hannah altman on glitter bombing beauty standards
We catch up with the 19-year-old photographer whose girl-power photo series “And Everything Nice” went viral this month.
Hannah Altman's photo series And Everything Nice is either an extremely pretty or an extremely ugly middle finger to society and the pressure it puts on women to look cute. We're not sure which. And that's the point. In her images, Hannah (a photography student from Pittsburgh) substitutes brightly colored glitter for an array of bodily fluids including blood, vomit and tears. The goal, she explains, is to draw attention to the deeply rooted instinct she sees in society to sanitise and ornament women's bodies. Women are not, her title implies, made of sugar and spice, and they're certainly not made of glitter.
Hannah spoke to i-D about what the series and its reception have meant to her.
What has the reaction to And Everything Nice been like since it went viral?
The feedback has been incredibly humbling and moving. Most importantly, I'm excited that such a wide audience is relating and reacting to the project. It seems like everyone from social activist magazines in Germany to BuzzFeed have readers that can relate to the images — which further proves the point that gender roles are an international issue.
Who are the women in the pictures?
They're my best friends. We're all artists in our own rights, so when my roommates walked into the bathroom and saw me sticking glitter in my teeth (which was the first photo I shot from the series), they were all for it. I think the idea of using loved ones as a subject creates an intimacy in the photos that wouldn't exist otherwise.
What message do you hope the photos are spreading?
The series is about giving an unflinching analysis of the standard for female beauty. These are women in states of affliction; their bodily fluids (including blood and vomit) have been replaced with glitter to help the viewer visualise the pressure that girls experience to be attractive regardless of what might actually be happening. It's a pictorial representation of the unreasonable standard of female beauty.
There's been a wave of young artists in the last couple of years who are outspoken about being feminists and making feminist art. What role do you think the internet plays in this new generation of feminism? And do you think that role is meaningful?
Feminist artists have been creating work for all of history, but we have never been exposed to as many different ideas as we are now. The internet means these ideas are able to reach a larger audience than they ever have before. And I think this explosion of sharing really has created a stronger sense of community, which encourages female artists to speak out, in a real way, about oppression but also their triumphs.
Has the reception changed the way in which you work?
The support I've received for the series has really opened my eyes to gender issues that exist on an international level. I love the idea of art being a universal way of connecting with each other. So in June I will be traveling to Israel to document creative work in artisan villages there. I'm excited for my work to continue to evolve as my awareness does!
Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Hannah Altman