Street photography gallery from @womeninstreet, curated by Tara Wray
Curator: Tara Wray
Curator: Tara Wray
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.
I have always been attracted to old Film Noir, and what I like best about the style is the great sense of drama when light and shadow interact, transforming an ordinary scene into something unusual.
Shadows and silhouettes thrown by people, buildings or anything in the environment suggest all kinds of narratives and moods, from the enigmatic through the humorous.
From now until 10 December, I’m looking for images that conjure up this atmosphere. Black and white or colour, show us the Film Noir in you.
Submit your work on Instagram:
Follow us on Instagram: @womeninstreet
Tag your images #sheshootsnoir
Please tell us a little of your background, and how you came to photography.
I am Brazilian, 31 years old and I live in São Paulo.
I decided to work with photography in 2013. Before that I had a formal job in an office, but it was never what I wanted to do, so I began to reflect on the hobbies that I liked the most to start as a profession, and from that came photography. I dipped myself into my past and found out that my mother loved to photograph. She is the person who has made most of the images of the family since her youth. I think the love came from there, from seeing my mom up and down with a camera in her hands, always ready to take pictures of meetings, parties, family reunions and trips.
Photographing the streets is even more recent. Three of the last four years I was doing newborn essays, photographing families and women, and it was only in 2016 that I began to develop my personal work. It took me a long time to realize how much I blocked myself, because of all harassment that we women suffer in public spaces. It took a lot of support and debate about our oppressed condition to get rid of some fears and insecurities. Today, the streets are my favorite photo exercise. It’s where I can be myself, explore lights, meet characters and especially develop my view.
You are member of the Mamana Foto Coletivo, please tell us about that, and how and why it was founded.
Mamana Foto Coletivo is a Brazilian female photo collective. It arose in 2016, precisely in the year that I began to explore more street photography. I met a friend, Renata, and we started discussing how much we, as women, are too little encouraged to be photojournalists or street photographers. From this debate came the need to get organized, to meet more women and find these photographers, so we can get together and take this space that has historically been denied us.
From the first moment we got out on the streets, we suffered from harassment. As if society said “Go back home, this is not your place!” That’s part of the sexist culture in which we’ve been raised. Woman has always been kept in private space, and man has always been given the privilege of being on streets. With photography this is no different, so much so that women do not even think about being photojournalists, covering wars, protests, or walking on the streets with a camera around their necks, photographing strangers.
This is the context that Mamana promotes. We look for, encourage, and publish the work of women photographing on the streets. We want to connect them, so that they become empowered and occupy these spaces.
Today we are seven photographers — in São Paulo: Renata Armelin, Bruna Custódio, Gabriela Biló, and myself; in Brasília: Janine Moraes and Jacqueline Lisboa; in Rio de Janeiro: Tita Barros — and more than twenty collaborators spread throughout Brazil.
Our goal is to be able to have presence in even more Brazilian states, and even to make connections with female photographers all around the world.
Please tell us a little background about yourself, and how you came to photography.
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and grew up in what can be most simply described as a spiritually focused commune made up of ex-hippies (transitioned into the 80’s as “conscious yuppies.”) My mother was born in Egypt, and emigrated to South Africa as a child. My father is American, of Russian and Polish descent. I was always surrounded by a wide diversity of experiences, views and relationships. I existed in a very liberal, safe place that was tucked inside the larger environment of a very segregated and violent Apartheid South Africa in the 80’s, then a blossoming and hopeful, but still violent country in the 90’s.
At 22 I headed to the US. I never intended to stay more than a couple years, but I got sucked in to New York as people do, the sense of freedom and potential so irresistible, the diversity of the city both so familiar and so different from what I was used to.
My interest in photography began early, sparked by my father’s own photography. He was always the guy with a camera or video camera in his hands. I spent hours going through his binders of negatives, contact sheets and black and white prints from the 70’s, and was inspired to create. I have always felt a pull to tell stories of real human experience, but the medium has changed over time. I wrote some, and I dabbled with photography on and off in my teens and twenties, but cameras were stolen, lost or broken. I put almost all my energy into documentary films and television, and made production my career, first in South Africa, and then as a TV producer in New York.
In 2011 I got an iPhone and started taking pictures with it. I couldn’t stop. At first I was just amazed with what could be achieved with a phone camera. I discovered photographers who were using Instagram as a serious place for sharing and learning, and I dove in. I began to photograph on the street, in the subway, thrilled by the moments of humanity and character, the traces of a story, that I could capture with the phone. But by 2013 I was hankering for more control, and I bought another DSLR.
My world expanded from there. I photograph all sorts of subjects now, working with families and artists, as well as on the streets wherever I travel, but whatever I’m shooting, I approach as a documentarian.
I don’t think I really knew of street photography as a genre before 2013, but when I look back at photos I took in my short bursts of shooting throughout the years, I see that I was always doing it. I think growing up in the unusual environment that I did made me interested in diversity of experience, seeking candid moments that make me feel connected to those whose lives may be far removed from mine.
What is the inspiration for your Beach Bodies series?
It’s really all about that thong. The Beach Bodies series was born during a two week holiday to Rio de Janeiro in 2014.
What struck me almost immediately upon arriving at the beach was how women of every imaginable body type seemed to feel so at home in their own skin. Not just there, but out there in all their glory, and without shame or regard for shape or age. Thong bikinis were not reserved for those with toned and tight behinds. So many women claiming the beach as their own within the space, claiming the right to be there in their bodies just as they were. To be comfortable, to be sexy for their own sake, to be physical and to bare their bums and bellies to the sun, to walk and run and stretch and enjoy. I bought a purple thong bikini from a vendor on the beach and joined in. It gave me a freedom and comfort I had never experienced in a swimsuit before. It’s a feeling that has stayed with me. So I began to photograph the Beach Bodies I saw that inspire me with their unselfconsciousness, both male and female. They give me permission to be that comfortable in my own skin. I’m on the lookout whenever I hit the beach, in any country on any continent.
Do you find it different to be shooting on the beach than any other locales, a different mindset for your approach?
I’m trying to capture people in a moment that is particularly unselfconscious, so I try to be even more discreet than I would on the street, where I care less about being noticed with my camera. I don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or under scrutiny, which would be contrary to what inspired me in the first place, so even though I’m usually shooting undetected, I always maintain a respect for my subject and I hope this comes across in the images I’ve chosen to include in the series.
Do you think being a woman has an affect on your approach?
It certainly has an effect on the subjects I choose and the way that I see, which I think is with an empathetic and strongly feminine quality. And it definitely has an effect on how I am perceived on the street with my camera. But my womanhood is inextricably tied up with all the other things shape my vision — being a 5 foot tall, introverted, white girl from Africa just to name a few. Which has more effect on my approach? I don’t know.