Body hair, curves and rolls, PMS and periods – the young Seattle-based photographer Ashley Armitage has a unique vision of womanhood, and she isn't afraid to show it. Stepping outside the boundaries of society, Armitage, also known as @Ladyist on Instagram, uses a dreamy aesthetic mixed with an 80s nostalgia to portray the modern woman from the comfort of her own bedroom. The result is a series of intimate photographs of real women, celebrating the traits about ourselves we might otherwise try hide. From her fashion work featured in iD Magazine to the many beauty campaigns she's shot around the world to curating emerging and equally progressive artists at her Girlfriends Gallery, Armitage is constantly pushing the status quo of beauty one glamour shot at a time.
We open the book on Armitage's stunning work and get real with the visionary about her influences, activism and hope to make periods, finally, part of the conversation.
When did you start taking photographs? Were you always interested in representing different types of face/bodies in your work?
I started taking photos when I was 15 and my dad got me a Canon AE-1 film camera. I'd take rolls of film in high school and get them developed when I got allowances or for my birthdays. I believe representation is really important. You can't be what you can't see. I hope that someday any kid can open a magazine and see someone like them inside. Even though media still has a long way to go, I wish that when I was a kid it was even half as varied as it is now. I think we're finally starting to see options in media and I can't wait to be here as we push it even further.
What are your main influences in your photo series?
Right now I'm so inspired by 80s teen movies. I love the campiness and cheesiness paired with the more serious coming of age themes. I also love the set decoration of any teen bedroom in an 80s movie.
How would you describe your work in 3 words?
Dreamy, pastel, nostalgic.
Can you talk a bit about Girlfriends Gallery and the mission behind it?
Girlfriends Gallery has been put on pause at the moment just because I'm focusing more on my work right now. But its mission was to elevate and put a spotlight on emerging artists that I admired. Your work shows a lot of pride in being a woman, especially around menstruation.
Do you feel the social acceptance of periods is changing?
I hope it is. One thing I'm hoping to see more acknowledgement of is the fact that not just women have periods and not all women have periods. Menstruation should not be only associated with the female body. Non-binary people have periods, trans men have periods, women have periods, people have periods. When I first got my period I felt the need to hide it. I was grossed out and embarrassed by it. The older I get personally, I feel more and more comfortable with my body. There is still stigma around menstruation and I think the more we talk about it and create imagery about it, the more de-stigmatized it will become. This is something we should be proud about, not ashamed of.
What advice would you give to young artists and women about creating meaningful work today?
Don't let the fact that we need to work ten times harder than our male counterparts get you down. Together, we are stronger. Form bonds and make art with your friends.
Who are some of your heros right now?
Ren Hang, Petra Collins, Mayan Toledano of Me & You (see our interview here!), John Kacere.
Do you have any rituals, habits, comforting activities or secret things you do when you are on your period or PMSing? What we call Monthly Behaviors?
I let myself feel the PMS. I don't suppress it. When it's that time of the month I just accept that I'm gonna be irritated and frustrated for like three days straight. And for actually being on my period, I rest a lot and take bubble baths.