When I was in year 11, I did a folio piece titled, Portraits of Power. It was based and titled off a series of portraits with world leaders at the 2009 UN summit which was photographed by a man called Platon. Although I couldn't exactly get my hands on world leaders to take photographs of, I decided to apply it to my own circumstances and photograph my school teachers and principle. The main reason why I decided to appropriate Platon's work was because his original series was about getting these famous, world leaders out of their comfort zones. He set up a studio and would start yelling at them, playing loud music and trying to break down the wall that politicians effortlessly put up. Teachers are very different outside of the school and classroom environment and I wanted to capture this by talking to them, not as a student, but an adult.I have a list of famous people I one day want to take photographs of. Most of the people on the list are people who inspire and motivate me. They have influenced my life in one way or another and I feel that they would be interesting people to very briefly get to know. I'm a firm believer that photographing someone's portrait is the most intimate way to get to know them. Tavi Gevinson and Bill Murray are tied at the top of that list. I'm not really going to go into why Bill Murray is at the top, as he's far to fabulous to sum up in a couple of words but I did want to talk about Tavi Gevinson and her influence over me.I'm a really big advocate for young people doing amazing things. I have always been more inspired by young people, around my age, doing extraordinary things than the masters of their craft who were my parents age. I think it's because ever since I've had an online presence, I've surrounded myself with like minded people who all happened to be around my age. Although Tavi Gevinson isn't the only person doing amazing things, her achievements influence me greatly because they align with my own aspirations. I started following her blog, Style Rookie when I was fourteen and incredibly inspired by everything I saw on the internet. I've never really been into fashion and I still don't have a great interest in it, but her bold and courageous experiments with clothes inspired me to feel a bit more comfortable in my own skin. I was also completely impressed with her abilities to style photographs of herself with her camera on a tripod and using self timer. I still try and photograph myself like this and nothing ever turns out how I would like it.When Tavi started Rookie at the end of 2011 I was actually more sad than I was happy for her amazing ideas and achievements. I was sad because something like this wasn't around for my thirteen year old self. I spent years pouring over trashy teen magazines believing that I had to have a boyfriend to feel any self worth and believing that I had to wear make up to be considered to be 'pretty'. I basically conformed for my first three years of high school because it was easier and I didn't really know any different. It made me miserable and made me compromise some of my ethics just to fit in, which is never really a good thing. Although I was 'on the edge of seventeen' when Rookie Mag came alive, it has still influenced my life, my thinking styles and most importantly my confidence in who I am. Even though the high school related stories, photographs and art are no longer applicable to my life, they fill me with a good sense of nostalgia and I find myself grinning to myself thinking, I know exactly what they're talking about. It's nice to feel connected, even if you can't really see the person on the other side of the computer screen.After leaving VCA it was very clear to me that working in journalism and writing were very important to me. I had always loved writing stories, blogging and english class but never really considered studying it. I always wanted to work in magazines with my photography and now the prospect of writing and photographing at the same time sounds like a little bit too good to be true. When I first decided to leave uni, I revisited Tavi's blog, Style Rookie for her wisdom. I guess she kind of became the poster girl for my aspirations in life and reminding me that anyone can achieve anything if they work hard for it. I struggle a lot with the whole being an artistic girl who also loves sport and exercise because I sometimes feel that the two don't mix together but Tavi's Ted Talk about how teenagers are multi-faceted really helped me in embracing all of my interests and not feeling like I have to fit a mould or stereotype.
When I met Tavi on Friday night, I gingerly asked her if I could take her photograph, explaining my famous list of people I one day want to take photographs of incredibly fast so that I didn't take up too much time. To be honest, I was incredibly shocked that she said yes. Her trip to Australia kind of seemed like a whirlwind and I wasn't sure if she would have a spare five minutes to let a complete stranger take photographs of her. We originally organised to take some photographs after Rookie Day on the Saturday but after she surprised the unofficial Melbourne Rookie meet up at Flinders Street, we quickly snuck away to one of my favourite spots in Melbourne to do a shoot that probably wasn't five minutes long.
I feel that it's incredibly important to describe to you how I photographed her. None of the photographs are posed. I did not tell her what to do. In fact the only thing I really chose was the background, and I asked her to put on her jumper because it's completely rad. I photographed her in the same way that I photographed my teachers. I just talked to her and snapped as we chatted. I spoke to her about depression, something she mentioned in her talk on Friday night and something I have experienced since I was about fifteen. I don't often talk about that kind of stuff with people, outside of my family, boyfriend and psychologist, but it felt really nice to connect with someone who also knew how it felt. I didn't edit any of the photographs. I did this for two reasons. One; because I felt that the photographs were perfect as they are and that I didn't need to alter the brightness or colours. Two; because in a lot of magazine features (especially the recent Yen Magazine feature) professional lighting, make up artists, photoshop retouchers alter her appearance. I kind of wanted these to reflect my experience with Tavi. Although she was filled with wisdom and such an old soul, she was really just like you or I and I loved that. I feel that in these photographs, despite her achievements, she looks and seems like a regular person who is filled with fascinating thoughts and good advice.
I adore these photographs and I'm immensely proud of them. I read an interview a while ago on Hello Giggles and when Tavi was asked about what she defines as success she said this 'Satisfaction with both process and product, satisfaction regardless of public attention, appreciating positive attention without depending on it, ignoring negative attention that can’t help you, understanding that you are not entitled to an audience and your audience is not entitled to you.' I strongly feel that I am slowly working towards not relying on others to validate my work. But I've never felt more proud of something I've created than I do with these photographs. I'm not sure why. I think it's a combination of feeling completely satisfied with the unedited photographs and realising what I can achieve in a literal five minute period.
I hope you love these photographs as much as I do and that they give you a little insight in the the inspiring and intelligent person Tavi is. I cannot thank her enough with trusting me to take her portrait.