Please tell us a little of your background, and how you got into photography.
It all started with an old hand-me-down Kodak Instamatic my mother gave to me when I was 11 years old. I was addicted immediately. I’d spend any money from chores or birthdays on film and processing, just taking photos of friends and everything around me.
I lived in Southern California until my teens, when I moved to the Vegas area to be with my mom who had remarried. My real father was abusive. When she realized how much I enjoyed taking pictures, she asked if I’d like to join the camera club she was in. She figured if I was going to take so many photographs, I might as well know how to do it right. At 17, I joined The Nevada Camera Club, and bought my first “real” camera, a Pentax K1000. Here I captured my mom in action as she photographed a model for the Nevada Camera Club monthly competition.
I also began modeling, but found I enjoyed taking photos of my model friends even more. Eventually, I took a class in college to learn processing. After a few years of working in photo labs, I began toying with Photoshop, which lead to a career in digital photo editing.
When did street enter the mix for you?
When I was 22, I was in a car accident which triggered fibromyalgia and depression. It took years for a diagnosis, and I continued to work as much as I could. One day, while working in production and imaging for a large media company, I had a breakdown. I was out of work for weeks on end and back in therapy. When I finally tried to go back to work I just couldn’t cope. I filed for partial disability and got it.
I was able to work freelance for a different publisher, doing the odd photo shoot here and there. But eventually that work dried up and I became even more reclusive. As it turned out, I also had/have generalized anxiety disorder. (A result of my father’s abuse, no doubt.) And it was at an all-time high.
I spent my days doing digital art and chatting with people online. It was easier than going out. And that’s when I met and fell in love with a fellow artist through Facebook, a British sculptor living in the English Riviera. In August of 2009, he insisted I come and stay with him, and despite my anxiety, I jumped at the chance to do something new with my life.
Because things in this part of England are so close together, everything is walking distance. And it isn’t 118 degrees in the summer! We were outside every day taking in the sites and doing the shopping, etc. No more jumping in a car and driving to a store and then getting lunch in the drive-thru. Naturally, as a photographer, I was visually documenting it all for my friends back home to see. Nick and I married and I became a permanent resident. As time went on, I began to notice I was photographing more and more people in their daily activities. I enjoyed these images so much that I researched the genre, which up until then was unknown to me. I was delighted to see so many styles of street photography, and how popular it had become. From that moment on I couldn’t go outside without observing the people around me, rather than hiding away in my own anxiety ridden bubble. I was actually seeing other people, and sharing a small moment in their stories. Now, even if I don’t have a camera with me, I am tuned in. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to switch it off.
Do you think there are advantages in being a woman street photographer?
I do feel being a woman street photographer has the advantage of societal trust in the female. Women are thought of as less threatening, whereas a man photographing strangers, especially women or children, will put people on high alert. Don’t get me wrong, I get the odd glaring stare as well, but I would wager it is much less often than I would if I were a man. It’s yet another example of how men and women are stereotyped. It just happens to go in our favor in this aspect. It allows us a bit more freedom in who or what we shoot.
A few years ago I decided to take a more professional approach to my street photography and re-brand myself. I thought about the many women authors who use initials in order to avoid judgement about being female. At first I was reluctant, but eventually I did change to RL Bellamy, rather than Regina Bellamy. It had a nicer ring to it anyway. It’s sad that in this day and age we still have to resort to such games, but I find it does go in my favor. My theory was proven soon after, when I had an exhibition in a local gallery. Another photographer saw the poster for the show and asked the gallery owner who the “guy” was.
Dogs are a recurring theme in your photography, what can you tell us about that?
All my life I have had dogs as pets. The bond only got stronger as I got older, and at some points in time I’ve had five dogs at once. When I moved to England I was forced to leave my beloved miniature pinscher with my ex-boyfriend. I missed him, and still do, every day. Luckily, England is a dog loving country, and in this area you will find a plethora of dogs everywhere and anywhere you go. Since I no longer had a pup of my own, I found myself photographing other people’s dogs whenever I went out. They are such characters, and they way the interact with the world around them is fun to capture. Some people may not see the personality in animals, but for me it is just as obvious as it is in humans. Recently we got a puppy. He’s taking up a lot of my time but I am thrilled. I think when I start shooting again, having him with me will be an even bigger advantage to my work. People are absolutely in love with this little guy. They’ll be looking at him, not at what I’m doing.