Alana Paterson is one of the photographers that we have been watching for a while. Vancouver based Paterson studied at Emily Carr University of Art and Design and then at The Lesley University of Boston where she focused on BFA in photography.
As well as her work Paterson’s character is also pleasant and luminous. We can see that through her Title IX series where she photographed JWHL (Junior Women’s Hockey League) throught out a female objective, last spring.
How you decided to photograph JWHL?
Well, I knew I wanted to do a project on women engaging in activities outside of the conventional gender expectations. I happened to hear some pretty shocking statistics on women’s hockey. I got very interested, started doing research and found some pretty incredible numbers. The original figure that caught my attention was that the most a female hockey player had ever made in one year was $25,000 and the most a male had ever made was 14 million. And this is despite the fact that women’s hockey had grown 1000% in the last ten years alone. I thought to myself “There is a story worth telling here.”
Where does the name Title IX come from?
Title IX is a federal law enforced in the United States of America. Passed in 1972 it states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” I thought…can you really talk about female participation in a male dominated sport without talking about Title IX?
How much time you spent with the team?
I worked with various teams over two months, the Vancouver teams I got to spend the most time with.
The series seems very honest. We wondered if you built a personal relationship with each member of the team to get that intimate feeling.
The local teams I definitely started to build a relationship with, some of the traveling teams I just shot one or two days. The girls were all so nice though. Everyone was very accepting of my presence and wanted to help tell the story however they could. It was so fun hanging out with them, laughing so hard in the change room, goofing around talking about boys. There was so much energy before games and even practices. They are amazing teenagers. So much positivity and good attitudes.
The most well-known women in art are usually not artists but subjects as they are generally seen through the eyes of men. What would it be different about Title IX if it was shot by a man?
Well, that’s a very good question. First, he would not have been allowed in the change rooms so that would have held him back a lot from getting to know the girls and sort of being accepted into their gang. Secondly the male gaze would have been present… Even if he tries his very best to shoot objectively. If you are thinking critically about the project, that has to be part of the conversation. I think he would have found a bigger barrier of trust with the girls and coaches.
If the male gaze has defined women in art throughout history, then perhaps we might consider the rising importance of the female gaze — that is, women seen through women’s eyes. What do you think about it?
I think it’s hugely important. I hear men talking about it like “It’s a thing now so I’m going to do a project on [insert under represented female group here]” Well bud, it’s always been a thing and now that you can make some money or notoriety on it you would like to do a project of a similar kind? That’s pretty lame. Every time a magazine assigns a male photographer to one of these stories, it burns me a little. It’s like OK, assignment photography is also very male dominated. You’re just re-enforcing the problem while you are saying you’re trying to make a difference. It makes it really apparent that they aren’t really behind the issue they are just following trends.