Expertly Vulnerable

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My expertise is centred around my art career primarily – the creative skills and talents I’ve honed, but part of that journey involves my experience in front of the camera. I’ve worked with other photographers as well as photographed myself and each time I learn something new. I learn which side is my best side, which way to hold my body just right to achieve the pose I’m visualising, the subtleties of facial expressions that change the entire mood of the photograph, but I also learn about being vulnerable.

It can be nerve racking to ‘bare all’ in front of the camera. To completely trust the person behind the lens. This is exactly why I love what I do so much. I love recognising vulnerability in others, relating to it and overcoming it with them.

Assuring whoever is in front of my lens that it’s all OK, to trust me, themselves and surrender to the process of collaborative art is an immensely satisfying work. I’m humbled when people allow this process to happen by booking a session and turning up. I love my job!

Sydney Portrait Photographer| Melissa Katherine

365wordgirl – My first solo show!

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It is with great excitement that I announce the date for my first solo show. The opening night for my 365wordgirl exhibition will take place on the 5th of May in my studio warehouse home The Space and is an associated event and part of HeadOn Photo Festival. For those that aren’t familiar with 365wordgirl, here’s the low-down.

365wordgirl is a self portrait photographic project with a twist. 365wordgirl invited visitors to enter random words thus forming the basis of 52 self portraits. Each portrait uses 7 words in the order entered. 365wordgirl is a journey of self discovery via the words of random people from all corners of the globe.

For me it’s a fantastic way to visually explain a lot of the themes that are still relevant to my work today and also illustrate the importance of self discovery and self love. My self portrait project taught me a lot both technically and personally. It allowed me to see my limits and challenge them, face my fears and embrace vulnerability with gusto. It is essentially what made me return to photography in a serious way and made me fall in love with digital photography far deep than with film. Don’t get me wrong I love my film/darkroom days at university, but the digital realm and it’s infinite possibilities keep me inspired everyday.

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They say that the best camera is the one that you carry with you and I guess the same can be said about models. This is why many artists both male and female have turned to self portraiture as an outlet for their expression. It’s only in recent times that the self portrait or selfie has had a bad wrap. I wholeheartedly embrace and encourage the selfie, especially because it’s the first time in history that individuals have had such control and freedom allowing them to present themselves to the world in their own image.

Speaking as a woman, I also find it incredibly important to see or represent ourselves in our own image rather than that of the male gaze. As females, we are generally conditioned from birth to present ourselves in a way that fits a narrow definition of what girls and women should look like and how they should hold themselves, talk, act, and smile. We could no doubt say the same about both cis genders (and of course, the all non-binary genders and the challanges they face with these cis-centric narrow ideals) , but I speak here from my experience.

Self portraiture is the perfect outlet for discovering just how to un-do all this programming. Presenting yourself as you see you (whatever that might mean to each person) is one of the ultimate vehicles of empowerment. Of course, daily selfies in front of the same bathroom mirror might seem a little boring and perhaps vain, but I envision a better world because of the self portrait. That daily bathroom selfie might be the only thing that motivates someone to get out of bed in the morning, she might finally realise that all those people that say she is beautiful are right. And with this seemingly superficial validation, she may just feel good enough to go out and achieve whatever it is that she doubted she could before.

Young people especially need to feel empowered and have a great sense of self love. It can only make the world a better place. With youth suicide rates alarmingly high, I think there are worse things to see on your social media feed than a smiling (or duck) face. The more people taking selfies, the more normalised diversity becomes. It’s part of our grassroots battle against mainstream media and their narrow ideals of beauty, perfection and average. So I encourage you to share your image with the world, have fun with it and embrace you!

 

If you are in Sydney I hope you can make it on the 5th of May for opening night. 365wordgirl continues until the 8th and is open daily from 10-6pm at The Space – 282 Wyndham St, Alexandria.

Fantasy – a tool for empowerment.

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This morning I woke up to a message from a client. She had just viewed the images from our shoot together. They had moved her to tears. From the outside it might seems as though my work is about vanity and just pretty pictures, but it’s important work and I stand by that notion wholeheartedly. I know first hand how empowering portraiture can be and that’s why I do what I do. I truly believe that everyone should have at least one photo of themselves that they absolutely love – framed and hanging in their home. Of course, our self worth should not be reduced to just our physical appearance, but self acceptance, self love and a positive body image are all crucial to our overall state of mind. The disparity between societal and mainstream media ideals of beauty and those of the real world needs to rectified. I see this happening more and more around me and it propels me to continue what a do. I continually search for and portray beauty in an all encompassing way.

Stacey Stellar | Melissa Katherine

model: Stacey Stellar

 

For some time I struggled with the notion that my work is not important. Other photographers would tell me that I should stop shooting the styles I enjoyed shooting. How can it be taken seriously? I ignored these suggestions (obviously) because I knew that what I needed to say as a photographer was important and as any good artist knows, it is always the challenge of letting your work speak for itself rather than what is included in your artist statement that matters.

Storm | Melissa Katherine

model: Storm

 

For a few years, although my images were beautiful, many times I felt that my message was not aligned with what I had created. This is definitely part of the artist process and something that artists spend entire lives striving for. You are usually your own harshest critic.
Thankfully, I have finally come to terms with the fact that my work will always be open to including elements of pinup, burlesque, old Hollywood glamour, pop culture, cinema as well as fashion photography. I aim to utilise these genres and at the same time dissect them, make them my own and create new worlds and indeed new ideals.

Bella Louche | Melissa Katherine

Model: Bella Louche

Fantasy is a powerful tool for empowerment and nostalgia is intrinsic to the fantastical worlds I create. Importantly, whenever the past is referenced we need to know why we are doing so and never be afraid to discard the parts that we don’t agree with.

For example pinup and rockabilly subcultures are a fantastic avenue for women to discover self love and gain confidence, but there are obviously less than ideal characteristics, stereotypes and attitudes of the past, particularly in regards to feminism, that truly belong in the bin. The aesthetics of any chosen subculture generally acts in opposition to mainstream culture where thin, white, young bodies are deemed ideal. At the core, this is a mechanism that relies on insecurities and feelings of inadequacy. The enemy to this mechanism is indeed empowerment and acceptance of diversity. The rise in popularity of past era-centric sub cultures has indeed had an influence on western society as a whole and it now seems to be all part of the global melting pot of body acceptance and positivity. There is no doubt there is still a long way to go, but if I can help change that one photograph at a time, I aim to do that with bells on.

LOVE YO’ SELF

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It’s February, which means SELF LOVE MONTH at Melissa Katherine HQ. Traditionally February is when we celebrate St Valentine’s Day, but let’s make a pact right now. The entire month should be dedicated to self love, empowerment and taking care of you.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”- Lucille Ball

Regardless of your relationship status you should be the love of your life and your relationship with yourself is paramount. February is a great month to nurture this sentiment and indeed yourself. There’s no doubt that these are all things we need to work and pay attention to all the time, but dedicating a month to such matters really kick starts the process and gets you forming new habits.

www.melissakatherine.com

Photo: D. Sharon Pruitt

5 things I encourage you to do during February and beyond.

  • Stop reading mainstream and tabloid magazines.
  • Take bubble baths regularly.
  • Start wearing sunscreen and moisture your entire body everyday.
  • Put only 3 things on your list each day
  • Do something new and scary.

A huge part of why I do what I do is the work of self love and empowerment. Photo shoots are one of the best ways to develop and strengthen the positivity we feel towards our own image. Of course, selfies are a great way to increase our self-esteem and better our self image, but allowing yourself to be part of art and someone else’s vision of beauty, allowing another to see you in a different light and encouraging you to step into a fantasy for even just a few hours is something that can start or be part of an incredible journey into self love. It’s a journey that I speak about from a personal perspective and wholeheartedly endorse and encourage it.

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Because I believe everyone should be able to experience such a wonderful thing, I’m offering two fantastic deals during the month of February.

Due to the success of my first PAY WHAT YOU WANT photo sessions, I’m offering a very limited number of those again. When I say limited I mean LIMITED. 3 spots only!

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I’m also offering 20% off all full priced shoot packages until the 14th. That means that as long as you pay your 50% deposit (-minus 20% discount if you use the following code) by the 14th, you can schedule your shoot to suit your time frame. i.e. Your shoot session doesn’t have to take place before February 14th. Use the code SELFLOVE20 during the payment process via my rates page.

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Now those are two sweet deals if I do say so myself. I always get excited by the prospect of shooting new beauties. It truly makes my heart sing!

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Love yo’self,

 

THE OPEN SPACE | Melissa Katherine

The Open Space

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This Saturday I have an open studio and I’d love for you to come down and say hi, ask questions and see how I work. I’m also offering a limited number of PAY WHAT YOU WANT photo sessions.

This is the first time, the creative space I share with a bunch of other artists, artisans and creatives, is opening its doors to the public. It’s a fabulous opportunity to see the creative processes and all the behind the scenes action that goes in to making arts and crafts.

 

THE OPEN SPACE | Melissa Katherine

Meet the Makers / Support local Sydney artists / Buy art and design products / attend workshops / eat delicious food and sip on fresh lemonade / play crochet / explore the studios / live demonstrations

WORKSHOPS / SCREENINGS:
Maricor/Maricar – Embroidery Workshop 2-4pm $50 each
Artist Melissa Carey – Lace Dreamcatcher workshop 1-3pm $50 each
BLACK KṚṢṆA Fashion Show 7pm
“Junk” Film Preview Screening 8pm

SHOWCASING:
‘Alchemy Black’ – Benedict, Industrial Designer
‘Art by Seigneur’ – Arthur, Furniture Designer, Straw Marquetry
‘Hopi & Co Designs’ – Hopi, Sculptor, Lasercutter
‘Appetite for Decoration’ – Bettina, Stylist
‘Bermuda Black’ – Marina, Fashion Designer, Tailor
‘Black | Krsna’ – Benji, Fashion Designer
Maricor Maricar – Illustrators
Rita Mu – Ceramicist
Marie-Helene, Ceramicist, Food Stylist
‘Melissa Katherine Photography’ – Melissa, Photographer, Stylist, Costume Designer
Artist Melissa Carey, artist, craft teacher
Kaya Clarkson, Painter
Neelam Gopalani, Painter
Joanna Hannan, Painter
‘Flower Lane & Co’ – Nicole, Florist, Teacher
‘Wallporn Designs’ – Bianca, Designer
‘Nagastone’ – designers
‘Limonada’ – Eduardo, Expert lemonade chef
‘The City Riders’ – Andras, Motorbike Restorer and Tinkerer
‘Bio Foundry / Bio Hack’ – Science laboratory run by Meow
‘The Snowdroppers’ – musicians

Stay tuned for more details!

I hope to see you there!