HANNAH ALTMAN IS A PITTSBURGH-BASED PHOTOGRAPHER ITHAT EXPLORES SOCIETY’S STANDARDS FOR FEMALE BEAUTY. REDMILK TALKS WITH HER ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY, PASSIONS AND HER VISION OF ART.
How would you describe your work to someone who don’t know you?
I’m an interdisciplinary artist that makes works regarding femininity and domesticity, mostly through photography and textiles, among other things.
What is for you the concept of femininity?
I’d say versatility. So much goes into being a woman, being simultaneously soft and strong, composed and organic. I feel almost as if my feminine softness is a costume, there’s something inherently composed about presenting yourself as a well rounded woman.
What can’t be missed on your photographic set?
So much of my work involves my own body, and that is not without intention. I take a lot of self portraits, and include myself in most of my other bodies of work. I’m incredibly interested in the idea of feminine presence in artwork, I feel as though it’s my responsibility as an artist in a field where women have been, historically, largely ignored to have my identity visible in all aspects of my work.
In your works you emphasize the beauty concept.
In a lot of my works, the entire image is meticulously composed aside from one factor, the face of the woman. I make sure everything around her in the photograph is arranged just as I need it, but I leave her facial expression to be the only organic thing in the photograph. I think this says a lot about my perceptions of beauty, in which life is staged with only traces of natural expression.
Describe yourself with a quote.
From one of my favorite artists Lauren Greenfield: “I am interested in the way that the female body has become a palimpsest on which many of our culture’s conflicting messages about femininity are written and rewritten. Most of all, I am interested in the element of performance and exhibitionism that seems to define the contemporary experience of being a girl.”
Which are Hannah’s standards of beauty?
Presenting yourself and acting in whatever ways make you most comfortable, in addition to constantly questioning the world around you.
What is your concept of body?
My concept of body is similar to my views on beauty, a woman can have whatever body she chooses to present herself through. I’m not here to define it, I’m here to photograph it.
If you could be a woman that you know, who would you choose?
My mother. I hope someday I am half as patient, empathetic, and tireless as she.
What do you think about the woman’s vision that we have in our society?
It varies so much, but a recent trend that comes to mind is this notion of surface level feminism. I urge women to dig deeper, and before buying a shirt that says “Girl Boss”, make sure the shirt wasn’t made by women in sweatshops. Instead of talking about how girls can handle anything, take down the men who have wronged them and lift each other up. Dig deeper. Strong women raise strong women.
Where do you like to realize a project?
I keep returning to the same spots over and over, and I think there’s some merit in that. These days I find that I’m not actively searching for cool spots to photograph in, but rather I go home and notice a patch of light on the couch that I didn’t see for years, and find inspiration in that quiet, mundane atmosphere.
One book, film and song to describe yourself.
Book: Reeling for the Empire by Karen Russell
Film: I actually an embarrassing low amount of movies, but I do watch a lot of Sex and the City. Does that count?
Song: “Après Moi” by Regina Spektor.
Photos courtesy of the artist