DISCUSSING THE FEMALE GAZE WITH PHOTOGRAPHER/MODEL ELLA WEISSKAMP
How are you? What are you currently working on? Good afternoon! I'm doing just fine. I have a few projects coming up, one of them being shooting two stories for Off The Railsmagazine, as well as Noeundergarments and Crapeyewear. I've also been doing a lot of creative work on my own; it helps me feel inspired and motivated. How did you become involved in photography? Photography was always around me as a kid. My dad would find any opportunity to take pictures of me and my sister. My mum as well was a very creative person [and] she would take more of the fashion-type photos, with hair and makeup done. I began modelling at a very young age [and] I believe modelling is what really directed me towards photography. Growing up constantly being on different sets, meeting photographers and creative directors, I just knew at a young age that I was capable of creating my own photos. I got my first digital camera when I was 12 and I brought that thing everywhere until it literally fell apart, but what really shaped me into a photographer was when I purchased my first film camera, which I actually still love to shoot on... I feel that all up and coming photographers that are still learning should start with film cameras first. You learn how to really capture the perfect moment - for example, making sure that the ISO is just right, aperture, shutter speed all of those small details that can really make or break your photo. I learned to appreciate each photo I took when I shot on film. I'll forever be more inspired when I shoot on film then when I shoot digital. What themes or subjects inspire you? In order for me to envision a moment in my head and feel inspired, I need music, which I find interesting because I couldn't sing a note if I tried! So far, male models or figures really don't inspire me at all... women know how to move their bodies and know their angles. I also feel that girls automatically feel more comfortable when it's a female photographer. I love capturing emotion [and] I want people to look at my work and feel something... it's cliché but true. What draws me to a subject and theme are these moments I see in my head; there have been many times where I feel I can only shoot a certain girl at a certain location or in certain lighting. I see them as characters that I want to portray perfectly. I never want to shoot someone just to shoot someone. There always has to be some inspiration and emotion behind every photo.
Is there a place, model, or collection that you are dieing to photograph right now?
If was able to shoot with anyone, it would 100% be my idol Lara Stone. I grew up reading my Mother's Vogue magazines and she was the first model that I fell in love with. She's broken so many rules and has stayed true to herself. Her face is out of this world - she's one of the first models that rocked gapped-teeth, bleached her eyebrows, [and] embraced her shape and size. She's paved the way for many up and coming models, including myself. I respect her incredibly. Location wise, to go back to my hometown in Australia would be a dream; I'd shoot the wildlife there.
What do you always have with you?
I know this sounds incredibly obvious but I truly can't live without my cameras, especially my film cameras! It's like how some people can't leave the house without their phone... I can't go anywhere without a camera in my hand. Besides cameras, I also can't live without my laptop. I edit all my photos on there, whether its just cropping them or going all out and spending my whole day on a series.
Right now at Couturesque, we're prepping for a series of conversations about "the female gaze" in fashion photography. Do you think that female photographers capture female subjects differently?
Women most definitely approach taking photos of other women differently. Not that men can't do the same, but when I'm shooting a female (model or not), there's always something to talk about... whether its their love life, how their day is going, [if] they feel bloated and ugly... We can relate to each other without feeling embarrassed when certain subjects come up. You can tell when your subject is comfortable or not, and when they're not 100% there, it shows. So with that being said, I'm glad that women (including myself) have the capability to capture one another in the right light.
Female photographers don't have nearly equal representation still. What do you think the effects of this might be?
Having fewer female photographers is truly a blessing in disguise; the less there are, the easier it is to stand out. It's like it's a fresh start for the industry... the up-and-coming female photographers at the moment - in my opinion - stand out way more than any male photographer that I'm a fan of. I have respect for any woman that can make it in this industry on her own. I'm excited and curious to see what the fashion world will turn out to be in 10 years or so. The modelling industry is the only industry where women make more [money] than men, and are independent in more ways than one. Female photographers are definitely the new movement.
On that note, are there any particular female image-makers we should be taking note of?
I recently met Vanessa Vigil through my boyfriend in the Bay Area. She showed me some of her work and I was absolutely moved. She didn't seemed too phased by her work which really made me love it even more. She knows how to capture a mood, which I think takes more talent than capturing emotion. Her concepts are like nothing I've ever seen before... I definitely see her going places and I support her all the way!
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