Image from a photographic series by Alex Storm Hague discussing the link between latex and sexuality.

ALEX STORM HAGUE

Interview: Alex Storm Hague

Image from a photographic series by Alex Storm Hague discussing the link between latex and sexuality.
Image from a photographic series by Alex Storm Hague discussing the link between latex and sexuality.
Image from a photographic series by Alex Storm Hague discussing the link between latex and sexuality.
Image from a photographic series by Alex Storm Hague discussing the link between latex and sexuality.
Image from a photographic series by Alex Storm Hague discussing the link between latex and sexuality.

Artist Alex Storm Hague on her art, perceptions of beauty, feminism and being a bitch.

What inspired this series of images?

The photographs you see happened quite early on in my investigation as I was already aware of the connections between latex as a material and sexuality. I deliberately used pink to show a softer more feminine form which hopefully makes the images more approachable. I feel that pink is synonymous with femininity but I could easily visualise custom shades to represent a broader variety of skin tones rather than only intimating gender (which could be another project in itself). I’m also interested in art direction so focussing on female body parts with this in mind, particularly around how we are used to seeing the female form displayed in an objectified way and its expectations. (Trying to make the balloon conform to how I wanted it to look wasn’t lost on me in relation to this.)

 

What kind of reception have you had?

The main reaction has been positive, I’ve actually had no negative feedback and perhaps thats down to the way in which the images come across. I’ve left it open to interpretation and haven’t attached an agenda to them so for the time being they’ve remained unchallenged. Like I say, they came about early on in my work so they are by no means an end result but I’m happy that they symbolise an aspect of feminism.

 

Bitch. What does this word mean to you?

To me ‘bitch’ used to mean a girl/woman that was independent enough to stop at nothing to get what she wanted, she wasn’t bothered by peoples opinion, she was doing her own thing, she was straight forward and transparent even if that rubbed people the wrong way (expectation versus reality) – That’s the mentality I grew up with in the 90s, girl power n’ all that, perhaps being a ‘bitch’ was something that was embraced to an extent. I know its been a derogatory term from those that are threatened by a woman and want to bring her down. Nowadays I think there are much stronger elements of sex and oppression of gender tied to it and I’m surprised when rappers use it but are quick to defend their own daughters in respect of that. My feeling of how its used today doesn’t sit well by comparison.

 

Does feminism inspire your work?

Yeah definitely I’ve always admired female artists and designers that were trying to carve a career for themselves and be taken seriously, especially those from a period that everything was against them. For me feminism isn’t always present in my finished work but in the kind of work I undertake. I’ve always been told that I can be/do whatever I want to be/do and have truly believed that. For example, a few years ago I became an instrument maker which is predominately a male occupation, I thoroughly enjoyed it and never felt like I didn’t belong, it was such a supportive environment to work in without being seen as ‘the little lady’ so to speak.

 

What are your own ideals of feminism?

It would be great if we didn’t need feminism, that people were treated equally as a political, economic and societal standard, that would be my ideal.

 

You can find more of Alex’s work at www.alexstormhague.com or follow her instagram @alexstormhague


Image of a nude woman by Edward Weston accompanying guest article

BEAUTY

Alan McCredie: Beauty

Image of Dorothea Lange's
Image of a nude woman by Edward Weston accompanying guest article
Image of woman to accompany guest article

Photographer and male feminist, Alan McCredie talks about his experience of the artificial creation of traditional beauty campaigns.

“No – spray more of the glycerine! On her cleavage – spray more of it!”

I’d only been out of Photography college a few weeks and was at the start of my first job as a photographer’s assistant. Here I was, with dreams of being the next Capa, or Brandt, or Liebowitz, pumping a glycerine and water solution over the cleavage of a model, dressed as Lara Croft, for what can only really be described as a vanity project for the client. This was my first, and defining, experience of the world of beauty and photography. I didn’t like it, and every squirt of glycerine only made things worse.

Photography and female beauty have always had a symbiotic relationship. From almost the earliest days of photography the examination of female beauty has been a constant. As (male) perceptions of female beauty have changed photography has been there to record the changes. Edward Weston’s nudes are some of my favourite work, and still, years after I first saw it, I am still in awe of Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother (to the left) which is as far as I’m concerned not only one of the finest examples of female beauty, it is one of the finest examples of any kind of beauty. The power, humanity and feeling in the photograph is almost unrivalled. Both Weston and Lange have photographed female beauty in starkly different ways, yet both are perfect examples of it.

One needs only to watch any advert break, or pick up a glossy magazine to see the power of female beauty in the quest for advertising revenue. Female beauty is, in the hands of the advertisers and the photographers/filmmakers they employ nothing more than a commodity: a way to sell an idea, and ideal and product. It has always been like this and for all I know always will be. Female beauty has been used as a cultural touchstone since the dawn of history and this, whatever we may think, is unlikely to change soon. As a photographer, it is almost impossible to avoid this. If beauty is always going to be packaged and sold then the best way to subvert this is to change what beauty means, and what beauty is.

Beauty in advertising and photography goes almost always hand in hand with affluence. There is nothing wrong with either, although to promote them as ‘the answer’ doesn’t seem right to me. There are many paths through life and the majority of us will never be “model beautiful” or so well-off that money is not an issue. I understand why it happens, I’m just not sure it should.

What I cannot deal with, and what makes me really troubled is the manipulation of the female image in print. I understand the power of aspirational advertising, but to make that image physically unattainable is both reckless and dangerous. It also implies that simply being naturally ‘beautiful’ (whatever that means) is no longer enough, and that physical alteration is to be applauded. Don’t get me wrong, if people wish to physically alter themselves that is rightly their choice, but they should not be forced to do it in the quest for some impossible ideal, foisted upon them in the quest to make them buy more shampoo.

As a photographer I quickly lost interest in the world of advertising photography, which is unfortunate as that is where most of the money is. There are photographers with far more talent than me who do some wonderful work in this area and I wouldn’t dream of belittling them. That world is not for me. Personally I don’t find it rewarding although I understand why some do. There is scope for much creativity, but ultimately it just leaves me cold.

I now deal mostly with documentary and editorial work and my main aim now is to try and uncover truths, or at least some manifestation of truths. Once, deep in the middle of a long form photostory I was carrying out, I took a wrong turn in the car. There was a woman, battering the living daylights out of a car bumper outside her metal polishing workshop. I stopped and she kindly let me take her photo (pictured to the left). For me, there is more beauty in that photo than all my glossy advertising shots put together. And not one single squirt of glycerine solution was needed.

 

Check out Alan’s new book, Scotland the Dreich.


Image of perfume bottles used in a blog post by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.

NON-ASPIRATIONAL SCENTS

Sarah McCartney: Non-Aspirational Scents

Image of perfume bottles used in a blog post by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.
Image of perfume bottles used in a blog post by Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays.

Perfumer, Sarah McCartney’s observations on mainstream perfume advertising and how it plays on women’s desires and their insecurities.

Perfume advertising and branding is – 95% of the time – aspirational. Fragrances are attached to designers or to a celebrities and imply that if we just had this bottle, then we’d be a little more like a rich person, one step closer to their success.

Perfume companies rely on customers’ aspirations – their hopes that wearing a scent which is advertised by Johnny, or created for Justin or was once worn by Cary or designed with Tom in the room – will rub off on them. Brand owners launch a fragrance which is an abstract embodiment of their spirit. Spray on their scents and a sniff of their success comes as part of the package.

However, those perfumes’ sales are slowly but inexorably falling. Perhaps there are just too many. Perhaps they are gradually disconnecting from their customers’ worlds.

Then there are the niche brands whose perfume designers bang on about using terrifically expensive ingredients, or about their rich famous customers (who are quite often dead and unable to argue the facts, or royalty – Hollywood or traditional – and won’t stoop to argue), or rely on astonishingly costly packaging to get the point over. For the moment, these are growing.

Perfume houses with a history saw niche fragrance prices going up and decided to have a share of it; now you can find limited editions in smart stores of ranges which cost four or five times more than the same brands’ high street offerings. Either that or they buy their competitors. Often, niche brands are set up using venture capital funding with the intention of building a brand (without actually having to make any perfume themselves) and being bought out.

Designer and celeb brands tend to go in for fanciful, emotional persuasion: Truth or Dare, Sauvage, Twilight, Realities or Romance anyone? My absolute favourite abstractly named aspirational perfume is Marry Me.

Every now and again descriptive perfumes come into fashion again. Taking the gourmande trend to the max, we have Prada’s crossover from abstract to practical: Candy; it smells like sweeties. It’s popular because it smells familiar, and it absolutely nails it.

Gourmande fragrances smell like deserts. Why not? We like puddings. The rise and rise of the salted caramel fragrance has been an interesting trend to watch. (Salt has no smell, by the way, but salted caramel sounds groovier, don’t you think?)

Demeter / The Library of Fragrance has led the way in affordable “smells like the name” fragrances since in 1990s, some great (Playdoh), some middling (Jasmine) and one or two are appalling! (Pizza anyone?) Some border on novelty – Baby Powder, Waffles, and Dirt – but what they do is marvellous. You should all have some.

There are celebrity and designer fragrances which smell like puddings too, but they don’t go all out and say what they mean. They stick with the abstract aspirational names: Forever Glowing – a honey toffee from Jennifer Lopez, Fame – honey apricot from Lady Gaga in a bottle that looked like an alien egg, Royal Desire – mandarin, blackberry, marshmallow from Christina Aguilera.

This article first appeared on http://www.4160tuesdays.com/blog/ in May 2016.


Image of Damn Rebel Bitches Stickers by artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume on a model.

PAINT THE TOWN WITH BITCHES

Tara Nowy: Paint the Town with Bitches

Image of Damn Rebel Bitches Stickers by artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume on location in Lyon, France.
Image of Damn Rebel Bitches Stickers by artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume on location in Lyon, France.

Ex-model, Tara Nowy on inspirational fragrances, stickers and breaking the rules.

Damn Rebel Bitches immediately spoke to me. Not only because of the name but the history and story behind it, I loved the fact it paid homage to heroines past and present. As a brand, it makes a stand, recently releasing an unedited, unretouched campaign that received a lot of attention both good and bad. It has been declared the “first feminist fragrance” – that definitely appeals to me.

After working in the fashion industry for almost 10 years, I found it refreshing to see images of women smiling. To see the lumps, bumps and scars that define our lives, although many of us hide them. Dove had previously tried something like this (I am sure people have seen the ads) but it came to light that they actually cast their models and retouched the images before they went out. Which again created an uproar. Damn Rebel Bitches goes against the grain – it stays away from the half-naked supermodels running through the streets – a more traditional way to sell perfume! There will always be division in opinion but I have to admit some of the remarks made about the natural campaign saddened me and made me realise how disgusting the advertising industry can be. Warping our minds and giving many of us a false sense of beauty, it’s clear “feminism” and “self love” still has a long way to go. This made me even prouder to be part of the supportive Damn Rebel Bitch gang and I wanted to do my bit. I wanted to help spread the word.

Inspired by the images on REEK’s Instagram, I took to the streets of Lyon, stickers in hand, with one mission. Paint the town with bitches. I felt like a true rebel but one with a good cause. As I wandered around I noticed that a lot of the graffiti in Lyon incorporated women and not men, fair enough many were fictitious but why didn’t we celebrate the heroines of the past who fought for the rights we have now? Real women. When I first came across Damn Rebel Bitches I was told a fascinating yet disgusting fact that stuck in my mind. “There are more statues of men and animals in the UK than there are women”. How did this make any sense? Totally outraged I decided to make my own mark on these murals and I was doing so when a well dressed man stopped and asked what I was up to. In a panic and broken French I tried to explain (he didn’t look thrilled) but luckily he detected my accent and switched to English promptly. In a fluster I explained it was a perfume from Scotland, my home. I told him the history behind it and the valid reason for my vandalising what was, in effect, other vandalism. He was nodding with great approval and his stern face soon switched to a smile. I offered him a sticker and gave him the website details to which he said “my wife is a bit of a rebel, I’ll pass this on”. It filled my heart with joy at the notion that we may have a French lady joining the DRB gang. This small Scottish brand was already pushing boundaries and changing minds – not only of women but clearly of men too.

The REEK website says be heroic, unapologetic and passionate. Coming from a long line of outspoken, strong and forward thinking women, I feel I have found the perfume that represents me. The morals and ethics behind Damn Rebel Bitches are to be admired. The image it portrays is powerful and the scent, well it’s not only delicious with hints of blood orange and hazelnut but it reminds me of home. I wear it with pride as I establish a new home in France.


Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

SHAHEEDA

REEK MODEL FEATURE: SHAHEEDA SINCKLER

Image of model for artisan, independent, luxury, eau de parfum brand REEK Perfume’s rebellious, feminist, unretouched, campaign.

Model, Shaheeda, on self-worth, gender, new relationships and being a DAMN REBEL BITCH

The setting in which I feel most threatened as a woman at this stage in my life is upon entering a new romantic/sexual relationship. I have had as many negative experiences with the opposite sex as the next girl, and when I get close to someone new I tend to feel plagued by all the what ifs. Last time I came out of a relationship I was upset and a friend told me, ‘fuckboys are just a part of life’ which made me feel depressed and hopeless about the future of my love life. However when I thought about it more, I chose to devalue this statement. Firstly, I’d like to publicly reject the term ‘fuckboy’ as I feel it is regressive and divisive. If we are pushing for equality I feel like we should avoid new terminology that categorises and degrades. Secondly, I feel like a crucial part in combatting my fear of intimacy is to have an understanding that my relationships pan out the way that they do, not because the people I share myself with are men, but because they are people, with their own self-interests and insecurities, and their own agendas, just like everyone else – myself included. For me, being empowered means acting out of knowledge, experience and understanding, rather than acting out of fear. So, as a young woman, I force myself to be thoughtful about these concepts, to reject the idea that I have been ‘fucked over’, to accept that my emotions are real and not just a part of my gender and to try my hardest to maintain  perspective over the things that happen to me. Ultimately, that’s what makes me a DAMN REBEL BITCH.