance. I am much more awkward when being positioned/made to fit a mould that I can’t relate to.
Your first Instagram: My very first Instagram (on my old, deleted account) was a film photo of me shot by Stanislas Gui Gui. I am sat nude at a desk, elbows on table, cigarette in hand looking moody and contemplative. I like it because I feel it shows my melancholy and strength. On my most recent account my first post is a grumpy face photo of me as a ‘f–k you’ to Instagram for deleting me. It is a shot from an editorial I did for Volt magazine by photographer Julian Marshall based on me and my loves: surrealism and Japan.
Filter or #nofilter? How many takes do you need to get the right shot? Depends. Generally, if I shoot something in outdoor or good light I don’t use a filter, otherwise filter all the way. I usually take ten to twenty shots but end up using the first one my photography gets worse and worse the more shots I take!
Social media pet peeve: Streams of selfies that are near identical.