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How to take good bondage pictures (2020)

You can listen to this musing here, or read it below.

I often get compliments on my photos of rope bondage. People say that they display a sort of vulnerability and melancholy, that is both haunting and beautiful. And I usually reply, without thinking too much, that is because I took them during a session.

So what is this session?

Bluntly expressed, it is when the attention changes from a pattern to a person to a relationship.

But what does it mean for me?

That I, as the person tying, gradually become more and more uninteresting, because it is no longer about me – if I can remember a specific pattern or arrange a beautiful position, or not. Don’t get me wrong these skills are still assumed to be there; otherwise, we have to go back to practising patterns, but the focus in a session is elsewhere. The old Japanese Bakushis knew this and often dressed in black and wore sunglasses to hide themselves and instead give the space to the experience of the person in the ropes.

There is a difference between direct and indirect experience. Direct experience is the neurology feedback from my body. Most commonly, it is kinesthetic, and I like to describe it as what is happening to me—for example, I’m holding a rope in my hand. The opposite is when I indirectly imagine the direct experience of another. The empathy is so developt that I can actually feel my partners restricted body oscillating between tension and release in myself. And therefore, we can share the emotional journey – the suffering, the horniess, and so on. Indisputably my direct experience as the person tying is pretty dull – again I’m holding a rope in my hand – so instead, I want to become fascinated by my partner.

In a way, I want us to fall in love. It is, in many ways, a tragic love story filled with hardships because my favourite kind of bondage is the suffering one. In Japanese, they say Semenawa, that can translate into “hard ropes”. Hard or tragic love stories are the best because they show the strength of hearts, just like bondage is the best when it shows the power of the tied person. Arguably the only way to be strong in a tragedy is to be vulnerable. Many years ago, I had a lover in the french alps, and she often asked me to tie her on the hardwood. Painful I’m sure, but she told me that she never fought the floor or the ropes, and instead she made love to them. And in the end, love conquers all, they cheesily say, and so it is even here. If you want to dig deeper into the concept of suffering, then I recommend reading my text about Suffering in bondage.

I like to think that a session comes with a promise of what wants to be shared. It can be the hard love of suffering, as I described above, or something entirely different. I think this is why people say that rope bondage is about two hearts that meet, and not about a body bound in ropes. The bondage opens and closes some doors of opportunity and encourage the practitioner to travel a particular road, but it never speaks about the destination. Rope bondage is about discovery but is never to be discovered. In Japanese, there is a concept for this called Wabi-Sabi, and you can read about it in the text How I learnt about Wabi-Sabi.

The transient nature of a session is vital because it feeds off the exciting unknown in between people. And it is funny; this is precisely the reason why rope bondage rarely ends in penetrative sex for me. Sure, it is sexual, intimate, and exciting, but it kind of ever gets there, and that’s the point. I think it is because penetrative sex is such a symbol for completion. Maybe because in the end, we are just animals wanting to spread our genes.


So why do I write about this?

Often when I met students, I want to encourage them to separate practice and session. When beginners start to practice tying, the person in the ropes is most helpful when either giving feedback and holding a silent and focused space. At this point, there is less room for the journey or tragic love stories. But the session is equally important because that is when the practice pays off. Sometimes I meet people that start practising a pattern together, that turns into more of a play. It can be an okay way to make a session less dramatic, but I think one looses a big part of rope bondage. That is honouring the unique relationship between the person tying and the person being tied.

For me, the session starts long before my partner arrives when I begin to care for my ropes, and it continues in how I invite them into my home, and how I prepare tea for them. I don’t remember who told me this story about learning from a great Japanese Bakushi called Yukimura – that how he made tea was equally important, as his tying – because both shapes the relationship, and that decides what vulnerability they are willing to share. A good bondage picture captures that.

If you are curious about what a Bakushi might be, then you can read my text called Being Bakushi. And I should probably also include a disclaimer that it is entirely possible to make a session that focuses on the direct experience of the person tying. Still, I find this to be less interesting.