BoOBs, bums and beyond
Alice Baxter meets Emma Low (@potyertitsawayluv) & Lou Foley (@arewenearlybareyet)
By Alice Baxter ed. by Amie Tyrer
Illustration by Louisa Foley (@arewenearlybareyet)
Instagram is synonymous with beyond bronzed, coke-bottle figured, lump free ladies, bouncing joyfully across the white sand beaches of Bali. Just a few minutes scrolling down my ‘explore’ page is enough to make me want to actually sign up to the gym and throw away my 6 remaining easter eggs (not gunna happen). However, amongst all it’s vices, occasionally Instagram presents us a pot of gold! Far from the trenches of #tummytea lies the wonderful realm of body positive artists. We have been totally obsessed with artists Emma Low and Lou Foley and after a mild stalking session at Girl Gang's International Women's Day event in Leeds, we managed to get an invite into their real-life studio for a natter on all things boobs, bums, bodies and beyond...
Pots by Emma Low (@potyertitsawayluv)
Emma, you state that your work aims to ‘celebrate real bodies and support body neutrality’ and Lou yours aims to ‘subvert the male gaze and reclaim ownership of ‘The Nude’ for self-identifying women.’ Was there a particular moment which spurred you to partake in this movement of body positivity and female self-acceptance, something you’ve always been interested in, or something that has grown naturally as you’ve worked?
Lou: I think it was a by-product for me, because I started doing it and then realized it was beneficial for lots of women, so not an afterthought, but it came after developing what I was doing. Then I realized it was a driving force to keep it going, but I don’t think that was my initial idea.
Emma: But I think as a person, or as people, were both able-bodied white women with normative bodies, so me getting my clothes off was a natural thing. I felt confident enough to do that because I was so represented in the world, and wanted everyone to feel like that! So others felt ‘Oh that’s actually representative of me in a positive light!’.
Illustration by Louisa Foley (@arewenearlybareyet)
You both work from submissions from what must be a wide variety of self-identifying women. Not many people are in a position of receiving nudes from so many trusting ladies! Has your image of the standard ‘woman’ changed/developed from this?
L: I knew there were women that weren’t being represented, and there are women who are not represented. That is what’s pushed me to expand the project more and more, because I want more women that feel under-represented to be part of it, and to give them a platform to be seen and to be shared as being normal. I don't think i’ve ever received any imagery that i’ve been like ‘oh I didn't know that women looked like that!’.
E: Yeah I think the possibilities are kind of endless, because you're never going to have someone that looks exactly the same as someone else, so in theory this is just never ending. I’m just bored of seeing the same things over and over again.That's why i’ve started to make pre-made pots where i’ll focus on different people so that more people that look like that may get in contact and be like ‘oh will you actually make a pot of me?’
Do you believe we will ever reach a day when the nude female body will be received in the same way that a nude male body is?
E: I honestly don’t think so in my life time. I think it’s so ingrained into our society to feel negatively about yourself, because that’s what sells products, we live in this capitalist society where you’re forced to feel badly about yourself all the time, so that you’re filling this void. I mean even what we do is kind of feeding into that culture, it’s a supply and demand thing, it’s like ‘i’m going to buy this thing to make myself feel better’, and actually it should just be ‘i’m going to try and feel better by myself’. I feel guilty sometimes that I make money off of what i do…
L: I also think no… And that’s not to say that the way all male bodies are received in a positive way as well. I think it’s important to say that all bodies, especially within the media, are massively misrepresented and negatively represented. So it’s sad, but I dont think it’s something we will see.
Dermatitis pot by Emma Low (@potyertitsawayluv)
Have you had anyone in your personal life find it difficult to comprehend what you do for a living?
L: I’ve had people be taken aback, or not really understand it, or ask the classic ‘why aren’t you drawing men?’. So I guess, yes, because they’re saying that my work isn’t worthy because i’m not including men. It’s passive. But not really.
E: I think when I first started out my family didn’t get it in the sense that it wasn’t supposed to be a sexual thing, that it’s just meant to be about the natural form, and I do get a lot of comments like from my past boyfriends family, they’d always be like ‘Ooh how are the tit-pots doing, you raunchy thing!’...
L: Yeah like it’s some weird taboo! Like, Karen, you’ve got a pair! Get over it!
E: She is actually called Karen… Shout out to Karen! But yeah, I guess that’s just the way it is, it’s just talking to people and not getting upset about it or feeling like you’re being attacked because of it, just trying to be a bit more understanding of it. No wonder they feel like that because that’s all women have ever been portrayed as to them, as these sex objects, or if a woman is sexually liberated shes a slut, that kind of thing. So it’s good, I want people to come at me with those kind of opinions so we can have a conversation!
What do you say to people when they try to criticise you for not including men in your work?
L: I feel... not a responsibility to represent women, but I’m a woman, so it feels natural to draw women. In a weird way I see it as a collaboration between the woman that takes her own photo of herself that I then draw for them. It is like working together, and I just don't think it would be appropriate to do it with a man.
E: I do men, I’ve done a couple of men’s penises… And it’s really different being sent a photo of penis! I think in a weird way because i’m heterosexual, it kind of feels not sexual but a little bit strange. But then some women have penises, so there you go!
You both seem to work solely with one medium. If one day you reached a point where you were bored of said medium and wanted to change what you were doing, do you think you’d feel pressure to stay due to your large follower base?
L: I think because I studied print and textiles, there’s other things I know I could do. I’m always going to be an illustrator and I think I can apply that to so many different things, but I’d still always draw I think.
E: I think because I don’t have a creative background like you, I didn’t go to university and study anything to do with what i’m doing. I think I need to be less harsh on myself and just create more for the sake of creating, rather than creating to put on the internet or creating to sell or make money from. It should just be an expression.
Double breast mastectomy pot by Emma Low (@potyertitsawayluv)
Having a large follower base on Instagram, do you ever worry about saying the wrong thing, especially in regards to feminism?
E: Yes, it’s about having mutual respect. As long as your intentions are good and you’re willing to take accountability for your fuck ups, and you’re not expecting anything in response. I don’t expect that from anyone, if I fuck up, I say sorry and that person can decide to do whatever they want with that information. They don’t have to come back and say ‘everything's fine, we’re all learning’... Because obviously we are, the world is changing at such a rapid rate that no one is going to be able to know everything, you don't have to know everything.
Where do you both go to to learn new things, any podcasts you listen to or websites you love?
L: I listen to the Guilty Feminist every week, which is really good. And I try and listen to Woman’s Hour every day, which can sometimes be a bit white washed and problematic, but also occasionally has really interesting topics and guest speakers. I see it as a neutral platform that some things I’m not going to agree with but some things I will hear. It’s just educating yourself isn’t it?
E: The Tung Magazine has a really great podcast which I was actually on! It’s a pop culture podcast.
Artwork by Sally Hewett
Who are your biggest female inspirations, creative or otherwise?
E: One artist I absolutely love is Sally Hewett, her work is so beautiful but in the most real, almost grotesque way. She does relief work where she works with embroidery hoops. She’s a massive inspiration to me.
L: This question always stumps me! I feel like a phony that I can’t list off a bunch of female artists that have inspired me, but my girlfriend reminded me that I come home, I read books by females, I listen to female artists the majority of the time, those are the people influencing me. Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors, I love all the dystopian feminist worlds she creates. Music wise I want to say Patti Smith. She is an artist in every sense of the way. There we go, I did it! I feel like I need to get a list tattooed on me!
E: The White Pube are sick. They’re amazing! They both went to Central Saint Martins I think, it’s these two girls, one’s from London and one’s from Liverpool and they run this thing called The White Pube which is basically honest art reviews. They do a review a week and they take it in turns I think to go to different exhibitions and make it loads more accessible and be really honest about it!
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