q&a with kelly hammond
Australian photographer Kelly Hammond is stepping outside ‘the system’ and quite literally, into the wild unknown. With her project ‘Women Of the Wild,’ she is exploring what it means to reconnect with the feminine energy of the natural world, and is doing so by traversing the lines between male and female, natural and constructed, and by challenging what art can tell us about our humanity. I was curious about what she had in store for these complicated and difficult subjects, so I sent her some questions via email. She came back with eloquent and meaningful answers about ‘Women Of the Wild’ and what the project means to her.
Could you first tell us about your career so far as a photographer?
I started on the Gold Coast, Australia where I studied and assisted a local photographer. I was lucky as he was also in the process of creating a local magazine, and I was going on shoots from everything to fashion, portrait, events, food and seeing how the magazine would come together each issue.
In 2011 after completing my study, I was put in touch with Bauer Media in Sydney and travelled for 1 weeks work experience to show I was willing for any positions that may arise. I finally got the call about a job opening at the end of the year. Within 12 months I was shooting still life, fashion, editorial and portraits for a range of Australian magazines such as ELLE, Woman’s Day and Rolling Stone.
Sydney was a stage of immense growth and change in me both professionally and personally, and is where I realised the significant positive impact a new environment can have on an artist. I held my first exhibition, although, I found that after a year in Sydney my eyes were looking elsewhere and I could feel an overwhelming conflict between my values and the advertising industry.
In October 2013, I moved to London and started to document my new life on an analogue camera, whilst assisting other photographers and working in photography studios. This new beginning and challenge completely changed the direction of my life and career for the better. It enabled me to step away from my current trajectory, reflect, observe and think about my future art and what I would like this to contribute to the world. In the two years living in London I gained invaluable experience, which also led to many contacts within the international fashion and art industry.
I returned home to Australia at the end of 2015 to develop this project. In the last 8 months I have either been photographing women, creating proposals for any funding or opportunities that will help me realise it and planning the next phase of the journey.
What was your biggest inspiration for becoming a photographer and what does the work mean to you now?
My first recollection of being inspired to take images was National Geographic. I started pursuing photography so I could travel the world and be in nature, but somewhere along the line my direction changed to fashion. After that, my main inspirations were the photographers that graced the pages of magazines like RUSSH and I sort of forgot all about National Geographic. However, I’m so happy with the detour though as it has led me to here, and my time in London was invaluable to this project as I was surrounded by such a strong arts culture that heavily influenced the way in which I view photography.
Could you explain what your ‘Women Of the Wild’ project is all about?
‘Women Of the Wild’ explores restoring balance to our inner and outer world, through a rise in the Divine Feminine energy. Humans are no different to the natural world, and it is time to realize that there is no separation between the planet we are destroying and ourselves.
The deeper meaning of the project goes much further than the physical ideas as I believe we are all made of energy and frequency, and even the act of cutting one single tree or killing one animal results in an instant ripple effect which travels through every one of us.
My aim is to empower society to break free from the conditioning and social constructs that have led us here. I believe current society has been conditioned and brainwashed over decades of drugs/medication, advertising, food additives, media and more. The increase in disease, fear, financial extremes, dependence on the system and the concept of separation from anything outside of oneself has led to a very fragmented society that is much easier to control. Most people are too consumed in their own problems or mass media to see the bigger picture or don’t have the energy to do something about it.
Why is the ‘Women Of the Wild’ project important to you?
Through my art I aim to give a voice to the natural world, spread awareness and stimulate a shift in society toward a conscious and connected world. As part of my current project ‘Women Of The Wild’, I am travelling to photograph women of all cultures, body shapes, ages and journeys in nature, along with fine art images of the natural landscapes, to exhibit and use in the creation of my first art book. This is the first creative endeavour that combines my personal vision for the world with my artistic potential, and I finally feel I have reached the stage in my career where I am using art the way it is intended, to speak your truth and share it with the world.
Right now, I believe the world needs a rise in the Divine Feminine energy. Through connecting women from every culture embodying the universal divine feminine, and portraying moments of deep relationship with nature, I’m hoping to create a body of work that speaks to people’s soul and inspires them to reflect on their own beliefs about themselves and the world.
I feel like this project is enabling me to bring it all my current experience, values and visions together into one moment. I have always appreciated the beauty in our physical form, which is why I enjoyed working with models and crafting a ‘beautiful’ image, and yet this project enables me to break past the limits of the fashion/advertising world to create true images that also incorporate the beauty and significance of Mother Earth along with other metaphysical ideas.
What is the main message that you want to send with the ‘Women Of the Wild’ project?
Think for yourself; free yourself; don’t take life (or anything) at face value; live a live in harmony with the world and beings around you; heal your mind, soul, past and future; realize your power; open your heart to the mystery and wonder of life; and most of all acknowledge the divine feminine within us all and welcome a balance of energy back into the world.
What challenges have you faced so far with this project and what challenges do you envision you will have?
Well funnily enough the major challenge would be funding, which welcomes the ultimate paradox. It seems you need money to free yourself from the system, go figure (ha ha) Well, when you want to travel the world anyway! In saying that, I do believe that the challenge of funding was a necessary step in the process, and the project progressed a lot in other areas in that time!
However, I do feel like I’ve reached the stage in the project where I’m ready to go for it and start travelling and creating, but I have no doubt the funding will come at the right time.
Also, I suppose this project in some way also mirrors my own path. At first I found this very confronting, as I saw a new stage or layer of myself being reflected in the project. So, I find this quite interesting and I’m finding challenges to be less of a challenge and more an opportunity to dig a bit deeper or see things in another way and move through them.
For example, even though I believe that we are much more than our temporary bodies, I have insecurities around my body as most women do. Every shoot is an opportunity to re-acknowledge and re-examine this not only for myself but the collective consciousness. This simple fear around being truly seen can stop so many people from living their life to it’s fullest potential, and in each shoot I’m seeing the healing and transformation in women after a moment of just accepting themselves as they are.
Could you tell us about when you will exhibit the project and how we can follow the project?
You can follow the project on Instagram at @womenofthewildproject and also on Facebook at ‘Women Of The Wild Project’. I’ll be posting photos/videos of my experiences as I go.
As for the timeframe, I’m aiming to be finished by the end of 2017. There are a lot of parts to it, along with the photos I will be making my first art book, and so I will need to put in time to develop my skills in this area as well as bring the entire project together.
This is something that will become clearer as time goes, so it’s probably best to stay connected via Instagram/Facebook for updates on that too.