Ashley Armitage’s new pastel-hued series normalises the imperfections that make us human
Despite a larger sense of visibility and acceptance for issues such as gender equality, women and marginalised people are still taught to shrink. Whether it's squeezing up on a bus while a manspreader takes up three seats next to you or the online vitriol thrown at women who speak out on social platforms, we’re constantly being reminded that the idea of simply existing comfortably is a luxury not allowed to many women and nonbinary people. However, one photographer with a track record for discarding societal notions of what marginalised people should or should not be is Ashley Armitage.
Known for her bare-all approach to photography, 21-year-old Armitage is tackling this enforced notion of taking up as little space as possible in her latest series, “Taking Back What’s Ours”. “As girls and marginalised folks, taking up less space has been ingrained into us. To me, this means taking up less physical space and physically taking up less space.” Saying that through this series she hopes to prove that, “we can be simultaneously loud and soft, hairy and shaved, gross and cute. We can be multidimensional and multifaceted because we are people too. We're in control now.”
“We can be simultaneously loud and soft, hairy and shaved, gross and cute. We can be multidimensional and multifaceted because we are people too. We’re in control now”– Ashley Armitage
Swapping out her usual 35mm camera for digital, Armitage chose this format for purely technical reasons and budget constraints. However, removing the soft, hazy nature of film photography for the unforgiving digital lens makes her images – and the cellulite, body hair and pimples on show – that much more confronting. “This series shamelessly zooms into the parts of us that are seen by society as imperfect or undesirable. I just wanted to make it a priority to be more representative of gender and sexuality.”
“I'm still into the idea of a ‘pretty’ photo, but I'm also stepping more out of my comfort zone to show the things we're told to hide and representing them in a positive light,” Armitage continues. Casting her friends as models and treating a shoot as more of an opportunity to hang out with friends. “The process is really fun, and I think it really defines the photo shoot. The fun and the comfortability allows me to create authentic and intimate photos,” Armitage says. Her approach to diversity is natural and unforced – her images representing and reclaiming our insecurities in a way that feels miles away from faux acts of female empowerment championed by big brands and beauty labels.
But, as a photographer who genuinely champions the female gaze, how does Armitage feel about the commodification and co-option of its values by mainstream outlets and companies? “I don't care what corporations decide to latch onto, but I think it's important for them to be ethical about it.” She says, “To me it doesn't really matter how my work ‘looks’, it's what happens behind the camera that matters.”
See more of Armitage’s work here