I had an interesting conversation with a model today which made me realise just how much the surface of photography industry (not artistry) is simply smoke and mirrors. Glowing public personas often hide sinister or abrupt personalities. Beautifully curated work disguises inability to elevate and inspire others around you. Expensive equipment that does not come with creativity and authenticity.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom. This side of the art world is still filled with long and immersive conversations between two (or more) creative strangers. It still brings endorphins and euphoria when you know it’s “working”. It still has “something” that keeps bringing you back again and again.
For me, it’s something that I can grow old with because I know I can’t exhaust every single corner; there is always something new to be seen or learned.
Once you see past the surface level, you can enjoy it for what it really is until you can’t hold your camera in your hands anymore.
But, by that time I imagine I’ll be half a cyborg with a mechanical arm that will still keep that camera steady enough for me to take a shot.
This week has been tough for many. I woke up feeling exhausted and tired, not even a double shot of caffeine could fix me today. For the first time, I totally and completely lost myself in the digital discussion about women’s safety on the streets and at home. I’ve never felt this deeply over something and I never before allowed myself to literally lose sleep over an online conversation.
There is a lot that can be said about the unlearning and listening that we must do to create a better and safer environment for everyone. There is a lot that can be done when it comes to raising discussions early on, so we are not unlearning behaviours or prejudices, but instead we are brought up with equality and respect ingrained.
To relate this back to my world—the art world—I know that as a female photographer (and model) I must use my experiences and create environment that is safe and comfortable for everyone I work with. I have seen the dark and unreported side of this industry, and there is a lack of safety net for models (and photographers).
A lot of situations go unreported because there is this perceived notion that models will lose work if they are vocal in speaking out about their experiences and are naming names. It’s an unwritten rule, almost. Which is why public reviews of photographers on websites, such as, PurplePort, are meaningless.
They are just a public front, a final piece of the transaction to ensure a regular flow of trade for models. Many female models know that once they begin speaking out and naming names, they are often mistrusted or seen as “disruptive”. They are risking losing their income if they are seen as such.
It shouldn’t be like this. Models shouldn’t have to get in touch with other models via private messages to ask the truthful and honest opinion and experiences working with certain photographers. Models shouldn’t be made feel bad for requesting to bring a chaperone to a nude forest shoot. They shouldn’t feel uncomfortable to ensure their safety.
There is a lot that needs to be done and I want to be a part of the change. I know what it feels like to be on both sides of the camera, and I know what it feels like to receive harassment and uncomfortable comments. I know what it feels like so I take security and comfort of my models and my clients seriously.
I hope that more people will engage with this conversation on how we can make the world safer for ourselves and everyone around us. A lot of unlearning and listening is to be had yet.
I used to fear seeing the blank page in front of me when I open that Word document. It used to give me a feeling of carrying a heavy rock uphill when I hadn’t even found the rock I need to carry. But, the more I listened to other writers and artists, I realised that the emptiness can only stay as long as we let it. You won’t put perfection down on paper the minute you click your pen (or put your hands on your keyboard).
Once you get over the fact that perfection is pretty much unattainable concept, especially if you’ve always been a harsh critic of yourself, that’s when you start seeing that blank canvas or empty page as a fun journey. You don’t know where it’ll take you just yet but you know that you do need to put something down.
Start with a word, a brainstorm diagram, a sketch of anything. And, see where it goes.
But, remember, the journey takes dedication to continuously put a piece of yourself “out there”. Forget perfection and masterpieces. Instead, surprise yourself by sitting down and letting your creativity flow, regardless of the high standards you might have set for yourself.
See empty pages and blank canvas as an opportunity not as a roadblock. In fact, don’t even think about it that much and simply reach for your pen. I encourage you to not put it off and start off with a single word or a drawn line.