Melburnians are in for a remarkable experience this May with the launch of SHE RAW, an evocative photographic exhibition by Lilli Waters. Opening on the 3rd of the month at Blak Dot Gallery in Brunswick East and running until the 13th, SHE RAW will captivate and challenge its audience with a series of 41 women's portraits that draw from the real-life context of each subject, extended into scenarios of fantasy.
Rich, sensuous and somewhat unsettling, the portraits elicit a confounding and enigmatic sense of elucidated mystery and suspended comprehension. These are images which resist the soothing simplicity of dispassionate beauty and instead circulate a complex tide of rouse and thrall.
Compelling as it is, however, the exhibition isn't just art for art's sake. Waters raised $5100 to help fund the project in support of the White Ribbon Foundation, which works to prevent violence against women. White Ribbon ambassador, Jeremy Meltzer, will speak at the exhibition opening, where the SHE RAW book will also be launched. Gold coin donations given for entry to the exhibition plus half of the profits from the sale of the $49 book will go towards the cause.
With this intriguing and commendable event on the horizon, WeekendNotes asked Waters about the ideas and work that went into SHE RAW, got some insight into her experiences as a woman, and took a snapshot look at the life of the lady behind the lens. Follow the links below to check out the interview.
The exhibition forms a double socio-cultural contribution in its capacity as art and fund-raiser. Has the power of art as a social medium with a further purpose [raising awareness, communicating a social message] always appealed to you? Since completing studying photography in 2002, I felt a strong urge to become a war photojournalist. This possibly stemmed from my grandmother's photojournalism work during the Vietnam War. Last year, after years of feeling guilty that I wasn't there trying to make a difference, I realised that I didn't belong there and that I could do 'another kind' of good with my camera without having to go to war. I would still very much like to get involved in shooting for third world countries and for the Sea Shepherd. The SHE RAW project is a first step for me, to contribute in raising awareness and funds for an important cause in Australia; I feel it is a great opportunity to partner with a co-contribution project for my community.
How did the collaboration with the White Ribbon Foundation come about? Statistics show that one in three Australian women over the age of 15 have reported experiencing physical or sexual violence at some time in their lives. Being one of those statistics, I wanted to dedicate the SHE RAW project and donate 50% of the profits from the book towards an anti-violence campaign. After contacting some Australian anti-violence organisations, including several Victorian crisis centres for women, White Ribbon was the only group interested in getting involved. The White Ribbon Organisation works to change the attitudes and behaviours that lead to men's violence against women through a combination of awareness-raising campaigns, community events and initiatives within schools, universities, workplaces and sporting codes. White Ribbon is also the only and largest global, male-led movement for the prevention of violence against women, and I believe that supporting education to help lower these statistics is just as important as donating money to victims of violence.
The SHE RAW portraits tell a very compelling story. What inspired you to superimpose feminine reality and surreality? I find myself attracted to strong contrasts, such as peace with anguish, beauty with ugliness, refuge with danger. They create a certain tension between two extremes where there is no place to rest. The further into the SHE RAW project I ventured, the more I was able to explore and create this odd and illusory interest. Women and fantasy seemed a perfect place to start.
What do you think the greatest challenge of women is? I come from a long line of strong and independent women whom I admire and respect. With respect comes an honourable equal standing and it should be genuinely valued within the good work women do. Women are heart-driven with strong cultural values and their challenge is to gain honour and respect in these pursuits. There is much humane value in women who unite, though society still has a way to go to recognise the true worth of connectedness, which women excel at.
What do you see as women's greatest strength? The women I know have shown a great sense of strength and courage, and I believe that with each generation women have more and more opportunities to excel in the pursuit of their desires and express their worth. Compared to previous generations, the world is becoming a better and better place for women, and I am overwhelmed by the selflessness and nurturing natures that the women in my life possess.
Who is the most inspirational woman you know? My grandmother, Elaine Joyce Moir, as she is the strongest and most admired woman in my life. She was a war photojournalist and awarded Woman of the Year in 1972 for her work during the Vietnam War, organising homes with loving families in both Australia and America for Vietnamese orphans. She is my hero and my most respected source of inspiration.
If you could travel to any location, in any era, when and where would you go and what would you do there? I would travel to 1969, join the 500,000 concert-goers at the Woodstock Festival to see Hendrix play live, and be witness to one of the moments that changed the history of rock 'n' roll forever.
Where is your favourite place in Melbourne? My home of Brunswick and its surrounding suburbs. With it comes a heap of cheap Vietnamese restaurants, vintage fashion to my heart's desire, preloved couches to share bottles of red on, and plenty of trees. It is always surprising me with corners of quirkiness and interesting people, musicians and artists. It's where I feel most at home.
Where does your love of photography originate from? My mum and dad took boxes full of beautiful photographs before and throughout my childhood, and their intimate style has influenced me and my work. In high school, I made short films and wanted to work with moving images and music, but ended up focusing on stills. Recently I have been trying to develop a more cinematic feel in my images to achieve a sense of movement that is an element I so love about film.
What is your favourite season? Autumn, as it is still mildly warm, with disappearing colours and soft light.
Would you rather move people to tears or make them laugh? I love to make people laugh; fortunately, I inherited my family's dry sense of humour!
What skill don't you have that you wish you possessed? I have always wanted to play the guitar effortlessly. So instead of doing the hard work, I now have my own personal guitarist/boyfriend.
What five things make you happiest? Being with loved ones, creating, music, going out bush, and (the prospect of) swimming with the whales.
The launch of the exhibition and book is open to the general public and begins at 6:30pm at Blak Dot Gallery on 3rd May, 2012. See the website for more information about Lilli Waters and the SHE RAW project.