My friends and I often do things that are high risk: outdoor nudity, exploring abandoned buildings, and of course, rope bondage itself (which, I’ll take every opportunity to remind people, is a high-risk activity and rope suspension should be considered “edge play”). We do our best to be informed about the risks we’re taking and to mitigate those risks through study, practice, preparation, and other precautions. We also make sure everyone involved is genuinely aware of the types of risks they’re taking, and we take collective responsibility for the outcomes.
This particular shoot is one of the highest-risk shoots I’ve been involved with because it upped the risk level of each element, added quite a bit of uncertainty, and some aspects were beyond our control. Below is a discussion of the major risks and what we did — if anything — to try to mitigate those risks.
The first important thing to discuss is the people who were involved. There were nine of us there for this shoot. Each person knew the plan for the shoot, and each was willing to do whatever necessary to respond to any emergencies that may result from the shoot. Most importantly: the person who would be in the photo (LGFuad) and the person doing the tying and assisting with entry and exit from the shoot (FuriousGeorge) were both medically trained, fully aware of the risks, and ready to respond to any incidents and accept whatever the results may be. In addition, FurgiousGeorge was an experienced climber and brought that experience to the setup.
This is the area of risk where we had the least amount of control. The location itself was very cool, but LGFuad would be hanging from a railroad track along a public trail in a fairly well-known location.
That last part dictated the choice of having a clothed shoot: we didn’t want her hanging nude in public if people came wandering by. We also had people serving as lookouts along either side of the trail leading up to the location. They were there not only to warn us, but also to warn anyone approaching that there was an “art installation project” ahead that they may not want to witness … particularly if any younger people were with them. Luckily, no one came by during the shoot.
The active train track was probably the highest risk aspect to the shoot (second only to the water itself). However, the track runs shipping trains and greatly restricts speed through that part of the city, so we knew we would have plenty of warning of any oncoming trains. We also had a lookout on the track whose only job was to watch for trains. If a train did come, the person holding the pulley system would lower LGFuad immediately and then step back off the track (there was land on the other side of the track).
The water itself carried the most danger. It was high that day, and the pressure from the waterfall was pretty intense. In addition, the rocks beneath it were slippery, so stable footing was hard to find. However, we tested the area beforehand and decided it was manageable. In fact, after the rope portion of the shoot, LGFuad and Isean ended up playing around in the waterfall and outlet areas with no problems. In addition, multiple people were ready near the base of the waterfall to assist if needed.
All of these risks also dictated that the rope itself be mostly decorative. While LGFuad is tied in using a chest harness and thigh cuff, her hands are free and only have decorative cuffs around her upper arms to give the impression of full upper-body bondage. She used her arms to help lower herself into position, adjust her position, and get free at the end of the shoot, and she could have released the leg cuff if needed. Once the rope holding the ring was released by the person on the tracks above, she could walk away with no restrictions from the rope.
To secure the rope, we attached a pulley system with nylon rope to climbing straps secured around the lower portions of the train trestle. (The straps would be untouched if a train did come by.) The nylon rope secured the ring to which the suspension rope was tied. We had already tested this setup in other locations and knew it would work easily and well.
After attaching the rope to the ring and the ring to the pulley system, FuriousGeorge assisted LGFuad as she lowered herself into the space below the tracks. The initial release swung her out and back, and she was then able to grab onto FuriousGeorge to stabilize herself.
Once the swinging stopped, she could adjust her position for the photos and could then be lowered into position.
The pressure from the water did make it harder for her to get into a good position for the image, and she kept “bouncing” off of it and spinning around. Eventually, FuriousGeorge had to come and help get her stable and posed.
At the end of the shoot, our friend on the tracks just released the pulley system completely so that she could detach. It was clearly an exhausting experience, and she rested at the base of the nearby column for a bit once she was down.
Eventually, she floated herself across to the shore. Though, getting up onto the rock proved the most difficult part of the shoot: it was slippery with moss, and it took a few tries and some assistance to finally get out.
Don’t Try This at Home
I mean, do what you want, provided everyone gives informed consent. But I certainly wouldn’t recommend a shoot like this for most people. I wouldn’t do a shoot like this with Bound Light because I know that neither of us have the experience to reasonably mitigate the risks. LGFuad and FuriousGeorge did — as well as the training to respond appropriately to any injuries. And we still had 7 other people on hand to assist if needed.
So, I’m very glad we got to do this shoot. I love the images we got from it. And I’m very glad it happened without incident. But I realize it was an extremely high-risk shoot and not something I will likely feel comfortable repeating with any regularity.
I wasn’t really taking any personal risks for this, so it’s not really my place to say whether the risks were worth the rewards. Thankfully, the main risk taker (LGFuad) thought the risks were well worth the reward, and so I’m glad to be able to celebrate these images with her.
I hope you can enjoy them, too … maybe now with a better context and perspective.