Anna Fearon is a photographer and film maker who launched Blue magazine in 2018 to explore Black and queer narratives. She also runs Black Exchange, a series of events that re-examine Black history, and her first short film ‘The Muse,’ was commissioned for Channel 4 Random Acts for Black history month. We look at her working week as issue two of Blue is released.
How do you start your week?
As I’m working from home it’s starting to feel like all the days are merging together. I’ve been freelance for over a year now, so I was working from home a bit before but I would sometimes work at a studio, or in a coffee shop and be out and about a lot for meetings. These days I feel like its non-stop zoom calls! I even directed a film over zoom during lockdown.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your studio/office
I try to keep my desk tidy, but my desktop on my laptop is a whole different story!
Which magazine do you first remember?
Growing up, Vogue was the one magazine that I would avidly buy and collect, but I was quite conscious of it not being very diverse back then. I used to love buying Black Hair & Beauty as a teenager to look through and pick out hair inspirations for when I went to the salon.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
I like Nataal magazine; it’s such a beautiful publication that celebrates African creatives across the diaspora.
And I love the format of Luncheon magazine, the interviews with artists are really interesting and informative, I love the premise of sitting down over food to do an interview, because food brings people together.
Describe Blue in three words
Young, Gifted and Black
What did you learn from issue one of Blue that helped you on the second issue?
Blue is a personal project and it is all self-funded, I’m the editor and primary photographer, so it’s been a matter of fitting it around my other projects.
And life happens, I had a long period of time when I wasn’t creating due to struggling with my mental health, which is something I touch on in the issue with the self portraits ‘Full circle’ alongside poetry I wrote reflecting upon this time.
With the first issue I think I was more in the mindset that it had to have all the traditional elements of the magazine, such as multiple interviews and a variety of contributors. But for the second issue I was thinking of it more as a journal and allowed it to be a more organic process. I did most of the editorials and then I had a break as I was working on a lot of other projects and I was struggling to finalise the issue.
Then lockdown hit so in an effort to stay creative I started taking self portraits and decided I wanted to include them so that changed the direction of the issue slightly and I started to see it as more as a personal visual journal and also incorporated some of my poetry.
This issue became about exploring both my gaze as a Black photographer and then turning the gaze inwards up myself. A big part of my reason for starting Blue magazine was to be able to create the representation of Black beauty I wanted to see whilst growing up. I’m realising how intrinsically linked and personal my work is to me and embracing it rather than conforming to what’s expected.
The magazine challenges traditional representations of the Black body; what has been the reaction from readers and others?
Yes in a sense through the magazine, I’m exploring decolonising the camera. I think it’s a very broad topic: the notion of decolonising the camera, of examining the role of the camera and also the way in photography has historically been weaponised against the Black body and so many ways still used to do so today.
In the media we are subjected to a constant stream of images of Black pain and trauma, both in life and death sadly Black people are not given dignity in the media. This is one of the reasons I feel that it’s so important to see images that capture Black joy, that are powerful and beautiful.
We need to see representation of Black people and stories told from our own perspectives, and as an artist I feel obligated to do that through my work, whether through photography, film or through language. The response to the issue has been positive, because representation is needed and from a multitude of voices, Blue is one in a myriad platforms that reclaims and celebrates Blackness.
Diversity is a word that often gets thrown around alot within the fashion industry, but it’s not true diversity if you’re only using Black models, but then you have no Black artists on the creative team. In this notion of decolonising the camera, in photography it is important that everyone critically examines their role as photographers and images especially when it comes to telling stories that are not your own.
For my short film ‘The Muse’, my intention was to explore self representation of Black queer womxn and non binary artists. Because our identities are intersectional, it is crucial that this is reflected in the media and the arts. We all deserve the right to tell and have ownership of our own stories. As Black Queer womxn, I personally feel it is important that these stories are told, as we are so often erased from the narrative and from history, and if my work can play any small part in doing so I will.
A large part of the new issue is a story where you turn the camera on yourself, and you describe it as an interesting experience. What did you learn from it?
I’ve never felt particularly comfortable in front of the camera, but when I take my self portraits I don’t feel that inhibition, I find it a private and reflective experience, to me it’s quite cathartic. I get to curate and create my own vision of myself with an authorship over my image and can reflect how I perceive myself away from society’s expectations. I think also as a photographer I am so often looking for and capturing the beauty of others, it’s an interesting process of turning the lens upon myself and seeking that beauty within myself.
Share one piece of publishing advice that has helped you.
I don’t think I have ever been given any advice in publishing.
What I’d say to others though is to emphasise the importance of honing your own voice and creating work that reflects your values.
And take your time, give yourself the time to step back and reflect on the intention you had in initially creating a publication and ensuring you stay true to that, but also being open to the natural evolution of an idea that can occur from conception to final creation.
Looking ahead, what are you excited about this week?
I’m filming for my new short film project that I am directing this week, so I’m really excited to be on set again. The turn around for the project is pretty hectic, so it’s going to be a busy week.
I’ve also got my next Black Exchange event that we are hosting at Newington Green Meeting House as part of our Black History month takeover, we will be having a conversation discussing navigating the arts industry as a Black creative.
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