London Art Spot: The Two Emilys

Newcomers to the city, Emily and Emily from the feminist art collective “The Two Emilys” are settling in to London life just fine (apart from all of those typical moving-to-London money woes we all experience for a while in the beginning). But they’re making themselves at home with £3 corner shop bottles of wine and taking advantage of London’s vast and varied free arts and culture scene. And in the meantime, they’re making videos about what it means to be a woman in the Western world today. 

Read on for their thoughts on London life, their double take on 50 Shades of Grey and have a look at their video toward the bottom of the post – “Validate My Life” (Note – if watching at work, contains bits of nudity).

LLO:So you recently moved to London. How does it feel? 
E&E: Good, exciting and at times pretty terrifying. I think we are both buzzing from the city atmosphere and that there is so much art and culture for free. It’s great to be part of the rat race, rushing to work, reading the metro; we’re finding that quite interesting.

LLO: Where are you from originally and what’s been your biggest challenge or surprise in London so far? 
E&E: We are both from Plymouth, and then we studied in Reading together. Budgeting has been our largest challenge – we are living in a house with no living room and cupboard doors which don’t fit as a consequence.

LLO: Tell us a bit about yourselves as a “feminist art collective”. What does that mean exactly?
E&E: Our work is essentially a social documentary, focussing on how young women behave within society now and how this relates to the concept of feminism, post feminism and what these definitions mean.

LLO: How long have you been collaborating as a creative duo and how did you come together in the first place? 
E&E: Last summer we were really disillusioned with our degree programme and lives in general. Once again there was a serious lack of money, and we took to drinking excessively together. We moaned a lot. We noticed how we sounded, the nature of our conversation, and started filming ourselves. It was an effective way of recording how young women relate to each other, producing material which we began to create satirical scripts from.

LLO: How do you go about devising a skit? What’s your method of putting your ideas into their final format? 
E&E: We take conversations that we are having and write them into a script, which forms very naturally. Then we set up a tripod and a microphone, get all our props together (many fancy dress places have been visited) and experiment with the dialogue.

LLO: You say you create a commentary on modern femininity. How do you think the definition has changed over the years to reflect women now? 
E&E: There so many rules for women which are supposed to define femininity. Due to the feminist movements in the 60’s and 70’s, freedom for the female gender has increased in western society. This has produced a self-policing environment. Women have become a driving force in the fashion and beauty industry, creating their own restrictions which define what it is to be feminine and attractive.. Consumer culture has created a market for everyone. There is so much choice, and such a pressure to be flexible; a flexible career, a varied social life, a varied vibrator collection, a varied wardrobe… which results in this kind of voluntary neurotic behaviour amongst young women; we constantly need approval and are always partaking in extensive self analysis.

That’s what our films try and show. We are aware of our own voluntary exploitation into consumerism; it’s comfy, and it’s easier to think about buying shampoo than about genital mutilation.

Empowerment and repression are now blurring, everybody’s perspective on defining the two terms is different. Take 50 Shades Of Grey – is it a) ‘empowering’ to read porn in public as a woman, or b) encouraging ‘repressive’ relationships, as the storyline encourages the excitement of a relationship where the man has the majority of sexual power and control?

LLO: Can you tell us about any other Londoners you know who are talking about it publicly or places in London where there is an environment that caters to open conversation about what it means to be a woman today? 
E&E: We feel there has been a big feminist boom lately; Waterstones is a great environment which caters to open conversations about women. Caitlin Moran’s How to be A Woman is a bestseller. Living Dolls by Natasha Walter and One Dimensional Woman by Nina Power are also fantastic reads.

Sarah Maple is an artist working in London whose work we respect and find really interesting. She had a recent show at the Aubin Gallery.

LLO: Do you do live shows or focus more on videos? 
E&E: Videos. We have tried live performance a few times. When we film together we lose all of our inhibitions producing an edited video diary. This way we can produce a film which would have a higher impact than a live performance, which we feel can sometimes come across as insincere. However, we do like having a live audience to view our films.

LLO: What is your favourite piece so far and why? Share a clip with us?
E&E: Validated? As it seems like the final product of a lot of hard work.

LLO: What’s your favourite London discovery so far? 
E&E: The private view circuit and this evening it’s the 2.99 bottle of wine from the off license around the corner.

Thanks Emily and Emily!

You can also find The Two Emilys on their blog.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.

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Londoners: Powder Room Girls

Walking around Soho the other day, I found myself on Marshall Street. The door to The Powder Room was wide open and three girls were laughing, dressed in pink and black. I’ve been after photos of women in black and white for Executive Edits. I popped my head in and asked to take their photo. Here’s some happy London faces to cheer up your Friday the 13th!

The Powder Room Girls

London Art Spot: Agata Bartoszcze

 
Agata Bartoszcze, is a photographer, artist and designer living between London and her native Poland. However, her photography takes her around the globe. Her work has featured in numerous publications, most recently Photolife magazine. Her exhibition, “Vernisage – Women by Agata Bartoszcze” at The Bowler pub in Farringdon, is the first public exhibition of her work. It concerns the complex delicacies of the female form and spirit.  

“Rather then thinking of myself a photographer, I instead think of myself as a traveller and a teller of stories,” Agata said. “My travels are part of a life journey. I explore nature, cities and objects but also human behaviour, thoughts and feelings. I collect moments and transform them into images. Images which complete my stories. This thinking has led me to photograph almost everything and tell stories of unforgettable places, convey the fairy tales of the objects, children’s dreams, adult dramas or women’s desires. Lives of ordinary people play the main role in my stories and my challenge is the endeavour of revealing a layer of honesty and true thoughts behind the humans captured on film.”  

For this week’s London Art Spot, Agata tells us about her first public exhibition in London, the story of a chinese woman with peanuts and shares some of her stunning photographs from all over the world. 
 

LLO: How did you choose which photographs to include in your first public exhibtion and are you happy with the outcome?
AB:
Lovely female shapes are terrible complicators of the difficulties and dangers of this earthly life, especially for their owners.” ~George du Maurier

Women are inspiring, intriguing and beautiful. Their minds are like a riddle and feelings like a sea. Because I am one of them. The theme suits its surroundings and the relaxed atmosphere of The Bowler pub. Very positive outcome.

LLO: Has your approach to photography changed since moving to London?
AB:
I’ve always loved photography, so this hasn’t changed. I think I’ve grown with all what I’ve experienced in London.

LLO: Share a photo with a great story behind it and tell us about it.
AB:
Chinese woman with peanuts. Very old lady wanted to sell us some peanuts. We really didn’t want to eat them, but she insisted, started being very annoying even violent. She appeared to be strong. I thought this is a fantastic opportunity for a great shot.

 

LLO: Your photos from Mongolia are stunning. What challenges did you face in order to get the perfect shot?
AB:
I think I am a good observer and sometimes very lucky, especially with the landscapes. Sometimes you have to wait hours to get the best shot, sometimes you are right there, like it was waiting for you.

To approach people is a different story and very individual I would say. Sometimes I have to hide and take a shot secretly, sometimes I build invisible connection and other times I behave bravely and don’t ask even if I know I shouldn’t photograph the person.

LLO: Take us behind the scenes and describe your favourite photoshoot so far.
AB:
 I love traveling, so relaxing and taking photographs is so natural and pleasurable for me.

One of the best ones was on the Trassiberian train, when I saw a little Mongolian girl, very shy at the beginning of our photoshoot. After a while she became a real model, very confident and relaxed, we both enjoyed it withought saying a single word.

LLO: What sort of equipment do you have in your collection?
AB:
It is not equipment which makes you a photographer. I haven’t got a fancy camera or lenses, but I have a vision.

LLO: Are there any London-based photographers you really admire?
AB:
Matt Stuart. Absolutely honest photographer. I admire him for his patience and optimism.

LLO: What are you working on next?
AB:
Any subject is a challenge. As I mentioned before, photography is my journey, I try to see beauty in everything and then tell these transformed into images stories.

Thanks Agata! 

For more of Agata’s work, have a look at her Flickr page.

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here. 

Guest Post: Boutique Run in Battersea Park

Claire Watson got in touch last week to offer us (well, the female half of us, anyway – sorry guys!) a discount on a great event coming up in July. It involves running in the park, massage, goodie bags and champagne to keep the spirit up at an after-party. Plus, it’s for a good cause, so I asked her to share the details here….

 

Any London ladies who love running will know that the Sunday morning runs can be a bit of a bind on your Saturday night social life, but there’s a new run that’s happening this summer which will let you lovely ladies enjoy your running whilst spending quality time with your girlfriends.

Boutique Run is a unique night out for the girls: a scenic 5km or 10km followed by entertainment and pampering.  We’re talking free champagne, hot showers, massage, a fabulous after-party and most importantly a special ‘Bouti’ bag full of goodies.

The evening’s festivities will be taking place in Battersea Park, 6pm on 10th July 2010.

And if you fancy an even more guilt free night out why not do something good for charity? Boutique Run is supporting Breakthrough Breast Cancer, a pioneering charity saving lives and changing futures, through research campaigning and education – removing the fear of breast cancer for good.

What’s more, we have secured a 25% discount off the entry fee for you all.  To claim the discount register online and enter code: OBS2.

Boutique Run will be best enjoyed with your girlfriends and you can sign them up for 25% off too, so why not guarantee them a place as well and enjoy this great night out together.

Sign up here; www.boutiquerun.com

London Art Spot: Alicia Clarke

Photo of Alicia Clarke by Annick Wolfers

It comes as no surprise that Alicia’s dance photography bursts with energy, momentum, movement. Only one who has felt her own body reach its limits this way would be able to portray in a single still shot the flexibility, endurance and perfection of form that are within the body’s capabilities.

Born in Birmingham in 1975, Alicia moved to London nearly a decade ago to pursue her career. She started as an assistant, moved through the ranks as in-house photographer for Northern & Shell publishing followed by a stint as Managing Editor on Happy magazine which eventually led her to become the freelancer she is today.  

For this week’s London Art Spot, Alicia gave up a bit of her time to talk to us about intertwining her passions for dance and photography, how assisting on Page 3 shoots for The Sun has influenced her current photographic study of femininity and tell us when to next catch her performing burlesque as her alter ego Cici Darling.

Audrey Doklan, Dancer

LLO: How does living in London influence your creativity?
AC: 
That depends on whether the sun is shining or not! At its best, London is a hotpot of everything inspiring and influential. I truly believe that whatever you want to do, whoever you want to be, it can happen in London. It’s been my home for nearly 10 years and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I recently moved to Deptford and it’s got such a fantastic arts scene, loads of small galleries, artists’ studios, vintage stores and little cafes, but co-existing with the grungy old crazy Deptford and all its kooky characters! It’s never boring! Sometimes London is just too much though. So much going on, too fast, hard to keep up, I need to take a breather and disappear off to the sea to empty my head. I always want to come home though!

LLO: Favourite place to take your camera in London?
AC: 
I’m not much of a street photographer, always feel I’m intruding on people, so I guess my favourite place to take my camera at the moment is when I go and photograph burlesque nights for my friends. I get in free, get to see lots of acts and get inspiration for my own performance. And I meet interesting people who I might arrange to photograph later for my personal projects.

Beardyman, Beatboxer

LLO: Do you remember the moment you fell in love with photography? How has your style evolved since then?
AC: 
I do remember the exact moment – funny isn’t it? I was 7-years-old at the most and for some reason my Great Uncle handed me a cheap plastic camera and I fell totally in love with it, pottering around my back garden photographing the flowers. I would hope my style has evolved since then! When you put a frame around the world you’re effectively editing out the bits you don’t want, but nowadays I quite like being in the studio and controlling exactly what is put in instead. We’ve all become so image savvy these days that I want to be really careful about what I put into my images, whilst accepting that we all bring our own histories to a reading of an image so I have to relinquish control at some point!

LLO: Favourite London-based artists?
AC: 
I completely love Cecily Brown’s paintings – is she still based in London? Kind of abstract erotic, really thick sensual paint that you really want to jump into and immerse yourself in and then you realise its a picture of an orgy! Different people for different reasons really. I like Anderson & Lowe’s beautiful bodies and their melancholic circus pictures. My friend Rachel Warne does beautiful flower photography – she makes me interested in a genre that normally doesn’t stir me. I’m always jealous of my brother’s travel photography and for over a decade have been wishing I’d taken the pictures that dance photographer Hugo Glendinning takes. Another friend Lottie Davies (who photographed me for the winning image ‘Quints’ at the Taylor Wessing Prize 2008) inspires me in her bravery and certainty in her image-making.

Charlotte Wheeler, Dancer

LLO: In your work for See You Next Tuesday, you’re “using men to enact ‘visualities’…to explore the idea of woman as mask”. Can you explain what this means and how you’re using photography to reach this goal?
AC: 
This is based on a Lacanian psychoanalytic theory that postulates that there is no such thing as ‘woman’ other than what is put on the outside of the body – that there is no essential femininity, it is merely a masquerade. I wanted to explore this hypothesis using men, attempting to locate ‘woman’ through the props we’ve come to associate daily with femininity. You can see from the pictures that they fail, that woman cannot be found through such stereotypical details, however I still can’t find where ‘woman’ might be and how she might be represented. Tricky huh?! I can trace back the origin of this work to being in a tranny bar in San Francisco and realising that all the guys had their labels sticking out of the backs of their dresses, they’d slipped up in the details their masquerade… I also used to work as a photographer’s assistant on shoots for The Sun’s ‘Page 3’ and when the girls went home after the shoot there would be all this left over bits of pretend woman lying around – broken false nails, pulled-out blonde hair extensions, smeared fake tan, false eyelashes and skimpy knickers – it fascinated me. I recently started performing as a burlesque dancer so this reignited the interest in representations of women and their bodies…

Gabriel Prokofiev, composer

LLO: You studied dance for many years. How does this experience influence the way you approach your photography? Do you look at movement of the human body differently as a dance photographer than as a dancer?
AC:
When I’m dancing, I’m feeling movement, its ebb and flow and I can feel the strength and the fragility of my body moving through space.  The job of the dance photographer is to somehow capture and communicate that in a single frozen image, to convey how it might feel to be the dancer.  I love using the possibilities inherent in the camera (long shutter speeds, etc) to show motion in time, but I also like to reveal that moment when the body reaches the perfect point in the movement and freeze it there.  I get so excited when I’m shooting dancers, I want to be them, I want to be able to do what they are doing, I want that relationship with my body.

Mari Frogner at Laban Centre, Dancer

LLO: What kind of camera, lens, kit, etc. do you use?
AC:
 I recently sold my old Hasselblad and it was a very sad moment, but I’m a digital convert. I shoot on a Canon 5d Mark 2, with L series lenses. I use Bowens lighting usually, but for high speed flash for freezing movement, I hire in Profoto lights which have a shorter flash duration. I always shoot RAW to give me the freedom to develop the images creatively later on – like shooting negative film. I found a load of old transparencies I shot of live performance recently. I must have been mad! It was a good learning curve but I want to be thinking about the image itself, not the technicalities when I’m shooting… 

LLO: How did you work your way through the industry to eventually become a freelance photographer?
AC: 
By working very long hours for several years for hardly any money!  I moved to London to work as a full-time photographer’s assistant, and whilst my high earning flatmates lived the high life, I slept on their floor, exhausted by the long hours, getting further into debt. I loved it though – I felt that I was the lucky one! Melvyn Vincent, the guy who employed me, was so supportive, inspiring and nurturing, I had a bit of a shock when I went freelance and realised the industry was so full of divas! I eventually ended up as the in-house photographer for Northern & Shell Publishing, shooting celebrities for them, but it wasn’t really for me. I’m more interested in real life and scratching below the surface. And I’m totally obsessed with dance photography too! 

Marianne, Dancer

LLO: As your alter ego Cici Darling, you have been a burlesque dancer for the past few years. Where are the best places to check out the burlesque scene in London?
AC: 
I started out performing at the Tournament of Tease at Bethnal Green Working Mens Club which is a launch night for new acts – I’d recommend it, they do male and female burlesque.  Volupte, a supperclub in Holborn is well-established and a fun night out, and Proud Cabaret in the city has recently opened to really good reviews. The London Burlesque Week is coming up too in April, organised by Chaz Royal. I’m performing at the VIP awards & closing party at Cafe de Paris – come and see me!

LLO: Which photo are you most proud of and why?
AC:
I don’t know why I like this picture so much, but I do. Isn’t that a great thing about photography? It’s communicating to you beyond words… He’s showing off and performing to the camera, dressed halfway between being Russell and his alter ego Russella, but there’s this sensitivity and vulnerability there. He’s feeling empowered by his make-up and the part transformation, but he’s still the contemplative boy from his real life…

Thanks Alicia!

For more of Alicia’s work, check out her website: www.aliciaclarke.com/

For more London Art Spot interviews, click here.