Here, the increasingly celebrated queen of the British underground scene talks to Flaunt about the beauty myth, overcoming tragedy and publishing a zine called HATE.
How much of your work is an expression of your own identity? How much of yourself is invested in it?
I put everything into my work, my blood, sweat and tears... I take my mini-film camera everywhere, just for snaps, but I’ve decided I need to be in control of every aspect of what I shoot. I want to create whole environments. I still love spontaneous images, but it feels too easy.
What would you say drives you as an image-maker?
In the beginning, I was shooting a lot of black-and-white snapshots, but now I have reacted against that. At the moment, my work revolves heavily around color. I take my cues from mundane suburban lifestyle ideals and try to create something otherworldly. I want to create environments and spaces for my models. The most frustrating thing is having such a clear vision in your head and not being able to do it, but all it takes is one idea, one person to believe in you, and sheer determination. I will never forget when interior designer Danielle Mouddabear let me use her amazing blue flat to shoot my Angel In The Underworld series.
Do you seek to disrupt the objectification of the female form?
In my She series I tried to explore the idea of a fantasy woman. I was reading the book Behind Closed Doors: The Art of Hans Bellmer – his sculptures of fragmented adolescent girl dolls were a violent attack on the stereotypes of normal life evident in Nazi art and culture. We always seem to associate dolls with females; the ultimate male projection of the female - physical beauty and perfection; sexual yet void of all emotion. In my series the dolls are naked, physically exposed, vulnerable and morose but deliberately coquettish. I reference 1960's futurism in the series because it aesthetically pleases me, but I wanted to 'display' my dolls amongst universally recognizable objects. In She, I wanted to create a clinical, claustrophobic environment - the dolls are purely my own projection of what the future dolls will be, highly realistic and totally compliant in the hands of their maker/owner.
What is your definition of beauty?
Beauty is so subjective, but I feel lucky to be able to see beauty in the un-obvious. In my work, I try to take apart the idea of what beauty is. My father was so obsessed with beautiful women and perfection in his work. I think I am the opposite – I want to find these things in unconventional woman and almost take the piss out of his idea of what perfection is.
How did your father's practice shape your vision of the world? I was a proper nerd at school, I worked really hard, I always wanted to show to my parents that I was achieving something, and I am still like that now. My dad was a workaholic so I grew up around someone who lived and breathed his obsession. But after my father's suicide, I wasn't really interested in working or trying hard at anything. Then my uncle, who I became extremely close to after my father’s death (his brother) died a year later. I felt like I had lost everything. Its taken almost 10 years for me to feel myself again and to realize that even though they've gone, it’s more about me proving to myself that I can achieve the things I want to achieve.
Talk to us about your magazine HATE - what is it a reaction to, and why is that aesthetic important now?
When I met Luisa, we were both frustrated and disillusioned with what we were doing with our lives. We started HATE because we wanted to be able to say what we wanted to say, and have no one to answer to. We wanted to create a platform that would showcase work we believed was important and needed to be seen, voices that needed to be heard, and create a sense of community. We tend to discuss important issues that other more established publications might gloss over - with a sense of humor - we want to make people laugh but we also want to make people think. Being print only was an integral part of the zine’s whole aesthetic. We live in a world where images are so throw away, we wanted people to be able to collect HATE and have something to reflect on at a normal speed!