PW: Congratulations on winning the Spectrum Debut Award. Your series Becoming the Ideal, explores the cosmetic industry within the context of consumerism. Do you see this is as specifically a ‘women’s’ issue?
AS: Thank you very much, I am so thrilled. Having my photographs selected by artists whose work I admire is a great honour. I think that the issues raised affect both men and women, but statically it affects women more so. The notion I explore in ‘buying beauty’ is aimed more at the female market. Cosmetic companies are thriving on ‘improvements’ that can be made through clever uses of language, social media and celebrity appearances that attempt to make the buyer feel as though they must purchase the product to enhance their appearance. However, that isn’t to say that men are ruled out of this issue as men do worry about their appearance, more so now than ever.
PW: What is it that makes this topic so relevant today?
MS: I believe that the margins of beauty ideals are the narrowest they have ever been. We are living in a generation where female appearances are constantly scrutinised. Advertising through social media has become a tool for cosmetic companies to sell products similar to ones documented in my photographs. Companies will promote their products by presenting them along with a subject who is portrayed as having the ‘ideal’ appearance conveying the ideas: ‘if you use this you can look like me’ and ‘I use this and look great so you should too’. The increasing popularity associated with visually enhancing products fascinates me, as I believe it relates to the narrowing perception of what is understood to be beautiful.
PW: In what way do you feel photography is able to subvert and provoke debate around issues such as body image and self worth?
MS: I feel that the use of photography by the cosmetic, fashion and advertising industries are each in part creating the issue of unattainable body standards. However, photography is also being used as a way of challenging it, we can raise awareness, share opinions and inspire people very effectively through image making.
PW: Can you tell us more about your decision to present this work as a series of self-portraits, rather than using a model?
MS: I felt that the photographs would not be as personal if I had used a model. The project was my own exploration into the topic of beauty ideals, the images soon became a way of documenting this. I felt that it was important for me to embody the products and express in the images how I was experiencing them.
PW: Can you tell us a little about your future plans?
MS: I plan to continue working part time as a freelance photographer, I have had some great projects in the past and have a few coming up over the summer. Alongside this I am working as a photography intern in London for Igloo Kids clothing company, for me this is ideal as I love working in the studio and really enjoy working with children. I am also eager to continue exploring the topics within my project, this could lead to body image campaigns and charity work in future.
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