by Rosamund Hunter
Logan White‘s photography subverts and complicates notions of gender as it relates to domesticity, sexual expression, power, and vulnerability. Her images are consistently beautiful, quirky, and at times macabre. Logan first fell in love with photography at the age of thirteen at Camp Glen Arden in North Carolina and by fifteen had built her own darkroom. After studying photography at Rhode Island School of Design and spending a year abroad on the European Honors Program in Rome, Italy, she worked as an independent photographer in both New York and Philadelphia. Recently, Logan has exhibited at Spencer Brownstone Gallery in NYC, Wesleyan College for Women in Macon, GA, and Mercer University in honor of Women’s History Month, a show sponsored by the Women’s and Gender Studies department.
Logan is spending some time in her hometown of Macon, treating her stint there like a residency before moving to Los Angeles in May. In LA, she’ll participate in a group show called “VOLUME” opening at AT1 Projects on May 21st from 6:00 – 10:00pm, followed by group shows in NYC at Milk Gallery and in Sydney, Australia at Monster Children Gallery, also in May. You can soon see Logan’s latest series of photographs in TEST Magazine commissioned by Jaime Perlman, the Art Director of British Vogue and founder of TEST. Be sure to check out Logan’s work online at her website, Logan White Photography, and on her blog, Psychic Sunset. Her zine, “Divinity Lessons,” is available at Printed Matter in NYC.
Recently Roz, RE/VISIONIST staff member, had the opportunity to talk to Logan White about the roles gender and sexuality play in her images.
RE/VISIONIST: You have such a varied style! Do you start shooting with a deliberate idea in mind, or does it happen more organically?
Logan White: I usually have a vision in mind that is guided by an environment or technique I want to play with – an approach of intuitive spontaneity either allowing the images to come to fruition as envisioned or allowing them to take on a new and exciting form. I embrace the unpredictability of film and experimentation and constantly try to develop my eye so that I keep challenging myself by doing things outside of my comfort zone. I’m obsessed with picture-making so I will photograph anything that fascinates me.
RE/V: Do you think of yourself as a feminist artist? What does feminism mean to you?
LW: Yes I think of myself as a feminist artist. I think that feminism is as simple as it’s definition (the advocacy of equality between the sexes) and is as complex as you want it to be. Feminism to me personally is about being an unapologetic female in a state of femme euphoria, exploring the female psyche, and representing that exploration through my photographs. Actively speaking, it’s about pointing out inequalities, double standards, unfair expectations, or a lack of expectations due to gender. Feminism today is about standing up for who you are and expressing yourself freely without fear of judgment or persecution – reclaiming what defines us as women – and controlling the representation of our bodies. It’s about embracing beauty and celebrating differences.
Being a feminist has nothing to do with having hairy armpits and hating on men, sex, or male culture. Feminism disregards the stereotypes that prevent women (and men!) from identifying themselves as feminist and reminds us that even though we can vote, there is still a need for feminism.
RE/V: Do you think gender plays a significant role in your work?
LW: I think a lot about gender politics and the oppression of women and the gay community in history and religion. It is important to me to create images that portray gender pride while also challenging mainstream society’s heteronormative conservativeness. I recently shot Urban Outfitters’ Spring/Summer 2010 lookbook and during the shoot I was told of what they couldn’t put in the lookbook: shirtless boys, nudity, lipstick, alcohol, cross-dressing, etc. But the first night of shooting, after the crew went to sleep, I convinced one of the male models to put on a string bikini and jump in the pool. To my great surprise that shot made it in the lookbook- all you see is this seemingly giant 6’5″ hip-less frame leaping into the pool with a little black bikini on!
RE/V: Do you see your work as sexual?
LW: Of course, I see life as sexual. But my images are not about the physical as much as they are about the metaphysical or the spiritual. My images are evocative of a sexuality presented by women, for women. Images of female sexuality in pop culture are so often choreographed by men for men, and I aim to present a more alluring mystical sexuality that haunts rather than limits, that represents neither a “slut” nor a “virgin” – two words that are imposed on women at a young age leaving little room for assertion or sexual identification outside of those stereotypes. I think it is important for women to take pride in their sexuality, but to also convey that there is more to them than meets the eye.
RE/V: Do you see sexual images of women in the mainstream media as exploitative? Do you have a goal to present sexuality from a female-empowered position?
LW: Sex sells and it always will – I have no problem with that. What I don’t like about mainstream media’s sexualized images of women is the double standard. The media tells young girls they need to be pure and virginal but be sexy as well. I don’t like pop stars who exploit their virginity while pole dancing on stage. I don’t think it is a pop star’s responsibility to be a role model, but they should quit contributing to the fetishization of virginity and submission. My guess is they are mostly managed by men. I think it’s disgusting that strong, intelligent, professional, and successful women are pressured into sexing up their look in order to get the kind of attention they deserve. A man’s sexuality is unquestioned and irrelevant while an accomplished female feels pressure to prove something about her sexuality. Athletes for example- it’s much easier to notice a man’s accomplishments in sports than a woman’s, unless they are posing in a men’s magazine.
Yes, it is a goal to present sexuality from a female-empowered position. The women in my photographs are like reflections of myself, so I want them to be read as strong and empowered but not immune to vulnerability.
RE/V: Can you explain a little bit about your approach to bodies in your work?
LW: I see the body as a messenger and in decorating the body I can control the message. I always consider the way the body relates to space and what it communicates through the use of movement, gesture, and symbolism.
RE/V: Your photos are stunningly beautiful. Do you have a goal to create beautiful images? Do you think your work is bleak? I ask because you often take images that might seem bleak but at the same time beautiful.
LW: I’m interested in finding beauty in dark places and feel that within images of bleakness is a search for beauty. Anybody can relate to and appreciate beauty, so it is always something I aim for.
RE/V: Do you think much about your audience or do you focus more on what you like in your work?
LW: I don’t think much about my audience until the final edit. I think about the collective subconscious, but when I shoot, I shoot for myself…to fulfill a vision and a need to create. I only think about the audience once I start editing and putting images on the web or in a show. I want the theme of the work to be clear, but I also want there to be ambiguity so that different kinds of people can leave feeling inspired with an interpretation that applies to their own lives. ▢