An Interview With: Amy Blackwell
Who are you, and where did you study?
My name is Amy Blackwell and I have just graduated from Norwich University of the Arts.
What is your artist statement for the body of work “What does it mean to be a woman?”
In this series, I wanted to focus on portraying femininity and the idea of girls/women being comfortable in their own skin. Initially focusing on four girls in their early twenties, I wanted to show, in an intimate and delicate way, what they thought constituted being a woman. These images are aimed at women. It is a series to celebrate women, their femininity, sexuality and the friendship that is formed between females (between the model and photographer) especially at this transitional period between a girl and women, a young adult and an adult.
Where did this project develop from?
This was a continuation from my Research Report/Dissertation, where I was looking into self-portraiture and femininity. I got really interested in femininity, gender, feminism and started to read a lot more into this.
My first shoot of this series started out with being inspired by colours, pastel pinks and blues, imagery from photographers such as Petra Collins and her book Babe. After my first couple of shoots, I started to question what I was actually saying with these images and whether what I was doing was disrespectful to women, in relation to the ‘male gaze’. I turned back to my research and realised that I wanted to express femininity in this way and that this was okay.
it also came from a desire to portray this transient period of life, where a female may not consider herself a girl or a woman and what they consider it is to be a woman. From this, I decided I wanted to ask my models what they thought it meant to be a woman at this point in their life.
Most of the series seems to use natural light, what was the reason for this?
I wanted the series to be delicate and have a natural feel. I tend to keep the environments I shoot in as natural as possible, as I wanted the models to feel comfortable, so I avoided bringing in extra lighting.
I am also interested in how natural light affects the skin; how it sits upon it, the shapes, the highlights it creates giving the images an intimate feel. Natural light can be so beautiful, I love the softness and natural warmth it brings to an image.
The images lack vibrancy except for natural greens, how do you think this effects the series?
I was quite drawn to these greens as they give a natural feel and freshness to the series. I believe they give a delicacy to the images, making the softer colours appear very gentle, which is what I was aiming for with this series.
What inspires your work?
There’s so much that inspires me! I have been very inspired by Petra Collin’s work and book Babe. Also Uta Barth, Todd Hido, Maisie Cousins, Mayan Toledano, Ashlie Armitage, Dafy Hagai, brands such as Lonely Label and how they choose to present their products. Colour is a big inspiration! I’m particularly drawn to work that uses soft and dreamy pastels.
Using new processes and formats is something that excites me and keeps me inspired with my work. I love learning how these work, finding the best way to use them for what I want to achieve.
How do you work when shooting a series?
I tend to do loads of research! I draw together images that have been inspiring me and I pick out what these elements are. I also read up on my subject where possible, so I can understand it and make sure that I am portraying it correctly. This is a really important part for me, because I love learning new information and it helps me to really understand what I am after with the work. I continuously research throughout the series, to keep myself informed and inspired.
When I am actually shooting, I enjoy talking to my model and learning about them. This really helps me to get their personality into the images, to get images they feel happy and comfortable in.
Where do you see your work going next?
I do have ideas to develop on this series, including featuring a variety of models, and to make a book of it. I love books and the idea of making a book from my work is something I find incredibly exciting! I enjoy the thought of someone having a book of my work, with exciting tactile elements in it.
I am still a little uncertain as to what I want to do and where I see my work next, which I feel is all part of the process of working out what I’m interested in and finding my feet within it. But I am focused on making work with a similar feel, work that I love and get excited about which I believe is so important.
What is the best piece of advice you could give the viewers of The Pupil Sphere?
Believe in what you do and what you have to say. Keep shooting and trying out new things, you may make mistakes but what you learn from them is so valuable! Be brave and put yourself out there, make the most of your opportunities. Do what you love, keep your passion alive and yourself happy.
All images copyright of Amy Blackwell.