For Women's History Month 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?
Photographer Kate Sweeney from Ohio released her self-published book She tastes like the earth about her selection of fruit photographs in December 2017. With popping colors, beautifully diverse women and apparently a fruit basket subscription, she has found her style in photography, which does not seem to suit everyone. But that doesn't stop her sharing her perspective on the beauty of the female body. If anything haters motivate her to push the boundaries a little more.
Welcome to the Lomography Magazine, Kate, pleasure having you here. Can you please introduce yourself to our Community?
Thank you so much for having me! My name is Kate Sweeney and I'm a self-taught photographer from Columbus, Ohio. I fell in love with photography as a teenager and my work has since been evolving. While I love taking portraits of all different kinds of people, I make work that focuses primarily on the female form and its connection to nature. I'm obsessed with the colors of plants, fruits, and vegetables.
After having had the discussion of women being portrait in photography for years, we want to focus on the female perspective behind the camera. Do you think there is such a thing as the female gaze?
I absolutely think there is such a thing as the female gaze. I also think that the female gaze is so complex and abstract, we're still defining it. Given the power of images and their ability to change the course of social norms, there's no better time to cultivate a feminine way of seeing the world. Photography has been male-gaze-dominated for so long- it's a beautiful thing to see such a rise of the female perspective.
It's empowering, especially, to see women being captured by other women, re-claiming how femininity can be portrayed and re-writing the narrative of how we exist in the world.
Specifically about your photos: Do you think being a woman influences your work? If yes, in what way?
I do think being a woman influences my work. Certainly, photography has healed many parts of me, and that definitely influences the way I see things and what inspires me to create. I'm very passionate about making work that celebrates women and their raw beauty, their wildness, and I take great pride in being a woman artist. Also, being a woman and having countless experiences throughout my life where my body was sexualized, I hope by photographing female bodies from my perspective I can help to desexualize them. Women are goddesses.
Have you ever experienced any benefits or disadvantages as a photographer because of your gender?
I think I’ve experienced both, yes. In a male-dominated world, any sort of portrayal of female rebellion against the norm, or women owning their bodies and their own sexuality definitely makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I’ve certainly had men fetishize my work, I’ve had so many negative comments online. Like, sorry dude, but I will never apologize for showing you a woman who has armpit hair, pubes, and leg hair. We are beautiful in all of our states. Also, our bodies are not here for you to comment on. They do not exist for you. I’ve been censored, for sure, told to “scale it back”, by men. All that does, is push me to make more work that is “too much”. So I guess that could be a benefit rather than a disadvantage! Bring on the inspiration, haters.
Still, there are numerous benefits I’ve experienced because of my gender. The women who bless me with their time, vulnerability, and trust are the reason my work exists. The images that have come from the time with my subjects mean everything to me- the deep level of intimacy and respect. If I were a man photographing the same people, I think the images would be completely different, or they wouldn’t exist at all. The biggest benefit is to just be a part of an amazing community of female artists that are breaking down barriers and inspiring each other.
How would you describe your art? What is important for you in your photos?
Colorful, for sure. And honest. I want my images to challenge norms of femininity, and be inviting but defiant simultaneously. I really try to capture who people are and I think that shows in my work. I think you can sense the connection. I just want to help women feel beautiful, seen, and empowered. Celebrating women in my work has healed so many parts of me and my body image. I hope I can continue to make work that helps other women feel liberated from a false ideal that we’ve had shoved down our throats for too long.
Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired by everything. I never stop looking. I love the colors of fruits and vegetables because I can’t even believe those colors just exist in nature. I’m inspired by images that stop me in my tracks. That certain something. A mood and feeling. Women endlessly inspire me. Being alive. Being human. Creating from nothing. I’m also inspired by many other artists- Petra Collins, Ren Hang, Ryan McGinley, Cindy Sherman, Frida Kahlo. So many others. There is inspiration everywhere, and within us, if your eyes are open.
Do you have any advice for young female photographers in this world?
Don't censor yourself. Go for everything. Never stop shooting. Don't compare your work to others. Focus on your vision and make work that excites you. If you see something, document it. Embrace the things you see that nobody else does. Heal through your art and cherish the time you spend making images. Your voice matters, so don’t stop.