As part of making my page more about photography, and less about me, I have decided to ask for guest contributions from various people. This blog entry has taken on an interview format, and our interviewee today is Cape Town-based pro tog, Grethe Rosseaux. Grethe is doing a lot for female photographers in a (perceivably) male-dominated profession, I decided to find out more about women in photography, courtesy of Grethe. This is a shot, but insightful piece.
I’d like to give our readers a bit more perspective about the magenta-haired lady we have as our first interviewee today – Who is Grethe – tell us a bit about yourself – fifty words or less.
Hello, I’m Grethe! I’m a self-confessed obsessive workaholic photographer and illustrator who has an affinity for dyeing my hair magenta and being a nerd. I live on the internet, I drink a lot of tea and I will sleep when I’m dead!
How would you describe your photographic “style”? What inspires you? Who influenced you to become a photographer?
I like to say that my style is polished and elegant yet energetic and cinematic – I’m inspired by the aesthetic of film and cinematic colour grading and my concept work is mostly inspired by my love of aviation, mythology and fashion. As far as influence goes, I don’t think there is really a single person I can attribute it to: photography was always somehow part of the background noise of my childhood and I was only properly exposed to it once I started studying in 2006.
I would regard you as a professional photographer. How did this happen? Did you plan on being a photographer, or did it “just happen”?
It “just happened”. I went to college with the intent of training as a graphic designer and to my annoyance, the institution had photography as one of the compulsory main subjects for the first two years of the three-year Bachelor of Arts course. Begrudgingly, I accepted it and just told myself to just do what you have to do and after struggling through a year of darkroom work, I realised that I was better with computers than chemistry and I fell in love with the digital format.
Talk to us about “women in photography” – you have recently started a Facebook group for “women in photography” – what was the motivation behind that group?
Strangely enough, it was a comment on my Modelbase profile a few years ago that sat the whole thought-process in motion: it was something along the lines of “good to see the female photographers kicking ass!” – it somehow stuck in my head for longer than I thought it would.
For the past few years I have noticed that in the South African photography industry it’s much too often the case where the men are the photographers and women are hardly anything more than models and makeup artists despite having greats like Merwelene van der Merwe and Josie Borain to look up to. Female photographers were (and to a certain degree still are) vastly underrepresented in the local industry and I would very much like to have a small part in changing that.
I myself greatly admire various female photographers and it was very cool to see many of my female peers beginning to carve out a niche for themselves in a male-dominated industry. I’ve met a lot of women photographers all around social media and I thought it would be great to create a space for women to be inspired and empowered by one another. It’s truly amazing to see how many women have taken up photography, whether as a career or as a hobby and it reinforces my impression that there is a wealth of talent among the women of South Africa.
There is a “perception” that women photographers are primarily wedding, maternity and newborn togs – what is your take on that perception?
I think it’s a preconception that probably began with society’s ingrained notion that women are fragile, emotional beings with no interests other than maternal instincts. While certain women do subscribe to those qualities (which there’s nothing wrong with), many people think that those are enough reasons as to why women are not “suited for” or are not able to create anything visceral, powerful and demanding of respect.
Of course, there are very talented photographers in those respective fields and there’s nothing wrong with choosing to specialise in one of them, but no woman should feel that she should be a wedding or maternity or family photographer just because it’s what’s expected of her.
Which female photographers inspire you?
Many of my role models in photography are female and I adore the work of Zhang Jingna, Miss Aniela, Kirsty Mitchell, Emily Soto, Ellen von Unwerth, Amanda Diaz, and Petra van Raaij.
Is there an aspect of photography you feel women are better suited to than their male counterparts?
This is a difficult one to answer as every person has a different experience: some people are good with people, others work better alone – these factors have little to do with gender. There are very few avenues of photography these days that are blatantly reliant on gender roles thanks to so many women who step up to do what they love.
If you could offer aspiring female photographers a piece of advice today, what would that be?
Never, ever give up. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not as good or cannot be as good as them. Stand up for yourself and don’t let people take advantage of you.
Tell us about your obsession with Tom Hiddleston.
Oh come on, he’s the British God of Mischief and he’s very good at dancing!
Now, how can we get hold of you – groups, profiles, twitters, etc?
If any ladies would like to join our SA Women Photographers group on Facebook, you can do so here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SAWomenPhotographers/
My personal pages are as follows: