Those familiar with London-born, Paris-based multidisciplinary artist Anouska Beckwith could recognize her ethereal photographs anywhere. Set to stunning natural backdrops featuring spirited female figures, her vibrant photo series possess a tranquil energy and arresting aesthetic. We spoke with Beckwith about the themes that inspire her and the mission of her all-female artist collective, World Wide Women.
Culture Trip: Over the years you’ve produced several photographic series, all of which bear an essence of nostalgia. What would you say are the foremost themes that fascinate you, and why?
Anouska Beckwith: The themes that fascinate me the most are birth, life, death, and rebirth. I find transformation a beautiful message to work with as change is the only thing we can be sure of in life. I am a romantic person, so my work is often a reflection of that. I adore history and I have always been a nostalgic person, from the way I dress, decorate my home and create work. I love things from times past as I feel that it usually was made with skill and longevity.
CT: You draw clear influence from ancient, classical, and medieval culture, but the focal point of your work is also, consistently, a female figure. What significance does ‘she’ have to you, and how is she conceptually integrated into your work?
AB: I grew up in two very strong matriarchal households where I was always taught that women were equal to men, and that one should always follow one’s dreams. Throughout history women have been a focal point in art, but for my personal work I think ‘she’ represents the untold stories in history. I like looking for the vulnerability, the softness and beauty that women possess, as well as strength and sexuality.
CT: How do you choose your photographic subjects?
AB: I usually choose models for my own work that inspire me. I like working with people I know, mainly as I find there is a relaxed energy when taking photographs. I photographed Macha Polivka, an amazing healer and actress who I met outside of Paris last summer at an ashram. She is very natural and beautiful. I found working with her an absolute joy as she was completely in her body. Xamira Azul I met through my good friend and fellow artist Amanda Charchian last year during a summer solstice ritual, and we have become friends ever since.
Flo Morrissey is one of my best friends whom I met through World Wide Women when she performed at our Ritual exhibition. Last year she moved to Paris, which has been a dream world for us to share. Over the past couple of years we’ve had ongoing projects together. We have one about Joan of Arc that we just need to make time to create, but we have been discussing it for the past year so stay tuned.
CT: Tell us about World Wide Women. How does it inspire your work?
AB: I set up World Wide Women in 2012 with the hope of finding like-minded female artists from across the globe. Through WWW, I have made some life long friends such as Amanda Charchian and Flo Morrissey, who both continue to inspire me as people as well as on an artistic level. I think its important to stand strong with a sisterhood who empower one another.
CT: Walk us through the mind of an artist. Where and how do you find inspiration?
AB: I am often inspired by a song I have been listening to, a book I have been reading, or a quote that I come across. Sometimes I have an idea for a few years and it’s just about meeting the right muse for the shoot. I find walking in nature or doing a shamanic ceremony always full of inspiration, as I like to connect to the universal collective consciousness for ideas about what work I should be creating at certain times.
CT: What would you say are the greatest challenges of being an artist? A female artist?
AB: Personally, the greatest challenge I come across as an artist is the creative process itself. Sometimes you look at your work and feel happy with what you have created, then a day or a week later you can look at it think, ‘what on earth was I thinking?’ Art to me is a form of torture; you are constantly trying to evolve, provoke and create something better or more unique than before.
I have not had so many challenges as some of my friends being a female artist. One of my good friends who is an amazing photographer keeps losing out to men who have been in the industry for decades, as the bigger brands what to keep reproducing the same style of adverts.
CT: Your upcoming exhibition, Uni-Verse, opens at Palm Tree Gallery in London on the 17th of September. What can you tell us about your most recent work?
AB: The theme for the exhibition looks at nature as the backdrop for the exploration of feminine archetypes and endurance throughout time, as I believe that our planet is having a rebirth of the ‘feminine’. We have been living in a patriarchal society for the past 3,000 years, and although we have had some incredible advancement we are now in need of a big change – which is beginning to happen. I feel that we need to encourage guardianship of the Earth and realign with the natural cycles, rather than go against them.
CT: How does Uni-Verse incorporate your past projects, and where does it depart from them?
AB: My first solo show, Transcendence, was about transformation of the self. The exhibition was a collection of images that I took over four years in search of answers about the mystical realm. This new collection of work is inspired by the exploration of the feminine archetypes and endurance throughout time. It is a continuation of my previous work, the themes I am most interested in are nature, feminine and the esoteric. I feel that as an artist it is important to have a message to share with the audience, my message is to protect and guard our Mother Earth and all the gifts that she provides us with.
CT: Do you have a personal favorite in the series?
AB: My two personal favorites are ‘Aura’ (from the War In Heaven series featuring Xamira Azul) and ‘The Empress’ (from the Tarot series featuring Flo Morrissey).
CT: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists? Perhaps more specifically, women in the art world?
AB: Embrace your own uniqueness, as only you can connect to your own divine essence. Stay strong when things do not seem to be going the way you hope for, as the longer you play the game the more likely you will have someone who recognizes your talent.
CT: Who are some of your favorite female artists?