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Battlehymn: A fiercely beautiful photo series spotlighting fiercely talented female artists

This article appears in print in Happy Mag Issue 9. Grab your copy here.

Melbourne-based photographer, stylist and creative director, Michelle Pitiris, aka SheisAphrodite, has been travelling the country armed with her camera capturing fiercely beautiful images of some of Australia’s most exciting female artists.

The project is being published as a stirring ongoing series titled Cherchez La Femme, part of which was recently shown at Sonos House – an immersive and compelling two-week event, filling an old landmark Sydney home, curated by the folks at Sonos – with each image presented alongside a “battlehymn” – a piece of music that is meaningful to each of the artists.

We had a chat to Pitiris about the inspiration behind the series, what she loves about photographing musicians and her advice for budding female creatives. See the interview and the full series below!

Michelle Pitiri

Hatchie. All photos by Michelle Pitiris (SheisAphrodite)

We chat a had with Michelle Pitiris about BattleHymn, the latest instalment in her series Cherchez La Femme capturing fiercely beautiful images of some of Australia’s most exciting female artists.

HAPPY: Tell me about your latest exhibition, Battlehymn, at Sonos House. Was there something specific that sparked the idea?

MICHELLE: BattleHymn is the latest instalment in my Cherchez La Femme series which looks to put the spotlight on female musicians in Australia. It features some of the countries brightest up and coming musicians such as Vera Blue, Thandi Phoenix, Alice Ivy and Eves Karydas. The original idea behind the series was born from not seeing enough, if ANY, females musicians gracing the covers of music publications one day when I was at the airport. I wanted to give the female musicians in this country the chance to be seen as well as heard and Sonos was having some very poignant conversations about the issue so it only made sense for me to partner with them.

HAPPY: How about the title, BattleHymn, what does it mean to you?

MICHELLE: BattleHymn is something I identify with as a title because I feel that in today’s state of the industry for females, they are really struggling to gain the same level of respect and autonomy as their male counterparts, and so I was very interested to hear how these amazing women keep the fight going. I too use music to keep my spirit alive which is why I was so pleased that Sonos helped me being the series to life.

HAPPY: What’s something that you’ve learned from working with all these artists?

MICHELLE: I have learned that every one of these women has a story, and they have a voice and deserve to be seen, heard, and accepted for their gifts.

HAPPY: What inspired the choices you made when it came to selecting artists to shoot?

MICHELLE: I researched an array of women in the industry, read interviews that they had done in the past few years and chose women who had been subjected to experiences where their gender was used as a hindrance, or novelty. That way I knew they would be able to relate to the conversation we were trying to start.

HAPPY: Although gender inequality is glaringly prevalent in the arts, the arts also seems to be where a lot of progressive action is happening. Why do you think this is?

MICHELLE: I’m not sure! Maybe because creatives are more in touch with their emotions and their ability to communicate and express – whether through song, images, art or conversations so they aren’t as afraid to raise the issues and begin the process of altering its current state. I’m sure there is gender bias in many other industries, but I suppose that because so many people listen to music, or watch movies they are becoming more exposed to the issues by those in the industry because they have the platforms.

HAPPY: How do art and politics coexist in your art-making process?

MICHELLE: I tend to stay away from politics as I personally find it to all be somewhat disingenuous. When I create, I create for me based on my beliefs, standards and views- not on anyone else’s.

HAPPY: Your photography is really aesthetically diverse. Do you approach each session with a clean slate?

MICHELLE: Yes absolutely. Because each artist is their own aesthetic so I create a story or scenario based off each individual. I also aim to not shoot the same thing over and over again and to always diversify and challenge myself. I don’t ever want to be a square peg in a square hole.

HAPPY: What is it you love about photographing musicians? What about them inspires you?

MICHELLE: The desire to work with musicians came from quite a young age of being exposed to music. I always had an affinity with it. When I was very young, every day my parents had the radio on in the mornings, or mum would be playing her albums on weekends and at night. So I grew up constantly needing to listen to music. It made sense to work with musicians as I respect them so highly since I myself cannot sing nor play an instrument and always wished I could! Music triggers so much emotion and nostalgia for me. I couldn’t imagine photographing anything else! And the fact that some musicians have a persona that they perform as, it can give an image such an interesting subject.

HAPPY: Finally, do you have any advice for budding female creatives?

MICHELLE: There is room for you. Don’t stop.

 

This article appears in print in Happy Mag Issue 9. Grab your copy here.

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Janet Planet

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Jack River

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Stella Donnelly

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Thandi Phoenix

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Vera Blue

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August 2, 2018