January 26, 2018

An Interview with She Shoots Film

Article submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by Jane Fayle. Featured Photo by Aletheia Casey. 

Since its humble beginnings in 2014, She Shoots Film has been a film photography publication dedicated to exploring life through the female gaze. The Editor-in-Chief Aliki Smith hails from Melbourne, Australia and started the magazine with the mission to create a platform made by women from around the world. Each issue is centred around a unique theme, each one offering a raw and emotive selection of images and stories. Smith has grown a strong community and continues to do so, serving up some seriously beautiful work that keeps us wanting more. Now with Issue 3 underway, we caught up with her to find out the inspiration behind the latest issue – MOTHER, and how she got the project off the ground. 

Photo: Clare Rae

How did you personally get started with photography and how did the concept for She Shoots Film come about?

I got started with photography about twenty years ago. My first camera was a Pentax Espio and as it would turn out, a lens I would tragically damage. I was mortified by that drop. I produced some really interesting photographs with that camera after that point. Back then, it brought me intense enjoyment to get my rolls of film developed at the chemist. Of course, chemist processing of film has significantly died off here in Melbourne. Since that time, I have worked with different cameras, subjects, objects, themes, artists, groups and collaborators, all of which in some way, shape or form, would lead me to create She Shoots Film in 2014. The magazine is by women, through and through. What we put out to the public is film photography and words by women. But it’s more than that. It’s women’s viewpoint of the world, it’s personal, and it places the female gaze at the forefront unabashedly in print. We make women’s experiences visible and that’s always been the driver.

What is it about Melbourne that inspires you and how would you describe the scene for art and photography there?

Melbourne is an incredible place to live in if you have a penchant for the arts and culture. I feel grateful to live in a city that has such a rich offering of diversity in art and culture. The scene is hot and if you’re interested in something, no matter how unusual or left wing, there’s probably something here for you. We have the Centre for Contemporary Photography which regularly has incredible exhibitions, but we also have a significant amount of smaller galleries that provide a voice to artists who are lesser known or just starting out. We’re exposed to some great street art too, so there are various spots across the city that have art that is accessible literally on street walls any time of the day or night. We have an active film photography scene. Places like The Fox Darkroom, Film Never Die, Hillvale, Noir Darkroom, Strange Neighbour and great printers like Hound & Bone and Thirds Fine Art Printing really support the thriving film photography community here. She Shoots Film as a print publication is privileged to work with a brilliant team and artists from across the globe, but we are designed by Lucy Guernier and published by Independent Women’s Publishing who are both based in Melbourne, Australia. I’d like to think that our publication has something inherently Melbourne about it too – our aesthetic and general feel.

Photo: Giulia Bianchi
Photo: Hilde Pank

You’ve recently released your second issue, titled ‘MOTHER’. Can you tell me a bit about this theme and the inspiration behind it?

We wanted to follow up our first issue, Self Portrait, with something strong, bold, and intensely connected to an emotional experience and an experience which is inextricably bound to woman. The theme of MOTHER seemed to fit this perfectly.

You have such a vast network of contributors from around the globe, how did you get to work with such a diverse group of talented women?

Our contributors, both photographic and written, have largely arisen as a result of organic engagement. When we first started out, we worked with women we knew in some way – other women film photographers we looked up to. Since then, we’ve been fortunate in garnering significant interest from those who love film photography from near and far. Once we revealed that we would be taking She Shoots Film to print, we had many incredible women artists contacting us to feature in the magazine or responding to a call out. In my experience, women in the film photography community are a solid bunch of encouraging and lovely peoples.

Your independent magazine supports women film photographers, offering a thoughtful approach through the female gaze, why do feel this is important to acknowledge?

It is important to acknowledge, post and publish photographs by women because the *female gaze offers a much-needed difference to that produced by the male gaze. The term male gaze was first coined by Laura Mulvey in her seminal essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema (1975). Mulvey’s meaning of the term relates to the depiction of a woman from a male heteronormative viewpoint, presenting woman as an object of male pleasure. We know that our society is saturated with still and moving images that have been created or influenced heavily by the male gaze. The male gaze is heterosexist. And personally, I think it’s boring. For me, the female gaze is far more interesting, nuanced, and less inextricably reflective of a sexualised gaze. It is also not based on an imbalance of power. Images and photographs made by a female gaze offer us a view of women’s experiences. When a woman stands behind a camera and presses the shutter release, she takes up her power. When she makes a photograph, she takes up her power. When this work is posted or published, that power is shared and multiplied. She Shoots Film counteracts the male gaze and invites people to see the world wholly through the eyes of a woman.

*The use of female in female gaze includes all those who identify as a woman.
Photo: Cheryl Hanna-Truscott

In your view, who would you say is a talented upcoming photographer to keep an eye on?

I come across many talented upcoming photographers through She Shoots Film and it’s really difficult to identify just one. Lauryn Hare, Krizia Flores, Hannah Patchett, Mia Krys, Lisa-Marie Kaspar, and of course it would be remiss of me not to mention the brilliant upcoming talent interspersed throughout both Issue 1, Self Portrait, and Issue 2, MOTHER.

How would you describe your experience shooting with film compared to working with other mediums?

I came to film at two different points in my life. My first experience was based on the fact that a film camera was the only camera I could access to make photographs. This first experience was primarily about documenting my engagement with the outside world – trips, family, friends. My second experience with film was borne of a necessity to express myself using a tool that enabled me to create a certain aesthetic with a specific commitment. This experience was very different from the first and really gave me a space to work through some internal challenges. I have also worked with writing, drawing and painting, each having its place in my world. However, film has stood the test of time for me and it’s the medium I have found most enjoyable. I use many formats, including 35mm, medium format, large format and instant. I enjoy making a photograph from end to end – starting from loading the film through to hanging the wet negative and then printing. In contrast, I also really enjoy instant. I’ve had my Polaroid Sun 600 for many years and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new Polaroid Originals! When in a creative funk, I pick up my Polaroid and start up…within minutes, I’m present and enthused by the magic of an instant creation.

Photo: Aletheia Casey

If there was one piece of advice you could give to photographers who are just getting started and want to experiment with analog materials, what would it be?

I’d encourage them to start with a 35mm camera and an instant camera. 35mm because there are some great affordable 35mm cameras out there, making it a widely accessible format. 35mm film is also more available than any other film format and you usually get anything from 24 frames up to 36 frames in a roll. Lastly, there are also still a number of places that will happily develop and scan 35mm. Overall, 35mm can be economical, accessible and enjoyable – a great place to start. I’d also recommend instant, because it too is accessible and there’s nothing quite like making a photo there and then. It’s a nice change up to the traditional roll of film and you get to produce a physical print right in that moment. Lastly, move with subjects or objects that draw you in.

Can you tell us what’s coming up next for She Shoots Film?

We’re currently working on Issue 3, Metamorphosis and we’re encouraging people to submit to this next issue. We love print, so expect us to expand on print in 2018!

All photographs courtesy of She Shoots Film taken from their latest issue – MOTHER.