culture | 5th april 2017
Recent Massey graduate Evangeline Davis has just won first place at the New Zealand Photobook of the Year Awards for her book Touchy. lo & behold writer lara daly caught up with evie at home in wellington.
words: lara daly
photographs: evangaline davis
Evangeline (Evie) travelled around New Zealand photographing over 60 girls on 35mm film. After reaching out on social media, Evie was overwhelmed with responses from girls all around the country willing to be photographed. “It was really enjoyable meeting them. My favourite shoots were going to their houses and seeing where they lived. You’d just start talking about things and it helped break the barriers.”
Evie’s final year photography project doesn’t look like your ordinary photo-book. Bound with blush-coloured fabric and a matching ribbon, embossed in silver lettering, holding a copy of Touchy feels like you’re about to read someone’s treasured personal diary.
“When I think about the type of magazines I was reading at their age, I only saw a particular type of woman and a particular type of beauty."
Touchy explores the transition of adolescence to womanhood, a time when many of us remember feeling particularly awkward in our own skin and unsure of our identity. “I shot with females as young as 16, but they were so confident in their bodies! I think a lot of it’s to do with having access to the Internet and seeing more diversity now. Of course there’s the other side to it, but everything’s more accessible.” Revisiting our adolescence in hindsight, we often notice how our behaviour was rooted in social norms that we never questioned. “When I think about the type of magazines I was reading at their age, I only saw a particular type of woman and a particular type of beauty. There’s a lot of manipulated imagery and we’re expected to see it as true and aspirational. I became interested in showing girls in their own spaces and in their own skin. “
Looking at Evie’s photos, you feel like you’re being let into revealing, intimate moments with her subjects. Unlike the airbrushed images we’re used to seeing of women, there’s a personable, real aspect to every part of their body. “Initially I was a bit scared to take photos of pubic hair or scarring on some of the girls bodies, only because I wasn’t sure how comfortable they’d be with it. But when I’d show them the images they would always say they loved them, and that made me more confident in the process.”
“You’re working with young girls whose bodies are changing, you know, they’re gonna have pimples. "
Evie has always loved fashion, but her first impression working in the industry was one we unfortunately hear about too often. “You’re working with young girls whose bodies are changing, you know, they’re gonna have pimples. Hearing people pick apart their imperfections made me not want to be in the industry.” Inspired by photographers such Corrine Day, Viviane Sassen and Petra Collins who’s work appeals to fashion but isn’t necessarily made for it, Evie now sees the industry as a platform to do things on her own terms, “having people approach me because they like my concepts rather than me trying to fit what I see in magazines.”
The decision to make Touchy diary-sized was one Evie carefully considered. “I wanted my book to be small because I wanted it to be seen by one person at a time.” Whether you find it a touchy subject, or it just touches you in some way, “everyone that reads this book is going to read it differently. I thought why not have a title that could be interpreted differently too.”
While her limited edition run of 10 copies has sold out, it sounds like Evie’s next publication won’t be far away. “Winning the award has made me realise photo-books is what I should be doing. I’d like to make my next publication a more affordable, extended version and probably just base it around femininity – so including males. I don’t think femininity should be just about being female.”
Evangeline Davis: Website
Evangeline Davis: FaceBook
NZ Photo Book Of The Year Award: Website
Evangeline Davis: @madam_evangeline
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