Pretty, Please: Q+A with artist-on-the-rise Allison Morris

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On first glance at Allison Morris’ photo series depicting the photographer herself as the subject in various states of vivid and brightly colored camouflage, our initial reaction was, predictably, “Pretty!” – but upon closer inspection, we were intrigued by the themes of female beauty, subjectivity and introspection ingrained in her photographs. Naturally, we had to reach out to her to chat about the raison d’être behind the series – read on for insight into this budding artist’s mind, and feast your eyes on her compelling photographs below.

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What is the meaning behind the series title "Pretty, Please"? What are the main themes/ideas behind the series?

The photographs are an exploration of the objects that have come to define what it is to be feminine, and the ways in which they obscure our perspective of the female, so I felt that "Pretty, Please" was a perfect verbal representation for this feeling of constantly striving for perfection and wanting more.

In all of the images, the subject's face is almost completely concealed, and her body is camouflaged into the background – why?

Each individual image uses a certain feminine object ironically and/or excessively. The ridiculousness of these objects becomes the focal point in the images, and they begin to form masks and barriers with the intent of discouraging the audience from drawing conclusions about the specific individual within the photograph. Additionally, the textiles I chose to wear in the photographs attempt to use camouflage techniques to blend into its background. This was a strategy I used in order to mirror the ways that these beauty regimens and feminine practices focus on shaping and concealing ‘flaws’ of the female, which all too often leads to the objectification of the female form.

All of these images are self-portraits. What was the rationale behind this decision?

I often choose to use myself as a subject for various reasons. Becoming my own model grants me complete control of my images, especially when I have a clear vision in my head of how I want the final product to turn out. More importantly, self-portraiture became an important part of my concept insofar as I was able to perform for the camera and myself alone. As such, I intended to challenge the traditional idea of the male gaze, becoming both the viewer and the subject for these photographs.

Many of the subject's poses are absurd to the point of being comical – what was the reasoning behind this?

I think the poses of these images are a reflection of the strain these objects can have on women. I chose to stretch and exaggerate the individual poses because I think showing a satirical take on womanhood forces us to look at these societal norms from a different perspective.

Historically, photography and the art world in general have been male-dominated. Have you experienced any obstacles that stem from this reality as a young, female artist?

I've personally surrounded myself with many strong and talented female artists, and thankfully have yet to face any of these obstacles firsthand, but it is undeniably a male-dominated environment. That's why I see so much value and importance in female artists continuing to document womanhood from personal experiences and re-writing the definition of what it means to identify as a woman.

Where is your favourite place in Toronto to get inspired?

This might sound a bit obvious, but I'd have to say the Art Gallery Of Ontario. I love to go there on my own, and I can wander around for hours – it's a place I feel very lucky to have so close to home.

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