splint: hey Em! thank you for chatting with us today! tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are and how you got to where you are today.
Emily: okay, I am Emily Gray, i’m 22 years old. I go to Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin and i am studying photography.
splint: okay cool, how did you know you wanted to study photography?
Emily: i have always been a creative person, I think I have always been better at doing than thinking if that makes sense haha. I left school and started an Art Foundation, I realised that photography was the subject I wanted to focus on and what I was best at so… I went to university. I would definitely recommend that people who are studying a creative subject do an Art Foundation year, I did mine at my local college but it allows you to explore all different types of visual art from textiles to basically anything… it was a really useful experience and I made some wicked pals.
splint: you are currently in your third year at university, right? what are your projects at the moment?
Emily: my university course allows me to have a lot of freedom. We have studied all aspects of photography but you are allowed to pick your own theme and your own photographic medium which is really cool. My work focuses on gender, women and gender stereotypes. I was trying to think about where I got my initial idea from and where this passion to represent women and shine a light on them came from. In my brain the way that I see people is so obvious and how people should be treated regardless of their gender but, there are still female friends of mine that when I have conversations with them they say ‘I feel completely equal to a man’ they are literally oblivious to everything and all the gender equality issues that are so prominent right now. It’s crazy that there are young women out there that feel like society has reached equality. Even for some people not to be aware of the fact that there are so many people (men and women) out there fighting for equality.. And they can’t even process the reason why. People need to realise that there is a need for equality, not just for yourself but for your future children and daughters.
I have a friend who thinks that it is okay to be wolf whistled at and almost views it as a positive – and their opinions on sex workers are so outdated yet they have only just turned 20. It just shows the power that society has to reinforce cultural norms. Going back to the question haha, another thing that pushed me to base my work around this topic was spending the past few years living and working very closely with very ‘laddish’ boys my age. There were constant flippant comments degrading women and the way they thought was so outdated and I didnt understand how they could rationalise that their actions and thoughts were okay… Ultimately, I want to create something that is relatable. I want people who might not understand the current and very important debates around gender politics to be able to look at my work and engage because it is funny or interesting and hopefully learn something from it.
I have also just completed my dissertation and a main aspect of that has been comparing the artificial with the real. Artificial intelligence is massively developing and there is such a scary comparison with how women are presented in photographs and these robots being made. This link is explored by many feminist photographers such a Phebe Schmidt and Juno Calypso so I would recommend anyone ready to take a look at their work and compare the females in them to photographs you see on social media, magazines, models etc. The similarity is scary!!
splint: your work is focused on women and you are killing it, how do you relate to men in your own life? And separate the topics of your work from affecting your relationship with men?
Emily: thanks, I try haha! I think by surrounding yourself with the right kinds of people and allowing those whose views are polar opposite to yours to leave your life has been something I’ve tried and trying to do. Also I think in a way it has made my views on equality and the way women are treated stronger, and helps me to address the issues by having conversations with the men in my life and explaining to them my thoughts and ideas, a lot have found it eye opening!
splint: awesome and some of these pictures will be on our website too so everyone can have a look at your work. A lot of people right now are choosing to study arts subjects, I thought it would be interesting to hear your advice to someone who wanted to take up further education in a creative subject..
Emily: the main thing is to remember your own style and why you’re doing what you’re doing. If you are a creative person it’s going to be so hard for you to stand out, get your work seen or even get a job remotely close to your subject. I just think, if you remember the reasons why you are doing it, then you will want to continue with it.
splint: who are your favorite photographers or people who inspire you? So maybe if someone reads this, looking for inspiration, could relate to your inspirations, if that makes sense?
Emily: there is a book called ‘Girl on Girl: Art and Photography in the Age of the Female Gaze’ written by Charlotte Jansen (the link is at the bottom!!). It is a book full of female photographers who focus on the female. It’s a great book.
splint: who is your female idol? Who would you just LOVE to meet?
Emily: Dolly Parton!!!! I think she is totally crazy whilst also being an example of someone doing what they want to do no matter what anyone else says. She got into singing whilst being a female surrounded by so many men in the country music scenes – she fought her way in there and got herself in! MY QUEEN. What a woman.
splint: thank you Emily, it has been a pleasure chatting to you and we can’t wait to see some of your new work!
Link to Girl on Girl, mentioned above – https://wordery.com/girl-on-girl-charlotte-jansen-9781780679556?currency=GBP>rck=MmppN1BnZFlZK2tHUjh2VnpGQ3dHOTE5ZFVUbGU5aHc2OUw4cUJiK3c4N1BlVlR3SkhQT2ZaUE90VEdCYjN0bDc5WFVPSzBBWWxoNmRqWkU0eXFGZnc9PQ&gclid=CjwKCAjws6jVBRBZEiwAkIfZ2stvbGEnI_QtEEAkBAGZSPJXGejLgBVNfkYuuim-UdS60N6sO0-ZpBoCthwQAvD_BwE