My Female Friends - Millie Battershill
“I don’t know.” That is my own response to the question I recently posed to my friends. "Do you think the development of your work is affected by those around you?". I could make myself think hard about this but I’m not sure I would ever have a definite answer. I could talk about it for a while and I’d most likely end up with multiple contradicting ideas on the subject. “I don’t know”, it’s easy to say, it’s simple and honestly, it’s the real reply in a nutshell. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an answer to that question; instead, what it means is this: I have too many answers. Fellow NUA graduate and good friend of mine, Amy Blackwell, often focuses her work on femininity. Mostly using females as models, Amy explains that her aim is to explore and celebrate female sexuality. This attitude is one which is not unfamiliar in the circle of friends I studied with. Gemma Astbury told me “I feel like I rarely see male photographers shooting outside the ‘social norms of beauty’.” It’s an interesting point, and one that I think I agree with. It seems relative to the idea of the “male gaze”. Amy described her worries in regards to shooting photographs of females in their underwear, saying it felt as though the shots were largely for male eyes.
Nowadays, I think young females know their value and don’t allow it to be lessened. This is perhaps what is being represented through Amy’s and Gemma’s images. I have a similar attitude, I agree on the difference between work from a male photographer and work from a female photographer. I think this is where they have influenced me somewhat. I’d like to shoot portraits of women that are uncomplicated, that simply say “this is a person”. They would be images in which the woman could be replaced with a man and there would be no alternation to it’s meaning because the photograph wouldn’t be about the sex or the gender of the person.
When I think of my final project from university, I realise that the work I was creating was not made with consideration of the ideas that my friends were thinking about. I did not make images with the aim of exploring femininity or sexuality; my work was created in an attempt to explore life itself. So, when I think about how those around me may have affected my work, the immediate answer really is “I don’t know.” My photographs are seemingly very different subject-wise to that of my friends so I never even thought about the idea of their influence. However, now that I consider it, the way I think about things has changed slightly. If my work hasn’t been totally affected, my approach definitely has.
Although I do feel those around me have affected the way I create images, I do not think developing work in a completely female circle of friends is the cause. Across the group of young women there is a lot of variety; this ranges from intimate portraits of females, to portraits of males, still life and landscapes. The part that has affected the development of my work in the most significant way is producing it amongst other creative people, be they female or not. What this particular group of females has taught me however is to be myself, make what I want to make and allow it to say what I want. I learnt this when I noticed that’s exactly what they are doing.
Written by Millie Battershill