Identity

How a Female Photography Collective Turned One-Night Stands into Art

The five women of Skin&Blister celebrate feminine perspectives on photography, beginning with their new show exploring the nature of casual sex.

by Zing Tsjeng
Mar 10 2017, 2:30pm

From "The Unresolved" series by Sophie Davis, courtesy of the artist

It's not surprising that women stick together, especially in the creative arts. From horror film promoters The Final Girls to the Rawiya Collective of photojournalists, a certain magic happens when female-identified professionals throw their weight behind each other to present a united front. It's an energy that is clearly present with Skin&Blister, a group of five photographers who had met at London College of Communication.

Sophie Davis, Marta Gut, Francesca Oldfield, Dafne Salis, and Laura Solomons graduated with photography degrees in 2012, but life got in the way and each knuckled down to pursue day jobs. Then, as Davis puts it, "We realized we shared the same desire—to make work again."

"We wanted to get our work out there and have fun whilst doing it," she explains. "I initially approached all the women in the group because I knew their work, and I knew they would have that drive to just be like, 'Fuck it, let's do it!'"

Their "fuck it" attitude led to the collective's first show in February 2016 at Photofusion, a photography centre in south London. Now they're about to open their second exhibition, #Onenight, at Doomed Gallery out east in Dalston.

"We wanted to create a show that was slightly more daring than we had done before, a show that embodied the freedom and lack of inhibition that the physical act of a 'one-night stand' suggests," Davis explains. "We all like the fact that the implication of the title could suggest many things, and the provocative nature of the sexual link—especially from a female perspective."

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In translation, that means a diverse collection of work that plays jump rope with the lines between photojournalism, photography, and fine art. Between them, the five women examine everything from masculinity and male strippers (Oldfield), bronze still lifes of uteruses (Salis), a sound installation of a female fantasy (Solomons), formal self-portraits (Gut), and nude portraits from The Unresolved, Davis's documentation of strangers she met on the Tube and in clubs and cafes.

From the "Leave No Stone Unturned" series, by Marta Gut. Photo courtesy of Skin&Blister

"We are a group of five women all with different experiences and perspectives," Davis explains. "We range in age from 27 to 40, and two of us are mothers. Two don't have English as our first language. What brings us together is the desire to support each other in both our creative careers and in making challenging work."

Then, Davis says, the plan is to relaunch their website in summer with interviews from both established professionals and those who are just starting out. "We want the advice and the experiences of female artists shared to guide and inform others," she says. She hopes that Skin&Blister can light a way for other women who are seeking support and motivation in a troubled creative climate.

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"The collective is very useful when it comes to our individual projects—not just for the support and knowledge we share but the regular critique of each other's works," Davis explains. "There is a general sense when you are at university that you are tackling this alone, but in a group—you have each other's backs."

Photo by Francesca Oldfield, courtesy of Skin&Blister

Still life by Dafne Salis. Photo courtesy of Skin&Blister

From "The Unresolved" series by Sophie Davis. Photo courtesy of Skin&Blister

From "Hear Me," by Laura Solomons. Photo courtesy of Skin&Blister

Photo by Francesca Oldfield, courtesy of Skin&Blister

From "The Unresolved" series by Sophie Davis, courtesy of Skin&Blister

"Moon Cycle" by Dafne Salis, courtesy of Skin&Blister

From the "Leave No Stone Unturned" series, by Marta Gut. Photo courtesy of Skin&Blister

From "The Unresolved" series by Sophie Davis, courtesy of the artist

From "Hear Me" by Laura Solomons, courtesy of Skin&Blister

From "The Unresolved" series by Sophie Davis, courtesy of the artist