© Sophie Davis

Looking at Women, by Sophie Davis

25.09.2017 | Art | BY:

Photographer Sophie Davis talks to Twin about her series of work, ‘The Unresolved’.

I began this series nearly two years ago, having been constantly exposed to images of beauty ideals from a young age through media and popular culture. Starting this series felt like a necessary step for me to try and understand my fascination with beauty and the female form.

‘The Unresolved’ is a growing body of work and the girls I photograph start out as strangers to me. I ‘collect’ my subjects around London, they are just normal women who I feel instantly drawn to because of their physical appearance. I ask them to sit for me if they are interested. These sittings are mostly done nude.

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

Surprisingly, through the many girls I have photographed I have only ever had one no, which I think speaks volumes about how we as women are curious about seeing ourselves laid bare. It could be seen as searching for validation, wanting to feel beautiful in a world that makes us constantly insecure.

The images have become part of a growing archive, a collection of female flesh, both a celebration of the magnetising allure of the woman but also an exploration into the limits of objectification.

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

The method of my work has been described as predatory in nature, more ‘male gaze’ than ‘female’ (which I can’t help but see as reductive, as women have the ability to desire just as much as men). But alongside the seemingly callous ‘pick ups’ there is a tenderness to the photographs that remove them from an objectifying, colder viewpoint – it is down to the close ups. The details in the folds of skin and stray hairs, the remnants of another human being.  There is the intimacy and closeness you would assume exist between lovers. I am always amazed at the level of trust each girl puts in me, and the friendships that come out of some encounters.

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

‘The Unresolved ‘is an exploration of the limits of the female gaze and the ‘trap of beauty’ and our constant hunt for it. In exploring with such issues with this body of work, it has given me further insight into our conditioning, and the confusion that surrounds the self in relation to images of the  ‘ideal’. There is a hunger in the images, both from myself as photographer and from the subjects themselves, it’s a desire to be seen, to be looked at to be the one do the looking.

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

© Sophie Davis

Follow Sophie on Instagram: @sophiexzx and Skin and Blister collective on @skin.and.blister

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Topshop SS18

Customisation station: Topshop SS18

19.09.2017 | Fashion | BY:

Whether it’s phone cases, patches, berets or bags, customisation is the trans-seasonal trend that we can’t get enough off. Hot off the Topshop SS18 catwalk, customised tees from the runway show are available to make your own at Topshop’s customisation pop-up in their Oxford Street store.

Head over over any time this week to tap into that fierce, independent attitude: because while wearing your heart on your sleeve is good, your name on your chest is better.

 

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Cass Bird, ‘Ali in Treehouse,’ 2000.

In bed with Cass Bird

15.09.2017 | Art , Culture , Fashion | BY:

Beds have always offered a world within a world, a place where sex, loss, pensiveness and commonality can all exist in the same place, and sometimes all at once. It is these dichotomies and juxtapositions that photographer Cass Bird plays with in a new exhibition at Red Hook Labs in New York.

This new series of portraits tells the story of her family, with pictures of wife Ali, and their two children weaving a story of laughter, intimacy and feeling connected.

Alongside familial images are examples of Bird’s fashion photography, which has featured in publications such as French Vogue and Wall Street Journal, as well as Twin magazine.

'Self Portrait with Mae' (2014), Photography Cass Bird

‘Self Portrait with Mae’ (2014), Photography Cass Bird

Here the same off-kilter, fluid and sensitive compositions relay an eye that is totally attuned to its subjects; whether it’s professional or personal, Cass Bird communes with these moments rather than directs them.

 

‘In Bed’ is on at Red Hook Labs, Brooklyn until September 24th. 

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carsten holler 'untitled' | image courtesy of galeriecpc

Champignons!

12.09.2017 | Art | BY:

Francesca Gavin (Twin, Art Editor) curates a new exhibition in Paris, inspired by the cultural power of the humble champignon. 

The exhibition explores the mushroom through cultural and historical narratives, focussing on how this simple fungi has operated at the heart of ritual for thousands of years.

Hannah Collins 'The fragile feast, madonna and ceps.' 2012 - 2017. | image courtesy of galeriecpc

Hannah Collins, ‘The fragile feast, madonna and ceps.’ 2012 – 2017. | image courtesy of galeriepcp

“They were an early form of female empowerment” Peter Cybulski, of galeriepcp tells me, adding that women used mushrooms for a source of income throughout the 19th century.

Throughout contemporary art, the mushroom can also be seen as a source of inspiration, with creatives looking towards it for its ability to signify nature, as well as more abstract, and psychedelic references.
seana gavin. mushroomscape. paper collage on card. 2017.

Seana Gavin, ‘mushroomscape’, 2017 | image courtesy of galeriepcp

Bringing together a diverse and exciting range of international artists which includes Hannah Collins, Sylvie Fleury, Seana Gavin, Carsten Holler and more. This new exhibition covers painting, collage, film and photography to offer an exciting and surprising survey of the mushroom, and the strangeness it embodies.
John Millei 'maria sabina #1', 2016 | image courtesy of galeriecpc

John Millei ‘maria sabina #1’, 2016 | image courtesy of galeriepcp

Champignons! curated by Francesca Gavin is at galeriepcp in Paris until 10th November 2017. 

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Adwoah Wearing Gurls Talk

Gurls Talk x Astley Clarke

22.08.2017 | Fashion | BY:

Earlier in the summer, Gurls Talk swept the women of London up in an empowered frenzy during the organisation’s one day workshop; now you can wear those good vibes on your (kind of) sleeve, thanks to a new collaboration between Gurls Talk and Astley Clarke.

Creative director of the brand, Dominic Jones and founder of Gurls Talk Adwoa Aboah go way back, and with Aboah as the current the face of the brand’s ‘Astronomy’ AW17 campaign, it’s a collaboration which offers the chance to celebrate friendship of all kinds, while championing diversity and encouraging ambitious, young creatives. All of the profits will also go straight Gurls Talk.

Featuring a red enamel Gurls Talk lips logo and decorated with a cultured white sapphire tooth stud, it’s the perfect way to bring a positive, empowered attitude with you wherever you go.

Gurls Talk Collaboration Necklace

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twin1

NEW GUARD: the changing face of beauty

15.08.2017 | Beauty , Culture , Fashion | BY:

The beauty ideal has remained shamefully homogeneous in recent history, but is it fair to say there’s a new mood afoot? If current trends in fashion and beauty casting are anything to go by, there’s an unprecedented appetite for diversity in the faces that make up our visual landscape: one that better reflects the complexity and nuance of the real world, where interest and authenticity trumps perfection.

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Beauty photographer Felicity Ingram captures this new mood in her work (pictured), and says a big part of the equation is in casting the right face, someone whose appeal lies more in their character than in their symmetry. She elaborates: “I got bored of clients and magazines telling me I couldn’t shoot a certain girl because they weren’t a ‘beauty’ model. Personally, I think this idea’s very dated. I’m more interested in shooting faces that I find interesting; girls with personalities that engage with the camera”.

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Similarly model bookers are riding the crest of this more inclusive movement, and seeing a shift in the way clients are responding to ‘unconventional’ models. As Steve Haynes, Head of Women’s New Faces & Image Division at Nevs Models explains: “2017 has definitely been a turning point for this, it’s been a bit of a domino effect. As an agent, if you don’t offer diverse talents then there’s no way of the clients booking these models, therefore how can the industry open up and grow in this area. I think once clients are presented with more unusual or alternative talent they can be enlightened and swayed into thinking outside the box. This is happening more and more as time – even the year- progresses.”

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Trends in social media have given rise to street casting, which is shifting the beauty paradigm into new territories too. Model Julia from Storm (pictured) explains: “street casting and Instagram have changed the rules of the industry and the opacity of the game is diminishing. I think the more human models become, the more human we want them to be, I really hope that trajectory is stable”. Where previously it was a top-down dictatorship of the beauty ideal, now there’s a shift towards a more democratic selection process, where the people choose what they engage with and what they find beautiful; and in 2017 this certainly feels a little something like progress at the very least.

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Shoot credits:
Models:
Jazzelle, Storm
Chantelle, Storm
Coral, Nevs
Razan, Storm
Julia, Storm 
Makeup: Siddhartha Simone, Julian watson
Makeup: Pamela Cochrane, Bridge Artists
Hair: Anna Cofone, The Wall Group 
Photography: Felicity Ingram, Visual Artists 
With special Thanks to BD Images

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7. Los Angeles, May 2012 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, by courtesy of the artist

Disco Ball Soul

08.08.2017 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

American photographer Emma Elizabeth Tillman comes to London this week with a new exhibition opening in Whitechapel. A long-time Twin favourite, Tillman’s portraits are intimate and watchful; her presence is always felt in the images but it doesn’t intrude.

Tuscany, Italy, November 2015 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

Tuscany, Italy, November 2015 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

From shots of sprawling nature to candid self portraits, the new exhibition and accompanying book offer an insight into her life over the last ten years with over 90 collages, as well as 14 large scale photographs. Photographs document her journeys through France, Arizona, Iceland and California; images are accompanied by diary extracts, providing in an all a memoir of an artist’s life

 Iceland, 2010 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

Iceland, 2010 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

Whether examining her own body, the forms of other women or the natural world around her, throughout Tillman’s work is a sense of working to stave off time, to build something concrete which cuts through the the waves: this new exhibition is a celebration of these moments of meaning, and sets an exciting precedent for Emma Tillman in the decade to come.

New Orleans, 2014 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

New Orleans, 2014 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

200 limited-edition signed copies of Disco Ball Soul, published by Dilettante Paper, will be available for purchase at the gallery.

 My Father’s Bedroom, 2015 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

My Father’s Bedroom, 2015 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, courtesy of the artist

Disco Ball Soul is at Gallery 46, Whitechapel 11th – 31st August 2017

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Politics, fashion, feminism and everything in-between: Twin meets Jade Jackman

17.05.2017 | Art , Blog , Culture | BY:

Female filmmaker Jade Jackman and I speak over Skype, from her apartment in Madrid – a city which she has just moved to as a result of what she refers to as “the monumental cost of living in London” and of course, Brexit. She’s recently returned from Afghanistan where she was teaching film to Afghan women reporters so they could tell their own stories and also released a short creative documentary on Yarl’s Wood – a women’s detention centre in the UK – earlier this year. Not only this but Jackman is also spearheading a project named ‘Eye Want Change’, teaching young people how to make documentaries about issues that matter to them using just their smartphones. Needless to say she is one smart, endlessly creative and inspiring woman who Twin have been eager to speak with for some time now. Jade and I Skype-d for over an hour, from East London to Madrid about protests, politics, fashion, feminism and everything in-between.

As a woman, why do you feel like it’s important to support other women in the creative industries?

It’s incredibly important — someone doing well doesn’t mean you are going to do badly. I think there needs to be more of a conscious effort for women to support other women. It is starting to happen slowly… I think it’s about getting different voices out there. One thing that’s been amazing about the digital age / internet is that women have been able to get their voices out there talking about what is important to them. It’s about making sure our voices and the way we’re presenting ourselves is seen as legitimate. I think it’s a really exciting time because we’ve got more ways to put our opinion across than ever… I guess we’ve got to wait and see with this kind of movement whether millennials (or whatever people like to call us) will pierce the glass ceiling.

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Hopefully!

I think so, I think it’s unstoppable!

How have you found being a female filmmaker? How has it impacted your journey?

I’d say for me personally it has informed what I want to talk about more than having had a negative impact career wise. I think it’s taught me or shown me the things I’m interested in. In some ways as well being a woman isn’t always negative — like I wouldn’t have been able to make the film about Yarl’s Wood in the way that I made it if I was a man, and I wouldn’t have got so close to women in Afghanistan if I had been a man. There are lots of positives I think to being a woman, it’s just making sure your ideas don’t get sidelined or focus with a soft or feminine angle all the time. But then sometimes that’s what I’m interested in; I am interested in working with women and with some of the topics I do cover it is to give a different perspective, like a gender perspective because I think it’s necessary.

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I remember when I first heard about Yarl’s Wood and what happened there I was horrified and felt powerless. How did this film come about?

I studied law at LSE at university and wanted to be a lawyer originally. It was around the time of the legal aid cuts and I wanted to use my law experience to help in some way. So during that I was planning a dossier of sexual abuse cases that were happening in Yarl’s Wood – women reporting cases of sexual assault from the guards. At the time I was quite young, I was nineteen, I hadn’t really thought about being a filmmaker then I wasn’t quite sure how to put that into film. Then I started to think about it more and more. In one of the interviews a woman calls them the invisible women and I guess I had an urge to put some visibility on them and make these women really visible as women — that’s how it started. As you can imagine trying to make a film somewhere you can’t film where video recording is illegal is almost impossible. I got a grant from Sheffield Documentary Festival in 2015 and that then I cut down on all these four hour phone conversations I’d had with women detained there and that’s how I started thinking about it. I was aware that I wanted it to look quite different visually to most documentaries. I think its because for the past two years I’ve been seeing a lot in lots of newspapers where I’ve felt really bombarded with the imagery of what refugees drowning look like and all these images of people in Calais and refugee camps are really important and valuable in some way but for me it didn’t feel real: it was like showing people in their lowest state ever and I felt like those images were almost so bad that we couldn’t associate with them. In my background I’m really influenced by music videos and fashion films and art films and I think today we are so used to seeing high quality video content and I think people are fed up of getting information from conventional news sources… it’s important to speak to people in a visually different way. If you think of Trump and Brexit the old ways of telling people information are not working, they’re failing to engage people…

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I think that gives more scope for finding something in the work to connect to, which makes resonate more and have more value. Let’s talk a bit about Great Women Artists the Instagram account that champions female artists on the social media platform, how did you get involved with them?

I’m always looking to work with women who are doing something they are passionate about. I think it makes for interesting projects and collaborations. I got in contact with them and they were saying they were doing a collaboration for International Women’s Day and I was like okay cool let’s do a video for that and explain why what you are doing is connected. Talking about this mass produced culture and imagery of women that isn’t by or for women. We couldn’t actually say we didn’t see images of women — we do, women are used to sell pretty much everything but in the same way that there’s lots of clothes and lots of brands being sold to us all the time, but those things aren’t the same, they want to collaborate with female artists because they are creating something unique by hand, more genuine imagery of something that is made by a female. That’s what got my interest. I think that I liked that they chose Frida Kahlo and Louise Bougeois who were open about being crazy and not being these ‘respectable’ women. I really admired that because there’s a certain image of a woman we have to aspire to or look to be like…That’s why I was keen to get involved with them. I really like they are planning to work with other young female artists to come. It’s out of a conventional gallery setting it’s really clever.

Definitely, and if you consider that Instagram is a platform where a lot more art is shared and consumed now, you’re more likely to see work on Instagram even if it is in galleries. You go to a lot of protests, what’s your opinion on protesting?

I am interested in politics as I’m a documentary filmmaker and I want my work to talk about things that I care about — that’s the most important thing to me. For example the next thing I want to make a documentary about is gender based violence and sexual assault. Even if I am taking a more creative approach to them I really want to talk about these issues. So, I guess protests if it is something that you’re interested in are something visual and political protests are a natural thing to end up covering because they’re energetic and visual and they also need to be documented — especially now in the digital age. A lot of what goes on online is shared through social media — a lot of the imagery we see is coming through social media of being at the protest. The kind of people you are protesting against probably aren’t going to be at the protest so someone needs to be documenting it… I guess that’s something I enjoy. Also it’s a great way for people to get together from all sorts of different places and feel connected to each other and to causes they care about.

I think too it’s important to feel heard, to have a belief that you have rights and that bleeds into the rest of your life and how you approach that what’s happening in the world.

I think what I find most important is the protests they do outside Yarl’s Wood. What’s great about a protest is the power people make. You can’t really hide from it because here are people there.

You studied Law, how did you then move from Law into documentary and filmmaking….

I studied anthropology with it and I think I always wanted to be a documentary maker but I didn’t know how because I didn’t want to make TV documentaries… so, I wasn’t sure if what I wanted to make existed I knew I didn’t want to do just fashion but I like to make things that look like fashion films so I was kind of confused when I was younger what I was interested in. For example I interned for a couple of fashion magazines whilst I was at university and I was always really interested in Pam Hogg not because I wanted to talk about the fashion or the craftsmanship but I wanted to talk about the politics — I think I’ve always understood images more than I understand anything else. I always am seeing something.

Watch Jade Jackman’s Yarl’s Wood documentary, ‘Calling Home’ here.

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Coco Capitán: ‘Middle Point Between My House and China’

28.04.2017 | Blog , Culture | BY:

Gucci collaborator and renowned photographer, Coco Capitán: is an artist who needs little introduction. The Spanish creator’s idiosyncratic eye and quirky slogans have commanded a legion of fans, with 75.6k Instagram followers and counting.

Having graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2016, the photographer has already racked up an impressive string of accolades: she has been a guest speaker for Cambridge University Photographic Society (2016), a member of the Jury for Hyères Fashion & Photography Festival (2016), and was awarded the Pho- tographers Gallery FF+WE Prize (2015).

And then there’s the fact that she’s working with one of fashion’s hottest luxury brands… Capitán’s collaboration for Gucci in February this year saw slogans such as ‘What are we going to do with all this future?’ and ‘Common sense is not so common’ etched across the brand’s sell-out logo tees. But for her latest project, a new book ‘Middle Point Between My House and China’, disenchantment takes a back seat in favour of the imagination.

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The book’s tittle is drawn from memories of the photographer’s childhood, in which she thought that if she dug deep into the ground she could tunnel to China. Fast-forward a couple of decades, and Capitan found herself in the country itself – though via the more conventional route of air travel.

The book is therefore both an homage to her journey and the people she encountered on her travels, and to the experience of childhood. ‘China’ and ‘House’ can be understood in both the literal and figurative sense. As is noted in the press release, “‘China’ represented the desire to run away, the attainment of her goals; while ‘House’ was her present reality.” Coco adds, “I wanted to take images that would denote how I perceived China, my personal experience in the country and how I saw the people who were there”.

To mark this hotly anticipated release, Claire de Rouen will be hosting a signing at their London store. Head over on 9th May to snap up a copy of this must-have book.

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‘Middle Point Between My House and China’ by Coco Capitán is published by Maximilian William, and released in May 2017. 

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The Unseen, The in-between: Lina Scheynius, 09

29.01.2017 | Art | BY:

Fans of insightful feminist photography should stay tuned for the release of artist Lina Scheynius’ new book, 09

Featuring photographs taken between 2013 and 2016, this new self-published and beautifully curated book sees Lina present a series of unplanned moments. This spontaneous style results in an intimate and personal collection of work which celebrates the beauty and mystery of ordinary life. Twin was lucky enough to be given a preview, see the images below.

02  12 16

28 27 36

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The reek rebellion

24.12.2016 | Beauty , Blog | BY:

REEK is a new feminist perfume brand from created in collaboration with perfumer Sarah McCartney. Designed to make a stand through everyday rebellion, REEK is about empowering women through the commemoration of fierce feminists that have come before. Using the unifying and transcendent power of scent, this is a fresh and exciting take on engendering a conversation around women’s rights and identity. Twin caught up with Bethany Grace to talk badass bitches and what makes REEK smell so good.

How did Reek come about?

In our culture, we don’t memorialise our amazing women, and that means female role models are lost. In the UK only 15% of statues are raised to women, and most of those are to Queen Victoria. So we started thinking of ways we could change that.  Scent is so evocative, it’s also a great means of rebellion.  No one needs to know you’re wearing a scent that stands for something, unless you tell them.

Who are the women that you were inspired by when creating the perfume?

DAMN REBEL BITCHES was named after 18th century Jacobite women, as badass political activists and dissidents they were the right inspiration for our first scent.  The Duke of Cumberland called them Damn Rebel Bitches because they wouldn’t give up on their cause. They were fearless. Jacobean Lady Nithsdale broke her husband out of the Tower of London in 1716 by dressing him in drag. There is no statue of her.

Scent is so individual, what ingredients did you feel embodied a universal sense of heroism, and why?

We work collaboratively with perfumer Sarah McCartney. The scents we picked all pay homage to the women of the 18th century. Blood orange peel was used as a deodorant, clary sage as a herb in women’s medicine and pink peppercorn was the most expensive thing you might have in your kitchen at the time, if you were lucky.  Though perhaps not a universal representation of heroism, these are scents that speak to the real lives of powerful women – women stood up for what they believed in.

 

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What kind of things did you look at to develop the scent – were there any fragrances of the past that inspired you?

It’s not necessarily scents from the past that inspire us but the female pioneers in perfume from history.  The first prominent female perfumer was Germaine Cellier who broke into the industry through sheer determination in the mid-20th century. There was no question that we wanted to work with a female perfumer to combat the sexism in the industry even now.

How do you know when a perfume is finished, what are you looking for?

I suppose we just close our eyes, sniff and rely on our noses. For REEK it is more than just creating the right scent, it’s creating a present-day memorial. We’re currently developing a new fragrance for next year to commemorate a different set of women. Researching and coming to understand who that woman is takes a lot of work.

 

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How do you see scent as a medium for commenting on the role of women today?

As an everyday rebellion. We still have so much to fight for, and we can’t go forward without looking back. So our first scent is about the strong women we admire, whose stories aren’t widely known, and who shouldn’t be forgotten. At REEK we believe that we need role models in order to be role models. Our campaign features women of a variety of ages and sizes, all un-retouched beautiful bitches.  No retouching isn’t a revolutionary concept within the industry but we wanted to reiterate how important it is to combine no retouching with diversity – of race, of size, of age. We could have just taken photos of the perfume and it’s ingredients, avoiding any direct representation of women, but having this medium available to us we took a stand, as we emblazon on our website and t-shirts ‘BITCHES UNITE’.

What do you hope to achieve with the brand going forward?

More perfumes. More amazing women to memorialise. More feminist campaigns. More rebellion.

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Arvida Byström

Smashing The Glass lens: Photo Vogue Celebrates The Next Generation

24.11.2016 | Art , Blog , Fashion | BY:

The inaugural Photo Vogue Festival is celebrating the next generation of talented female fashion photographers, those who have subverted the traditional power male / female dynamic and liberated women from prescribed identities – the madonna, the whore.

Over three exhibitions in Milan, the female body is celebrated and examined in mysterious, alluring and mystical images from names such as Vanessa Beecroft, Petra Collins and Cindy Sherman. Beecroft’s work is exhibited in a stand-alone show that includes work from 1993 – 2016. In ‘The Female Gaze’ a host of dynamic artists are displayed together, creating a powerful rallying cry to a new era of fashion photography that empowers and enables women on both sides of the lens. The third exhibition, PhotoVogue/inFashion showcases the new talent who were brought together as part of the Photo Vogue competition. Conceived and curated by Vogue Italia, the festival also incorporates talks and lectures.

Juno Calypso

Donna Trope Blow up

© Yelena Yemchuk

Photo Vogue Festival takes place in Milan, Italy, on November 22-26.

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ordinary

Anything but Ordinary

27.02.2012 | Art , Blog | BY:

There are many words to describe Claude Cahun: feminist, political activist, Surrealist artist, poet, writer, photographer, actress. However, the word thought-provoking seems to say it best.

Born in 1894 as Lucy Schwob in Nantes, she began practicing her most well-known form of creative expression, self portraits, at 18 years old. Produced under her pseudonym and playing between the extremes of androgyny and hyper-femininity, Cahun’s images express the idea that gender and sexuality perhaps aren’t always an A or B answer.

Involved in a life-long romantic and artistic partnership with her stepsister, and as a member of Georges Bataille’s left-wing organisation Contre-Attaque in Paris, Cahun was no stranger to controversy. In protest against the fascist regime of WWII, she distributed oppositional pamphlets combining governmental critic and poetic rhythm among the soldiers.

At a time where not even religious freedom was granted, Cahun’s defiance of political, gender, sexual and aesthetical conventions within society is remarkable. In her anti-realist, autobiographical work Aveux Nos Avenus, she wrote:  “I will follow the wake in the air, the trail on the water, the mirage in the pupil … I wish to hunt myself down, to struggle with myself.”

This internal struggle, both emotionally and on the artistic surface, helped make Cahun not only an intriguing artist, but also an inspirational legend.

Entre Nous: The Art of Claude Cahun is on display from February 25 to June 3 at The Art Institute of Chicago.
www.artic.edu

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The Peasant Women Of Ryazan

Radical reels

11.02.2011 | Blog , Culture | BY:

It seems shocking that only one woman – Kathryn Bigelow – has ever been awarded the Best Director Oscar, when you consider that women have been making films since the birth of cinema. It’s that lack of recognition of women in film that drives Cinenova – a volunteer-led collective that’s dedicated to preserving and distributing the work of female filmmakers, artists and activists. This month they’re opening up their impressive archive in an exhibition called Reproductive Labour at THE SHOWROOM gallery.

Films from Cinenova’s collection will be screened daily – it’s a rare opportunity to see pivotal works from the history of feminist, black, queer and experimental film and video. There are silent films from the early days of cinema, documentaries, shorts and feature-length works dealing with themes like post-colonial struggles, domestic work and representation of gender and sexuality.

A quick browse through the 500 titles in Cinenova’s online catalogue threw up some intriguing names: French pioneer Alice Guy is arguably the first ever filmmaker. She directed the 1906 feature The Life of Christ with a cast of 300, and used innovative techniques and special effects. Her contemporary, Lois Weber was Universal Studios’ highest paid director in 1916. She covered controversial social issues like abortion, alcoholism and birth control in films like Where Are My Children?, Hop and The Devil’s Brew (both 1916). One of her most successful films was The Blot (1921).

As well as showing these rare and precious films in their original state, the exhibition has a wealth of fascinating material – photographs, pamphlets and posters – to add some context to the work. The title of the exhibition – Reproductive Labour – also alludes to how much of a labour of love Cinenova is. Run entirely by volunteers, the charity is always struggling for survival and depends on donations for its loyal band of supporters to keep going.

Check THE SHOWROOM’s online calendar to find out which films are being screened and when (theshowroom.org/calendar). Our top picks are Peasant Women of Ryazan on Saturday the 12th February, and Broken Taboos and New Voices in Iran on Wednesday 23rd March at 6pm.

Reproductive Labour: An exhibition exploring the work of Cinenova runs until the 26th March
The Showroom, 63 Penfold Street, London NW8 8PQ
theshowroom.org

Words by Phoebe Frangoul

Images from top: Peasant Women of Ryazan by Olga Prebrazhenskaya (USSR 1927) and Daughter Rites.

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