Woman Crush Wednesday: Elizabeth Ibarra
By Mariajosé Fernández Plenge
Femininity plays a big role in your work. What about this drives you to explore this theme?
Elizabeth Ibarra: There is a difference between men and women that is not just physical but energetic; we both have strengths that can be attributed to gender, yet society has unfortunately dictated gender roles that don’t always coexist with our own personal identities. I am always asking myself, “What does it really mean to be a woman?” because the narrow guidelines society has given us on to how to act, dress, and behave often goes against our natural discourse. Society holds women accountable for things they should not have to be accountable for. One shouldn’t have to feel like they need to apologize for being himself or herself, and specifically for being a woman or identifying with femininity. I want to explore and document female personalities informed by the individual, not society. I want this project to emphasize the strengths of the female, remove the stigmatization of the concept of the “virgin” and the idea of “perfection”, and dismantle the idea of the male gaze. This project lets the women I photograph reclaim their image and identity, and celebrates the individual. Life itself is not just black and white, but fluid and ever changing, and I want this project to reflect that.
Even though some of your photographs show very intimate feminine moments, your subjects seem very comfortable in front of your lens. What do you think is essential to achieve this?
EI: Trust --- As well as a level of comfort. The women I photograph are my best friends, or sometimes women I just meet, so I want to protect them and to encourage them to simply exist at their core essence. It is a really empowering process for the both of us. Most of them are not professional models, so this is their first time behind the lens for a serious photographic project. I think that when they can relax and feel excited by the images, the most genuine photographs emerge.
The environment we photograph in really lends a hand to that trust and comfort. I always try to have the subject choose an empowering environment for them. Sometimes that is in their home while they immerse themselves in their daily rituals, or outside in a beautiful place that complements them. The environment becomes sacred and a huge part of the process.
Color seems to be an important part of your work. How do you use it to communicate your message?
EI: Life is colorful, and I think light and color strongly communicate feelings to the viewer. I always shoot in color because it helps support the mood and the situation. My images are usually vibrant, but the colors are soft and there is depth and a tangible sense to the image. This is just the type of aesthetic that comes from shooting with film, which I really love. Softer colors become reflective of the intuitive and emotional side of the feminine.
How long have you been photographing LAS MAJAS (KILL THE VIRGIN) and how will you know when it is done?
EI: This has been an ongoing project for about three or four years now, that is ever evolving. I plan on photographing these women throughout their lives, so I don’t think the project will ever truly be finished. I want to expand my body of work as well to photograph a wider variety of women, including people who identify with being female. I constantly want to push myself to move outside of my own comfort zone. I am also working on accompanying the project with an essay on the use of the feminine nude throughout art history because a historical perspective is always crucial to why the concept is relevant and important today.
Which photographers have influenced your work? How?
EI: There are so many great photographers tackling the issue of femininity and identity brilliantly at the moment and throughout photographic history. I’m very inspired by female photographers such as Rineke Dijkstra, Shae DeTar, Petra Collins, Amanda Charchian, Nan Goldin, Julia Margaret Cameron, Francesca Woodman, and Sally Mann.
If you were not a photographer, what would you be?
EI: Maybe, a rock climber or a scientist who could create a biodegradable alternative to plastic. I enjoy flowers and the outdoors tremendously.
Musée Magazine: How would you describe your creative process in one word?
MM: If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
EI: How To Be Alone.
MM: What was the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
EI: Currently reading One Hundred Years of Solitude because magic should be a part of everyday life.
MM: What is the most played song in your iTunes Library?
EI: Ain’t it Strange by Patti Smith.
MM: How do you take your coffee?
EI: With coconut milk and honey.