Written by Avanti Adivarekar originally published on My Honey and Co.
Avanti: What inspired you to start working with portraits?
Abbey: I’ve been getting into portrait work because I love capturing raw and authentic moments of people. I usually don’t like things to feel planned or posed, but prefer to keep the shoots open-ended so they can feel spontaneous and allow room for collaboration. I try to create spaces where people can be vulnerable in front of the camera and open up.
Avanti: Can we talk about queerness/activism in your work?
Abbey: As a queer woman, I think it’s incredibly important for the LGBTQ community to be represented in the media. I never really connected with a lot of female characters in movies growing up because they were all skinny, hyper feminine and attained unrealistic beauty standards. Through my work, I try to give space for queer voices as well as other marginalized voices to simply exist and appear on camera as their true selves.
Avanti: What do you hope to achieve with your feminist work?
Abbey: I hope that people will see my work and feel less alone. That I will create a sense of community and allow my subjects to feel safe and valid. I also hope that maybe people who don’t know as much about these topics can be exposed to my work, and perhaps gain a sense of curiosity or empathy towards the people who I feature.
Avanti: What are some go-to inspiration sources for your art styles/subjects?
Abbey: Miranda July is a huge inspiration for me as an artist because she bounces between so many different art forms while keeping her artistic voice and vision through everything she makes. She is a filmmaker, a writer, a performance artist – and the list goes on. Her work speaks to me because of the softness and empathy that she naturally projects onto all of the characters… Even though she tells stories about many different kinds of lifestyles, at the core of it, they are all very human and very flawed and that’s what connects all of us.
Avanti: What are some of your lessons learned since you began capturing this sort of film work?
Abbey: I’m constantly learning! Constantly taking in new techniques, new ways to collaborate and combine different mediums. I like to collaborate with many different kinds of artists because each person teaches me something so different. One thing I’ve been learning by taking photo portraits is the different ways to communicate with people when they’re in front of the camera: when to give direction, or when I should just sit back and allow them to improvise. A lot of it is just feeling it out and sensing what each person is comfortable with. Some people prefer to be directed, while others had so many ideas of what they want to be doing in the photos. I try to stay open to many different kinds of ways of working.
Avanti: What kind of impact do you see yourself making in, let’s say, 5 years?
Abbey: I’m not sure… that’s a tough question! I usually don’t think that far in advance. I would like to eventually curate some sort of gallery show featuring my photo and video work. It would be a beautiful experience to see my work displayed physically and getting to see people interact with it in person.
Avanti: Has taking feminist photos helped you build community with a group of women? If so, why is community so important nowadays?
Abbey: Yes! Photography and film has connected me to some of my closest friends. I think having a supportive community is so important. It’s important to surround yourself with people who will lift you up, people who you can share all of your ideas with and people who you can feel safe around.
Avanti: What inspires you to capture women at “their most comfortable?”
Abbey: I’m just so tired of seeing photos that looked “posed.” They don’t feel real to me and I have never identified with them. That’s why I like to capture the “in-between” moments, the moments that are more vulnerable and more human. I want to capture moments that people can look at and see themselves in.
Avanti: Is being comfortable radical? How can we achieve this in our every day lives?
Abbey: I think we can become more comfortable by learning more about ourselves and asking ourselves more questions. More questions about what is important to us, what excites us and what we want to be putting out into the world. I think once we start to understand ourselves better, we begin to naturally feel more comfortable and able to support others as well.
Avanti: My Honey is for young ladies of all shapes, colors and sizes. Why is it so important for you to also capture women of all shapes, colors and sizes in your photos?
Abbey: I think it’s important to be inclusive of all shapes, colors and sizes because this is what the media is severely lacking. There are too many movies, TV shows and photographs featuring skinny, model-esque white women. I want my photography to be a platform for many different voices to be heard and celebrated, and I would never limit myself to capturing just one kind of person.
Avanti: How do you capture someone’s authentic style in a photo?
Abbey: Sometimes I will ask the subjects to bring their favorite outfits or the outfits they feel most comfortable in. Then I’ll base the shoot off of the colors and patterns – I’ll try to choose backdrops, locations and lighting that emphasizes or matches the clothing. Sometimes I’ll shoot people in their bedrooms so they’re already in a space that might reflect who they are in some way or feel more intimate.
Avanti: Is “joy” a concept that informs your work?
Abbey: I think “joy” is a concept that finds its way into a lot of the things that I make. A lot of my photos capture people in mid-laugh or even dancing, and I’m not quite sure why. It just feels kind of lovely to be able to see that snippet of a moment in a photo… the moment someone is kind of letting go and feeling at one with themselves. At the same time, a lot of my photos can feel more somber or contemplative. I think a lot of my work has a very soft and nostalgic feeling to it, like the moment of someone remembering something or kind of off in their own world. I think this is reflected in the color pallets throughout a lot of my work as well.
Avanti: From everything you’ve learned taking photos of women, what advice would you give someone looking to get more comfortable and confident in the skin their in?
Abbey: My advice would be to be gentle and patient with yourself… Try to treat yourself the way you would treat your closet friends. Ask yourself questions and maybe keep a journal to reflect on how you’re feeling day to day. Give yourself time and space to focus on the things that feel meaningful to you. If you’re having a bad day or a bad week or a bad month, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. It’s okay not to always feel okay. Just remember to listen to yourself and give yourself what you need in each moment, whatever that might be.
Avanti is a performing arts manager whose has been influenced by art practices and story-telling techniques from all over the world, especially those that relate to social causes and change. Check out her website here.