“Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?” the Guerrilla Girls - an anonymous collective of activists fighting discrimination in the art world - asked in 1989. “Less than 5% of the artists in the Modern Art section are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.” Twenty five years later, how have things changed? To celebrate i-D Girl Week, i-D asked one of our favourite illustrators, animators, and fashion filmmakers Quentin Jones to create a series of exclusive collages that consider female representation beyond Snapchats and selfies. We caught up with Quentin to talk the power of the self portrait, advice for up-and-coming artists, and why Virginia Woolf was onto something.
Can you walk us through the collages?
I was interested in the tradition of the female self portrait, both in terms of how a female eye captures and describes itself as a person and how an artist expresses a sense of their creative-self. I referred to women ranging from Cindy Sherman, Frida Kahlo, and Virginia Woolf all the way to bloggers and selfie artists. I wanted to describe what I do, what I am into, and how I think, all on top of pictures of myself. I tend to play with surreal imagery in my work, so distortion was definitely a theme in these images. I shot into bent surfaces to catch a skewed reflection of my face, held a collaged piece of Marilyn's mouth, and lay in a pile of helium balloons. It was really just an opportunity to make interesting imagery, without having to justify what I was doing to anyone because it was for me.
Can you tell us about your working process?
It is part planning, part working to that plan, part spontaneity, and then trashing everything with paint and scissors in my studio afterwards. Or at least that's the dream. Usually it is more planning and less freedom to draw on top of the faces of pictures I take.
“One must be a woman manly.” Virginia Woolf wrote it in 1929. What does it mean in 2014?
"It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple - one must be a woman manly, or a man womanly". I think she was probably making a point that is still very relevant today, that both sexes thrive from being part of the other. That there is fluidity between genders, and that success is more likely to be born from plurality. My experience of life has been with a deep voice and the daily question of "isn't that a boy's name?" At school or when booking a bikini wax on the phone it can be annoying or confusing, but now I work in a male dominated world, on set with a predominantly male crew it is quite nice to have a strong low voice and be able to shout over everyone. I also dress like a 'boy' everyday in my studio, but I think that is part of being a girl.
Could you speak a little bit about the rise in young female photographers?
I am never very good at knowing about who is 'rising' or who the young talents are, but two of my favourite photographers are Cass Bird and Viviane Sassen. They are of course very established, but they both work in fresh new ways all the time. Interestingly, Cass Bird has an often sexualised perspective on the female form, but its very much through the eyes of a woman. Her images celebrate the real spirit of the model while exploring their physical side. Sassen's work is much more abstract and focused on composition. It feels intellectual to me, it makes you question the whole genre of fashion photography but within the context of a major fashion campaign. I guess I like that female photographers are refreshing the vantage point from which we see models, clothes, and beauty. The subject can be less fetishised, and in a way more complicit with the image-maker.
Do you have any tips for "making it" as a female photographer, director, or artist?
Probably the same as what I’d say to a male one: to not worry about what others are doing around you, to just make sure that you are really into how you are working. To not panic because of how successful other people seem to be, and just put on your creative blinkers. I think for girls this may be most important because of having to 'compete' in a world that has classically had girls on one side of the camera and boys on the other. Just try to ignore everything and think about your current piece of work.
Who are some of the most inspirational women in fashion and beyond?
My favourites include; Donna Tart, Zaha Hadid, Phoebe Philo, Marlene Dumas, Patti Smith, Hannah Hoch, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman, and I have always admired the female Disney baddies' vibe. Maleficent and Ursula are my favourites.
What does “girl power” mean to you?
“Girl Power” means celebrating the female mind. It starts to shift the balance so that female thought is considered more valuable than the female form.