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      photography Sarah Moroz 4 November, 2016

      4 young female photographers sound off on social media, gender bias, and #girlgaze

      ‘#girlgaze: a frame of mind,’ a new show at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, is championing the next generation of female-identifying photographers.

      The inspiring exhibition #girlgaze: a frame of mind collects photographs captured by a diverse crew of international young female-identifying artists. Primarily sourced from social media, these visionaries are given the authority and significance they deserve in an IRL framework at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. Each of the 150-plus images broaches the complex topic of selfhood and all that encompasses, from body image to beauty to race. We spoke to four participating young women — with sharply differentiated aesthetics and philosophies — and discussed the photographers they admire, the way gender shapes their vision, and what they wish to change in both the photography industry and the world at large.

      Luisa Dorr, 27, Brazil

      Can you tell me about your image in the exhibition? How is it important to you?
      Maysa (age 13) won the state title of "Black Beauty" at Young Miss São Paulo, a title created to encourage black girls. It is a separate title from Young Miss São Paulo. Racism in Brazil is, unfortunately, very common, even with most people being a mix of several different ethnicities. I have been shooting Maysa for the past two years, and the idea is to continue to shoot her, to see her growing up, her dreams changing. I am really interested in documentary but sometimes [Maysa and I] just spend time together. Photography can bring about much more than good photos: we became friends.

      How do you see gender affecting your artistic vision?
      Photography is still a very male universe, especially photojournalism. Finally this is changing; we are gaining more space and voice. We need more women in photography simply because we see differently, feel differently, we tell stories in a different way. It will be a long journey to achieve balance between men and women in photography. I'm in an agency mentor program — they have 18 photographers, 16 male, 2 female.

      In the spirit of girlgaze, who are your favorite female photographers?
      Sally Mann, Vivian Maier, and Diane Arbus, among many others.

      What role does social media play for you as a photographer?
      It's really important. Recently, I got a great assignment because the client liked my Instagram. I think it's another way to tell daily stories, share projects, keep people updated. But you need to know how to use it. It's important to publish what matters to you. I also use social media to inspire myself. I love the NASA Instagram, for example.

      @luisadorr

      Amanda Bjorn, 27, US

      Can you tell me about your image in the exhibition? How is it important to you?
      I took this photograph of musician Sudan Moon last year, on a secret field in the Echo Park hills overlooking downtown Los Angeles. Her energy is magnanimous. I was going through an experimental phase a few months later and decided to play around with some pigment powder I had purchased in India. It was a spontaneous, happy surprise.

      With the formation of the BLM movement and the ongoing protests about racial inequality, I felt the urgency to ask, as a white female artist, how can I be an ally? I have this incredible responsibility to encourage the women I photograph, to give them the time and space to be witnessed. It's a small, but hopefully crucial, element in lifting up the women around me.

      How do you see gender affecting your artistic vision?
      Gender has everything to do with artistic vision! I always prefer images of women taken by female photographers because there is a certain honesty, a kind of trust, and a real complexity that surfaces. Men have been dictating the way we see women's bodies since the art form was developed, it's time for something way more radical.

      In the spirit of girlgaze, who are your favorite female photographers?
      So many favorites! Imogen Cunningham, Lorna Simpson, Sally Mann, Francesca Woodman, Sophie Calle. These women taught me the camera is your excuse to fulfill that vital curiosity to understand people.

      What role does social media play for you as a photographer?
      I have such a love-hate relationship with social media. Every few months, I delete the apps and give myself a week or so of detoxing. Of course, the positive aspects are movements like BLM, and also #girlgaze, and political revolutions that spread so easily through social media. That said, I do worry for the young girls that have grown up with it their whole lives. That'll be a future challenge for our daughters.

      @amandabjorn

      Amaal Said, 20, Denmark/UK

      Can you tell me about your image in the exhibition? How is it important to you?
      I promised myself one morning that I would try to take as many photos of myself as possible. I was trying to love myself. It seemed impossible to accept the things about my face that I didn't like very much and that I had grown up being insecure about. But I took the photograph to try and get over some of that fear. I take self-portraits in my bedroom and I have fun experimenting with color, through the scarves I wear and also through lipstick. It's also my mother's scarf and she walked in to say she thought I looked beautiful, which was lovely.

      How do you see gender affecting your artistic vision?
      I'm a girl taking pictures of other girls mostly. It's meant a lot of warmth! I've always been frightened of being photographed so I know it can be daunting and I always want to create a space of compassion and understanding.

      I'm constantly checking my gaze. I know I'm not immune to misrepresenting or even speaking over the person I'm trying to photograph. It takes a lot of self-awareness and I always aim to have the right intentions while photographing. I have to question myself constantly.

      In the spirit of girlgaze, who are your favorite female photographers?
      Malala Andrialavidrazana, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Cristina de Middel.

      Your focus is on representing people of color. What do you think are the key steps to maximizing visibility and inclusivity?
      I think it takes photographing people as they are. Not only to show that beauty isn't as narrow as we've been made to believe, but also because we deserve accurate portrayals of ourselves. As a photographer, it's been about listening to people when they tell me about what makes them feel beautiful. It's about questioning what we find beautiful and where those beliefs stem from.

      @amaalsaid

      Emma Craft, 20, US

      Can you tell me about your image in the exhibition? How is it important to you?
      The image is a black-and-white film photo of three of my best friends. We went out to South Carolina, stripped down, ran around naked, took photos. This was shot a day before we all left for home. I lived with these three girls all last year and I love them to death, they're my muses.

      How do you see gender affecting your artistic vision?
      Right now there is so much attention circulating around female artists that I almost feel bad for the boys, but not really. Because of feminism, and even girlgaze, I have honestly never felt more confident with myself and my work. There are definitely those people who will stick to their immaturity and keep their school-boy attitude, but our artwork is still getting their attention. Growing up, I always thought photographers were male, and I honestly have no clue why. Who ever taught me that? Now, there are so many incredible female photographers that continuously blow my mind and inspire me with the creativity and beauty in their work.

      In the spirit of girlgaze, who is your favorite female photographer?
      I am especially inspired by fashion photographers, since that is what I aim to be. Right now, Harley Weir and Charlotte Wales.

      What role does social media play for you as a photographer?
      Social media has created a platform that all artists have needed. New ideas are created and shared daily. Although social media is great exposure, it also comes with some level of competition. Now, anyone can become a "photographer" and put work out there. It's important to not conform or stick to trends; you want to find your own style and to put that into play with full force. Social media has let me connect with so many people and strengthen my work and I am very grateful for that.

      @emmacraft

      "#girlgaze: a frame of mind" is on show at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles now through February 26, 2017.

      Credits

      Text Sarah Moroz
      Images courtesy the artists

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      Topics:photography, culture, photography intreviews, girlgaze, louisa dorr, amanda bjorn, amaal said, emma craft

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