A Surreal Female Gaze: Interview with Petrina Hicks

Photographer Petrina Hicks uses an ensemble of marble props, live animals, taxidermy, fabrics and colourful backgrounds alongside female models to create surrealist portraits. She offers a reflection of primal female identity and a subjugation of the male gaze.

How would you describe your work?

I create large scale photographic works that mostly portray females and animals, these images are created within a controlled photography studio environment, employing a lighting technique identified with a commercial aesthetic. 

“I’m interested in portraying the interior world and psyche of the people”

Rather than taking portraits, I’m interested in portraying the interior world and psyche of the people I photograph, their gaze is often turned inwards, conveying a sense of inaccessibility; appearing as though their universe is contained within. They are ghostly figures existing in a space between reality and illusion.

I explore the ancient reservoir of symbols, myths and fables associated with females and animals in my work. 

How does your work play into identity politics?

My work feels like an exploration of self/identity, mining the psyche is part of the process and often I’m trying to distil a certain feeling, or represent something metaphysical. So, I photograph mostly female subjects, and draw upon symbolism, archetypes and myths in relation to the female experience, exploring how these ancient symbols and archetypes play out in current culture.

Also, I often cast animals to represent unknown aspects of psyche or emotions, or as a way of exploring identity. The animals become metaphors to help understand identity and the nature of being human.

How would you want the viewer to engage with your work?

I leave a lot of space around my subjects, they are usually cast against a stark background so there is room for the viewer enter the work and circulate the subject. Most often the gaze of the people I photograph is turned away from the viewer, or their eyes remain closed to  represent their interior world. As Carl Jung observed, humans seem to ‘live from the interior, their worlds are a projection of the mind. 

Read more at Zero.Nine Magazine

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