A lot of your work deals with human form exposed in the most beautiful and unapologetic sense, what drew you to this subject matter in the first place and what do you learn from interacting with those you capture on camera?
I have been interested in photography my entire life and I relate this back to my father – I grew up with a father that loved capturing moments, but not posed moments. My father loved to capture someone in the middle of a laugh or a genuine moment of intimacy between two people, and this was the correlation I always had to photography. I first picked up a camera with the serious intention of shooting portraits at the age of nineteen; this camera also happened to be my father’s Olympus OM10. My first few rolls, I sought to capture spontaneous and real moments, and to date these are still some of my favorite portraits. While sitting on a couch with my roomate on one lazy afternoon, she stretched in a way that her body made the most interesting shape, and I immedaitely wondered what that shape would look like on film. As I thought on it more, I realised that it was the contortion of the body itself that intrigued me. Luckily this roommate was also a photographer, the one whom would become my teacher and mentor in the realest sense. I chatted with her about the idea, and tenatively mentioned that I think the shots would best be executed in the nude. As she mulled it over, she agreed as well. As they say, the rest just got better.
Over the last ten years I explored photographing the human body more and more through an array of different types of shoots. I’ve worked with models, yoga instructors, dancers, jugglers and clowns and just people that were intrigued by what I do. It is my favorite type of photography, and I learn something new from each shoot. A large part of the work that I do is connecting with the people in front of my lens. If someone is interested in doing a nude shoot with me, we usually meet up for coffee/lunch/dinner somewhere. We get to know one another and chat about the possibilities of the shoot, budgeting, etc. I go through the entire process with the individual along with any questions they may have, and then we usually pick a date for the shoot. The day of is very casual and organic. I usually have food for us, and I let the model choose the music for the shoot. We talk and hang out throughout the entire session and connect as humans. There’s always laughter and usually a serious conversation or three. I’ve seen many a model cry, but in the best way. People find a lot of freedom and empowerment through the process.
As an artist that makes art which is unhidden and bold, do you think the boundaries between art and personal life should be set clear or that they can bleed into one another? How do you know when or if to draw the lines between what is private and what you put out in your art?
I believe that the boundaries between art and a personal life depend on the individual artist. For myself, the two blend, and I don’t see how they cannot blend. The photography and paintings that I create are personal. I believe that there is a small piece of myself in every piece of work that I create. When I collaborate on a photography shoot, regardless of whether or not I’m the one in front of the camera, that work carries of piece of myself within it. To a further point, I incorporate myself within my brand on multiple levels – I’ve found that people tend to be drawn to my work because of the personal element. I do self-portraits, along with photo series that either personally intrigue me or that my own story relates to in some way. I don’t necesssarily always convey this publically but I can confidently say that all of the work that I create has a personal stake of some sort within it. I also firmly believe that a private life is vital to a heathly life. Although I share certain components of my personal life within my art and within social media, overall the majority of my life is my own. People may know what my partner looks like but they do not know our intimate daily life, etc because I believe that this is our own and no one else’s. I share pieces of my personal life publicly but overall I am a very private person, and I seek to protect that.
In a previous photographic series called ‘No Apologies,’ in which you took a self portrait every day for a year, you said that you always found yourself apologising for posting a self portrait. Following this, you began the project to combat that. There’s frequently something shameful and stigmatised considered about how we interact with ourselves and our bodies and being comfortable in your own skin is often perceived as vain. I think your work opposes these beliefs, but how do you approach these challenges on a day to day basis in your work and own life too?
The 'No Apologies Project' was the hardest and best thing I have done within art in my life thus far. I knew that doing a daily project would be hard, but I had no idea of the personal challenges that would come along with it. I constantly found myself having discussions regarding the difference between a "selfie" and a "self-portrait," however after this project I don’t feel the need to engage in distinctions between the two. I’m aware of the work that I create and the distinction between that and "selfie" and I truthfully no longer feel the need to defend myself. I learned so much about myself on multiple levels from this project, and grew both as an artist and a woman. I also feel that my photography overall grew from this project. People will occasionally make jokes regarding my nude work with models or myself, and often I don’t even engage in these interactions. When I do, it’s often to point out the ignorance and unncessary sexualization of images which often are not sexual in any capacity. This project gave me confidence in that if an individual does not want to understand my work, that’s ok. I will not work to assist someone with understanding something they have no desire to understand. I create work that inspires me, and which I hope inspires others. I create work that is a real representation of a person and of their experience of the world around them. This makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and frankly, that’s ok.
You’re also a painter, how do you relate to this form of art compared to photography and what are the differences in how they enable you to express?
Painting is a much more personal process to me – If I’m having a rough day or not feeling inspired, I can still do photography; I can still work to find inspiration. Painting is a much more personal process to me, and it needs to be an uninhibited process. Creating paintings for me is completely organic – I will sit down with a concept and allow the process to complete the concept, effectively that each of my paintings is in some way its own kind of self-portrait. I tend to be much more attached to my paintings than my photos, thus selling my paintings is more of a process for me than prints. Overall, I find that I place more of myself within my painting and I lose myself within the process of painting. It has become almost a type of therapy, a way in which to release a multitude of thoughts and feelings into one physical presence.
What influences you?
To put it simply, people inspire me. To a point, this is an easy answer, but it’s also the most true. I love to meet with people before I work with them so I can know a piece of their story. Knowing this allows me to photograph them in an entirely different way, an intimate way. I want to create work that my models can relate to – I always want a model to look at their portraits and see themselves rather than a stranger they were directed to be. There is nothing that I capture which is not already within that individual – it’s simply a matter of bringing a certain aspect of their personality to light and engaging it in a manner where it can be captured.
Define the word ‘human’.
I believe that the word 'human' is dependant upon one’s experience. I cannot define what being human is for all; I can only define what being human has meant for myself thus far during this journey. For me, to be human is to engage in each experience afforded to me. To be present. My life is mine, and mine alone, thus no one can experience this journey in the unique way that I can. For whatever reason, I am allowed to wake up each morning and live the life created before me. I have created this life, but there may be other forces working within this life, and I personally believe it is my role to live this live to the fullest, however I define what in fact fulfills my life. To be human is to live, however one may define that.