Georgina Martin began her career as a fashion photographer shooting backstage at fashion week and a number of editorials, but she found her passion down a more academic route and began her fine art practice in 2015 after completing her Masters Degree at Sheffield Hallam University. Georgina’s exploring the balance between the expression of female sexuality and female empowerment through those who are closest to her. She’s attracted to photographing anything beautiful, sometimes with a sense of isolation, often with the perception of not everything is how it seems …
How did the idea for the series come about?
My practice is orientated around female identities and experiences. This series in particular was a response to how I felt after turning 25 and finding that this put me and my work in the category of ’25 and over’. I was no longer ‘young’ according to some. This opened up a discussion within my social circle, and we all wondered where the time had gone, how did we get so ‘old’, should we be worried? Suspended Adulthood is the feeling of being in limbo, of confusion and uncertainty about the future, all the while, nothing has really changed, it’s just a number.
How do you approach these intimate shoots?
My subjects are always well known to me, women who I’ve discussed my vision and message with so when it comes to them being photographed there is an element of trust and co-operation that has become second nature. When I’m working on a project I become quite obsessive. Due to the nature of my work, my shoots are often unplanned and so I take my camera everywhere with me. It’s become an inside joke with my friends, we could be having breakfast one morning where the sunlight will enter the room and mid conversation the camera will come out so everyone will assume their role and let me capture the moment. When a shoot is more planned, it begins with a cup of tea and a discussion between myself and the subject. If I’m photographing someone new, I like to establish their boundaries. Every woman has her own opinion about exhibiting their body and it is crucial to me to understand their level of comfort. It’s a process of adapting the work to each woman’s experience of her body, if I want to photograph you, it’s because I am inspired by you in which ever form that might take.
Can we photograph the female body differently in a more powerful way?
It depends on your own definition of powerful. The female body has been represented in all forms, in all styles and through all mediums, yet we still have the same basic response. The body becomes political once it is put on display so there is no escaping the patriarchal imprints left by centuries of oppression, the male gaze reigns supreme. So I believe it isn’t a case of finding a new form of expression, but a sociological shift in how we perceive female sexuality. If we hide, then others will say we are not fighting for change, if we bare all and demand ownership of our bodies, then we become accused of perpetuating a male dominated society. I believe it’s no longer a question of how to create power, but how to break it down and transform it.
What inspires you?
Everything! It could be the way the sunlight falls into a specific place during the day, a conversation, a change of environment or even the shape of someone’s kitchen. I love to find inspiration outside of photography, music really opens my mind at times and then my work tends to come into formation through a sensation of impulse rather than a desire to appropriate other works. I find I’m more drawn to subjects different from my own because I find looking at similar works can create a cross-contamination in my mind where I can’t pinpoint if the idea was mine or theirs. So I look at architecture, 18th century still life paintings, street photography and even glassware. I am currently visiting a friend in Cambridge and she’s staying with a distant relative. I’ve spent most of my time looking at all the ornaments and paintings the homeowner has chosen to decorate with and found a perfect spot for a few portraits to shoot, so I’ve become inspired by other people’s inspiration.
How would you define beauty?
Recently I’ve been advocating that beauty is through happiness, being content with oneself creates an aura that impacts on everyone around you. Beauty is subjective but happiness is a universal emotion that is achievable. Unfortunately that is easier for some than others, however I believe happiness should always be the target over trying to conform to conventional beauty ideals. Happiness means something different to each person, so that’s a uniqueness you carry with you and share with others.
Film or digital?
Film was an obvious choice to me for my art. I work commercially as a photographer to pay the bills which is all digital based so when it comes to my own projects, I find the slower pace you take when using film, especially when using my Hasselblad, allows for self evaluation in the moment. You can’t immediately see the image, so I become less concerned about it and find my focus is more on the subject and what they are feeling. Aesthetically, I prefer the imperfection of using film because sometimes you have to let go of the technical rules in order to project your message and my camera is always hand held so in certain light situations there is motion blurring, but I’m not interested in crisp sharpness or perfectly straight compositions if it limits my expression. I think film has become romanticised because you’re using a medium which takes an imprint of light, and you could say an imprint of the soul.
What makes you happy?
I’m surrounded by incredible people, I’m very fortunate to have people around me who all strive to be better and to help others, knowing I have them in my life feels like that’s all I really need. Equally, I have come to terms with who I am as a person as I’ve had a history of anxiety and depression since I was a child and it consumed me until I reached a point where I could not carry on, so I let go of certain people in my life who were filled with hate and altered my state of mind. There are so many challenges we face in modern society that can impact on our well being. I think that I’m fortunate in that I have found a way of expressing myself through photography which gives the sensation of exorcising thoughts and emotions so it doesn’t build up. My photography has always been a therapeutic process, I feel the most calm and at the same time excited when I’m deep into a project. Maybe it’s the distraction my mind needs.
What’s next for you?
I have a number of projects I want to start on but at this particular time I’m applying for a practice-based PhD. I’ve found a passion in academic writing and research since I undertook my Masters degree, the research aspect severely improved my practice and helped me realise a clearer message I was trying to portray so I became a little addicted to absorbing information and transferring that into my work. I want to focus on the politics of the female body within a social media context, and share this information in many forms to speak to younger generations of women. All the while continuing to work with no boundaries or deadlines, just creating images that speak to myself and others around me.
photography: georgina martin