The life of an artist requires a lot of skills that one doesn’t perhaps knowingly sign up for. Many of us artists have a calling for making beautiful melodies, writing compelling and cathartic lyrics and singing them, loaded with emotion. I think it may then come as a shock to many an artist, how important purportedly vain things like photo-shoots turn out to be; how imperative it is to be interested and knowledgeable about the visual aspects of one’s career. Those skills may not originally come naturally for many of us….
I have grown into the visual part of my career relatively slowly. I think I’ve always had a talent and an eye for it, but I haven’t trusted myself enough to consider myself literate in it. I used to be too worried about other people’s perceptions to really listen to my gut feeling, and to follow my innate vision. This insecurity has been confounded by having had a number of bad experiences in photo-shoots with either make-up artists, stylists or photographers; and any combination thereof. Thus it was my pleasure this week to be helping out an artist-friend of mine with her photo-shoot. Having found a more solid visual expression of my own in the recent years, it felt healing to extend a hand to help someone else.
I have found many photo-shoots traumatizing, for different reasons. I have some horror stories in my back-pocket about stylists who wished me to undress or dress skimpily for the cameras, and in some cases I unfortunately consented. No, you will not find any titty-shots of me on the internet, but certainly there are batches of photos existing of me, that I’m not particularly proud or fond of. The “SEX SELLS”-slogan, which was flung at me for years by record label executives did much to confuse me stylistically throughout the years… Especially as women are being hit with the same sentiment everywhere else in the world as well.
In addition to over-sexualization, stylists also fucked me in the ass in the past, by dressing me into a number of utterly different styles within a photo-shoot: no through-line, no point to the exercise. Those experiences left me to wonder at the end of them: who the hell am I? Is my identity really meaningless in all of this? Wasn’t this supposed to be a photo-shoot aimed for the promotion of My album? Who the fuck are they to mold me?
Developing a sense of personal style should be a fun exercise for anyone. It’s creative, it’s a chance to get to know oneself, and it’s also an opportunity to affect the impression that other people have of us when they first encounter us. In my opinion, no one should or can do this work for us. In my recent forays into styling for other artists, I have tried to encourage their finding their own vision, and then helping them achieve it. I have found it an exhilarating experience watching others find their own answers and express themselves as they are, not as I would like them to be. I wish that I would have had similar kind of assistance myself as I was growing into my profession, but helping others is proving to be an opportunity to heal some of my own wounds too.