Bionic People: AMELIA ALLEN
Bionic People: Amelia Allen
Our latest interview is with photographer Amelia Allen, you may have been reading about her recently as she’s been gaining significant media coverage for her new book; Naked Britain.
As a talented and respected fashion photographer, the title of Amelia’s book alone suggests it’s in stark contrast to the exceptional images that are the mainstay of her professional portfolio.
In the interview all is revealed, and you’ll see a selection of Amelia’s work in the accompanying images.
It’s been a real pleasure getting to know Amelia, she is truly wonderful and we hope you enjoy reading about Amelia, her book and Amelia Allen Photography.
Based in London, fashion, portrait and documentary photographer Amelia was born in 1995 in south west. Having decided not to go to university, Amelia moved to London at eighteen and started an internship in fashion PR and photography.
Amelia's work has been published in numerous magazines including; Vogue, Vanity Fair, Tatler and Harpers Bazaar, and she has been photographing shows, clothes, models, celebrities and London Fashion Week every season since she was eighteen.
A developing interest in reportage photography, stemming from her enjoyment of travelling, meeting and observing people in their everyday life inspired Amelia’s first photo book, Naked Britain. The was book published across Europe on 3rd November 2017 by Lehrer Verlag, and in addition to being available in leading bookstores you can also purchase a copy here.
What drew you to your passion/interest?
I went to an art school at 16 and always thought I wanted to be on stage and act, and then I discovered photography and found it a lot easier to communicate what I wanted to say and also to be independent. I could come up with my own concepts, travel to anywhere I liked with my camera and have a whole body of work out of it without anyone else’s input. I studied Art A level and always found it so frustrating because I could never make an image or piece of work look the way I saw the figure and when I picked up a camera it all sort of slotted into place because it looked the way I saw it, and then I could manipulate the image with light and grading.
I was always interested in records of history and films and images that showed an era. I studied photojournalists like Elliot Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Don McCullin who recorded a time they were living through by taking images to tell stories. This lit a fire in my belly which made me want to document my life, my friends and what I saw around me in everyday life. I shoot fashion as my main commercial work but have a huge love for photojournalism, and that’s why I shot my book Naked Britain which was published a few weeks ago.
I was drawn to British Naturism and my book Naked Britain because being a fashion photographer for many years, means that I have spent the majority of my career photographing conventionally beautiful and aesthetically pleasing models who are used to display clothes. Everything surrounding this is, of course, to do with body image and having to look a certain way to fit a specific societal construct of what is seen as beautiful. Growing up today, through such a politically dynamic time, where women’s rights are a huge issue, I wanted to create a project that took liberation and freedom of body image into the limelight. I wanted to photograph a community that represented equality in body image, appearance, sexuality and gender.
I wanted to step away from the conventionality and pressures that surround a typical fashion shoot, and also from social media and the retouching and considerable behind the scenes efforts to create the ‘perfect’ photograph. I badly wanted to move away from the prevailing assumptions that society leads us to believe when we think of a naked body and photograph something that goes against this, which, is how I discovered naturism. As the project progressed I was fascinated by the fact that one week I was shooting London Fashion Week runway shows, and just twenty miles away was an entirely naked community, lounging in their own freedom of self love, liberation and body acceptance. Fashion is used as self expression and I wanted to photograph this juxtaposition of people expressing themselves by using their raw materials, their naked bodies as opposed to the conventional use of clothes for self expression.
I was captivated by naturism and what it really means to be a naturist and it was an incredible experience to be welcomed so warmly into another part of society which most people in Britain have no idea exists. Every time I walked out of the naturist clubs, I was filled with inspiration, opened up to a completely different world where body image, no matter what size, is accepted! I quickly started to recognise that fashion and clothes are all labels; a quick easy way for people to judge you, give you a status, a place in society (which of course, we are all accountable for) but, with naturism, you could literally be a prince or a pauper and nobody would know because when you are naked, nobody knows who you are in society and for once, you are equal to everyone around you.
I felt like the human body had been sexualised, and actually most of the time our reproductive organs are not being used, so why is being naked sexy or sexualising oneself? I wanted to take the sexuality out of the human body, and have a book that celebrated the diversity and wide spread of different body types and ages in the naturist community that wasn’t art directed or cast by a model agent.
I felt that as a female British photographer, having grown up here the attitude towards nudity was that it was distasteful or unsightly unless it is for sexual reasons, pleasure or editorial. There was a double standard. It was ok to see a woman with perfectly round perky breasts on the side of phone box or on Instagram but a mother breastfeeding in a café was offensive. I decided to photograph the most British of scenarios like the pub, tennis courts, water park, bike rides, discos, festivals, museums and people doing everyday tasks without clothes on. All stereotypical everyday tasks and outings, but without any clothes on makes you do a double take and see the image and subject differently.
The whole book is un-retouched and shows the human body for what it is, stretch marks and all. What I liked about the naturist community was that in this day and age there are still 10,000 members of a club that are in a supportive community. Naked, they feel liberated and free despite the pressures of society, social media and advertising. I felt a desperate urge to photograph another side of society; I wanted to experience something away from fashion, but something still very much focusing on the beauty of the human body; and naturism was perfect for this.
Amelia's reasoning for creating her Naked Britain book is truly brought to life in the following images that feature in the book.
Was there a moment when you ‘discovered’ or your passion/interest?
I think it’s gradual and you realise that either you’re good at something and so you can make a career out of it or when you get overly excited by creating that body of work. I felt that when shooting and by seeing other photographer’s images, and the more I continued to shoot I realised it was for me and not just a job but a way of life.
What do you think makes a person interesting?
I guess stories and life experience. When somebody has something to bring to the table. I find with my job travelling and meeting new people most days of the week you learn a lot from each individual you come across as they all have something new to say, different opinions and experiences to tell you about. I love working with people abroad and seeing someone from a totally different background and lifestyle and how their life pans out. I guess that’s the nice thing about travelling and hopping in and out of other people’s worlds.
Who are some of the people that fascinate you?
I recently met Elliot Erwitt at Paris Photo festival when doing a book signing who is one of my favourite photographers in the world. His work is timeless and effortlessly informative and beautiful. One of the first Magnum photographers.
If you could meet anyone (past or present) who would it be and why?
Vivian Maier and Henri Cartier-Bresson both fantastic photojournalists. And maybe Princess Margaret because she seemed like a fun party girl.
What is the most interesting possession you own?
That’s a tricky one. Probably my cameras because they allow me to travel and gain new experiences photographing different people.
If you could, what would you change to make your life more interesting?
To be able to time travel. I’d love to be able to meet all of my relatives who died before I was born and see what life was like in another decade.
Care to share something interesting you’ve never shared before?
Then it wouldn’t be a secret!
What is your all-time favourite piece of art, design or fashion?
I couldn’t put my finger on one favourite piece of art because there is far too much that I like but I love all Tim Walker’s fashion photography.
The following images are a small selection from Amelia's portfolio. To view more please visit her Instagram account..
Thank you Amelia!