Fanny Beckman is an incredible portrait photographer and writer who uses her creative work to explore feminist activism – and has worked on projects exploring dance, domestic violence towards women, ethical fashion and mental health struggles. Her most recent work is a body positivity photo series ‘Women of My Generation’ where she took portraits of a variety of different women in their underwear in their bedrooms. This was recently displayed at an exhibition at Brighton Dome for Brighton International Women’s Day, accompanied by a short talk about her project. All the women featured responded to a call out she did on social media and were made up of a combination of her friends and also people she had never met before.
What is special about Fanny’s work is that not only does she capture raw portraits – through a combination of her gentle presence, gift of getting people to open up and dedication to empowering women through the set up of her shots she is able to build trust with anyone she meets and create powerful imagery of women, often in vulnerable positions, that truly reflects the beautiful and often raw and honest conversation that goes along with it.
Can you explain your inspiration for your body positivity ‘Women of My Generation’ exhibition? And what was the message you hoped to convey to women looking at these beautiful photos?
Was it easy to find women to volunteer to have their pictures taken in their underwear? What do you think convinced each of these women to go for it?
Without mentioning any names, do you think any of the women you photographed find it to be a transformational experience do you think? If so could you tell us a bit more…
As a woman yourself, what is your relationship with your body and body positivity?
I know you are very interested in questioning gender roles and combining photography with feminist activism. Can you tell us a bit more about previous projects you’ve been engaged in?
What is next, have you got anything exciting projects coming up that we should know about?
I am planning to extend my latest project since I still have a list of women to take photos off. I am currently trying to find galleries and art venues where I can display my photos. I really like the combination of exhibition and having a longer talk about the issue, and would love to do more of that.
And finally, we’ve been thinking about the ‘female gaze’ – considering how female photographers look at women and women’s bodies differently to the usual ‘male gaze’. Do you agree?
This is a really interesting observation, and I am very glad that you noticed a difference – thank you! The male gaze is very present in most media, and unfortunately, it is not only men who take photos from this perspective. We are all so used to seeing typical “male” and “female” poses, as well as different angles and lights being used for different sexes. It takes a lot of time and education to start seeing these patterns, but once you do it is impossible to ignore them. The fact that I am a woman taking photos of another woman doesn’t necessarily remove all the stereotypes and sexualisation. Women are very much affected by what is considered desirable, just as men. However, as previously mentioned I am constantly questioning gender roles, I have studied loads of advertisement throughout the years, both by looking at photos (private at home or at school/university). This has helped me to identify the underlying structural norms which create and recreates sexism, and therefore have had a massive influence on me developing as a Photographer. For example, I would never take photos of a woman in her underwear from above. The bird perspective has been used for centuries to objectify women, make them look smaller and ready to seduce the viewer. Instead, I take photos from slightly underneath her torso, to make her look more powerful and confident. It doesn’t only affect the final result of the photo, but also the dynamic during the shoot. I don’t want to stand above these girls, I sit on the floor admiring all these inspiring women who give me their time. You are incredible.
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