• Gabrielle Motola 

  • *Gabrielle Motola is currently 84% of the way to the success of a Kickstarter campaign to get the book into print, with one week to go. You can find out more about this and view Gabrielle's other work, projects and images here

  • Gabrielle Motola 

  • Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Second Edit Choice) 

  • The second image, also taken in Harpa during the same portrait session, is the one I found after I spoke to Margrét Pála. It’s one I’d missed completely in the first edit. This is an image of strength, and better represents the inner character one would need to achieve some of what Katrín has achieved in her life. I ignored it altogether because it wasn’t ‘flattering’. I wanted approval as much as I wanted to give Katrín my approval.


    I learned something about the way I look at myself and other women which is tremendously valuable to my understanding of the culture I live in and to what extent I agree with it. Before this project, I had no consciousness that I thought this way at all. It wasn't pleasant to think of myself as sexist. My misogyny wasn't even the ‘malicious’ sort which is an important nuance to explore, and though without intention, was not without harm. Through this exploration I was better able to understand how society looks at women and what part I play in conditioning it and ultimately what choices I make. I had what felt like no choice before but to make the images I made. With awareness I can decide to look at myself and women as characters, not just pretty faces. Though I intellectually knew this to be valid before and the ‘right thing’ to do, I didn't fully understand it and I certainly didn't live it. This situation reminds me that no one can make you feel something unless they have your permission. How much of your permission do we have to fuel a sexist world with misandrists and misogynists lurking in the hearts and minds of generally well meaning people?

     

    Gabrielle Motola is currently 84% of the way to the success of a Kickstarter campaign to get the book into print, with one week to go. You can find out more about this and view Gabrielle's other work, projects and images here


     

     

     

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  • Katrín Jakobsdóttir was the first edit I went back to. The photograph I first chose is more representative of the images we normally see of Katrín; pretty, girlish, and nonthreatening. This is despite her being the leader of a political party and partly responsible for the momentum behind the building of Harpa. I remember reading an article about her in the UK newspaper The Independent before I met her and they described her as looking “...12 years old!”. Actually no, she “looked all of 16”, making the point of how incongruent this was with the powerhouse she is.

     

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    Katrín Jakobsdóttir Leader of the Left Green Party, Former Minister of Science, Culture and Education (First Edit Choice)

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  • Founding Creator Gabrielle Motola is an American born, London based photographer and writer. She is currently in Iceland completing her book 'An Equal Difference',* which explores a society's pursuit of gender equality.

    The initial part of this project made Gabrielle question how she, herself, viewed and represented women in photographs, slowly coming to the realisation that everyone's a little bit sexist sometimes.

     



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  • During a meeting about a year after our initial shoot Magga Pála asked me if she had been singled out as different from the other “glamorous” women in my project. She wondered if I had tried to represent her differently on purpose. I reassured her this was not the case. I remember the shoot being difficult. I could not control her one bit, little did I realise at the time I was trying to fit her into a box. I remember the edit being disappointing at first. I didn’t think I had a ‘good image’ of her but at that point I wasn’t clearly aware of what I thought a ‘good image’ meant. I realised during our conversation that I had unconsciously been seeking gentle images of feminine appeal and flattery. It was hard to choose an image of power or personality which wasn’t ‘flattering’.

     

    Originally I felt the image I chose of her was a compromise. It turned out to be one of the most successful images in the series in terms of people’s reaction to it thus far. This realisation forced me go back over my shoots to rethink image choices. Some I still stand by while others I’ve replaced with less “flattering” but stronger images that better represent the person’s character. What amazes me is how far below my radar these images were. It is not an exaggeration to say that I remember every significant image I take during a shoot. I see it when it goes into the camera. Yet when I revisited the edits, I had no memory of the ‘second choice’ images ever existing. I don’t believe they were accidents but rather unconscious choices which were repressed by my conscious desire to keep it ‘beautiful’. 

  • Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir Founder of Hjalli Schools, Author

     

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  • Everyone's A Little Bit Sexist Sometimes

    Words and images by Gabrielle Motola


    ‘An Equal Difference’ is a book of portraits, stories, and wisdom. I’ve spent two-and-a-half years researching, speaking with, and photographing over 70 inspiring people living in Icelandic society today. It is my attempt to understand a culture that would call for measures like jailing the bankers responsible for the crash, creating an energy policy based on independent, renewable sources, maintaining a socialised child care system, and making prostitution illegal by criminalising the buyers instead of sex workers. What really caught my attention was Iceland’s call to ‘feminise banking’. To examine the behavioural aspects of a problem, not the gender of it and in doing so, inferred that we are all a mixture of masculine and feminine behaviours and dynamics. This model not only feels true, it provides the framework for a greater understanding of ourselves and each other.


    My process began with wondering what women’s minds would be like in comparison to those in the societies in which I had previously lived (the USA and UK) - societies that provide relatively little support for women’s biological responsibilities and tend to raise girls who struggle with self esteem issues. I wanted to know what makes gender equality work on a practical level. How does it influence the way one thinks and operates in society? How does it shape society itself?


    It is important to remember that equality doesn't exist anywhere yet. Through the conversations I had and the time I’ve spent in Iceland I understand that women experience sexism here as they do in other countries, but perhaps it’s not as prevalent. People are better behaved in Iceland as a whole but that doesn’t illuminate anything about what goes on inside their heads.


    Before I can examine anyone else’s sexism with any clarity I must first examine my own. Women are traditionally photographed for their beauty, not their intellectual accomplishments. This conditioning extends deep into the culture and psyche of both women and men in many societies. Without my intending it to, the initial part of this project made me question how I viewed and represented women in my photographs. Gandhi said “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  I wanted to change.


    At first I photographed and chose many of my images of women out of a bias that I didn’t even realise I possessed. I was unconsciously flattering my subjects more than I was representing their characters. This realisation was sparked by a conversation I had with one of the women I photographed, Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir, founder of Hjalli.


     

     

     

     

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    Katrín Jakobsdóttir Leader of the Left Green Party, Former Minister of Science, Culture and Education (First Edit Choice)


    Katrín Jakobsdóttir was the first edit I went back to. The photograph I first chose is more representative of the images we normally see of Katrín; pretty, girlish, and nonthreatening. This is despite her being the leader of a political party and partly responsible for the momentum behind the building of Harpa. I remember reading an article about her in the UK newspaper The Independent before I met her and they described her as looking “...12 years old!”. Actually no, she “looked all of 16”, making the point of how incongruent this was with the powerhouse she is.

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    Katrín Jakobsdóttir (Second Edit Choice)


    The second image, also taken in Harpa during the same portrait session, is the one I found after I spoke to Margrét Pála. It’s one I’d missed completely in the first edit. This is an image of strength, and better represents the inner character one would need to achieve some of what Katrín has achieved in her life. I ignored it altogether because it wasn’t ‘flattering’. I wanted approval as much as I wanted to give Katrín my approval.

    I learned something about the way I look at myself and other women which is tremendously valuable to my understanding of the culture I live in and to what extent I agree with it. Before this project, I had no consciousness that I thought this way at all. It wasn't pleasant to think of myself as sexist. My misogyny wasn't even the ‘malicious’ sort which is an important nuance to explore, and though without intention, was not without harm. Through this exploration I was better able to understand how society looks at women and what part I play in conditioning it and ultimately what choices I make. I had what felt like no choice before but to make the images I made. With awareness I can decide to look at myself and women as characters, not just pretty faces. Though I intellectually knew this to be valid before and the ‘right thing’ to do, I didn't fully understand it and I certainly didn't live it. This situation reminds me that no one can make you feel something unless they have your permission. How much of your permission do we have to fuel a sexist world with misandrists and misogynists lurking in the hearts and minds of generally well meaning people?