Today is International Women's Day and we want to have a closer look at the work of aspiring female photographers. With projects like Curated By Girls or Girlgaze Project more and more platforms are being created to feature the female view upon the world. But how exactly does that look like and in what way does gender influence art? How do they themselves experience working in the male-dominated business of photography?
25-year-old photographer Lauren Woods celebrates women of all kind and shape in front of her camera and has made it her mission to generate more confidence, not only in her models but also female viewers of her work. We talked to her about her perception of women in front and behind the camera.
Hi Lauren, welcome to the Lomography Magazine, please introduce yourself to our Community.
Thank you so much for having me! It truly is an honor. My name is Lauren Woods. I’m 25 years old, born and raised in North Carolina, but now living in Hawaii. I am an African-American female photographer who specializes in 35mm film.
What is it that you love about analog photography in particular?
As weird as it may sound, the suspense. I enjoy the thrill of not being able to see the images that I take when shooting 35mm until they are developed. Every roll of film is like a mini surprise Christmas package that takes a couple of hours to unravel, but it’s worth it almost every time. I also love the idea of having to be limited with my shots. Personally, when I shot digital, I found myself carelessly shooting 500 images that almost all looked the same and having to spend hours on the screen trying to break it down. It was miserable. Shooting film has taught me how to be more careful and place a lot of thought within each exposure and generate more diversity within my work. You only have a certain number of chances to get it right and I see that as a unique challenge.
The photos you shared with us only show women. Is that a coincidence?
Not a coincidence at all! Though I do encourage people of all gender classifications and ethnicities to work with me, I am very fond of celebrating the female form and all of its radiant and vulnerable qualities. The harsh tones of advertisements and Social Media often hyper-sexualize women in a degrading fashion and also can make women of color and plus-sized women feel unworthy/not beautiful. Thus I have made it my mission to break the stigma and push love for all types when it comes to women and generate more confidence with them.
For years now, we have been talking about the roles of females in front of the camera. But what about the lens..Do you think there is such a thing as a girl’s gaze in photography?
Absolutely! I am so lucky and feel so blessed to be a part of a generation of female creatives on the rise! I am also very blessed to be a frequently featured artist for GirlGaze Project which has helped me to connect and learn from a mass number of female creatives internationally! People like Natalie Allgyer, Daria Ritch, Ashley Armitage, Sabrina Santiago and Erika Lust have been major influences in my life as a photographer with their bold, daring, inspiring and sometimes vulnerable pieces. I definitely see women as whole making their voices heard loud and proud at this day and age…and I couldn’t be more happy!
Apart from the results of the photos, what is your experience with being a woman in this business? Do you feel as if your gender matters at all? Do you have any positive or negative experiences to share?
That is a very good question. Yes and no, actually when it comes to gender matters. I have had both positive and negative experiences, experiences being a female in the art community. And I have also had experiences where models, stylists, producers, etc did not care. A positive example is that a majority of my models both male and female say that they feel more “safe” that I am a female. Especially when it comes to photographing nude/erotica work. They say they trust me as a female photographer to, “not make things creepy or awkward the way male photographers sometimes do.” I deeply value their trust, so it means a lot to me that they say they feel safe in my presence.
What would be the biggest compliment for you to get from someone looking at your work?
It always makes my heart swell when I have people write me letters of how much my work inspires their work or just inspires them in general. I want my beliefs on celebrating diversity, embracing sexual equality/freedom to influence as many people as possible. Once more, people begin to understand the beauty in all ethnicities and body types, we can finally move on to a more positive reality in the art community. Hopefully, that can also influence advertising and Social Media as well.
What’s your biggest goal for you to achieve with your work?
To eventually work as a photographer for Erika Lust as well as teach my own classes nationally and internationally about film photography.
Do you have any advice for young female photographers?
As cliché as it sounds, I am still finding myself as an artist. So it is somewhat difficult for me to generate authentic advice to give. However, I will say this: Working in the industry, you will hear a lot of no’s before you hear a single yes. Do not let it discourage you. My literal first day as a photographer, I had other photographers in my local community trying to bully me out of it. And they did that for almost a year. However, I can proudly say that I am published in over 20+ magazines, have been featured in art shows from North Carolina all the way to Los Angeles and Hawaii and have a soon coming feature in Vogue Paris. You cannot give up! If you cannot drop other people’s negative energy, let it be your fuel to energize your art. Some of the greatest songs, paintings, and photographs were made famous based off of personal heartache. Keep believing in your vision, find ways to encourage yourself daily, find ways to challenge yourself and things will come around. The best part about this industry is that the possibilities are endless. Just keep pursuing.
Check out more of Lauren's work on her Instagram.