HISKIND had the pleasure of speaking to Eli Beristain, photographer and 1/2 of the glittering duo behind ‘Art Babes’, a Facebook community “[by and for] ladies & queer people” that allows artists to share, showcase and curate their multidisciplinary work in a space dislocated from the sexism and queerphobia that often seem to be irrevocably tied to spaces dominated by straight men.
‘Queen Of Kollywood II’ || by Alia Romagnoli
So what was the driving force behind your decision to create Art Babes?
So basically me and my friend [Alia Romagnoli] were on quite a well known feedback group for film photography called Negative Feedback. There were some wonderful photos, but the moderators don’t worry about sexism and racism. The majority of these online spaces for photography feedback are run by straight white men, which often resulted in [the proliferation of work] which pandered to the male gaze. [We] created this space mainly because we both wanted a space unlike most of these feedback groups dominated by men, [which had] quite unmoderated sexist, racist and homophobic undertones to their work, that made us personally feel quite uncomfortable. I know a lot of other women in that group who have left because of the [underlying bigotry], so we wanted to create our own community, where people could post their art — a space where people who were not men, or who were LGBT+, would be given a platform that isn’t given to them in the industry. Also a lot of people have been posting on [Art Babes] with job opportunities or if they’re holding exhibitions and they need other people, so it is kind of a way to find business connections for people who are often overlooked. That was kind of our aim.
||by Eli Beristain
How was being queer influenced your work be that in your process or in your choice of subject matter?
I actively try to take pictures of people who aren’t all straight, white, or thin, because that’s not the kind of person that is often seen in photos, and visual culture is very important in [dictating] who you can relate to. Obviously I do not succeed the majority of the time, because the people I’m surrounded by might not necessarily adhere to [marginalised identities]. I’m trying to improve on that. As far as my sort of [art style] goes, so far I kind of have not been directly influenced by LGBT+ aesthetics purely because I came out very recently, but I’m constantly influenced by the people around me, loads of whom happen to be [queer]. For a photoshoot I asked for of my friends and my boyfriend to come and take photos, and when they were all there I realized that none of them were straight; it suddenly had turned into [a shoot of] some of my favourite queer people in my life! It does sneak in without me realising and I’m sure it will do so more consciously as I become increasingly more comfortable with my [queer identity].
“Art Babes was a page we set up because we wanted a safe space where women and the LGBTQIA+ community could share art work and promote themselves as artists…I wanted a space that showcased art that is often ignored by mainstream media and [we] thought that ‘Art Babes’ was the right place to start.”
– Alia Romagnoli, 1/2 of ‘Art Babes’
What are your great cultural inspirations?
One of my greatest cultural inspirations is my dual nationality. English culture doesn’t tend to have as much of a [highly visual] traditional element as [Spanish/Basque] culture— except perhaps at Christmas. Whereas Spanish/Basque culture has an extremely visual element to it, where people still dress up in national costume whenever they go to festivals. Festivals occur much more [frequently] and are much more communal. [In Spain] you have the town or city Fiestas where everyone goes out, everyone speaks to each other, the accordions are out, the skirts from the 1800’s are out— and I want to show people that, because it is so visually different it makes for a really interesting subject and it’s also something I love and I want people to see where I come from and what it’s about.
Bengaluru Babe II || by Alia Romagnoli
If you had to choose a favourite image or photograph or other piece of art what would it be?
I have way too many and you’re cruel for asking but I’ll go with Toulouse Lautrec’s portraits of gay women and [Kubrick’s] ‘Barry Lyndon’— It’s shot like a dream!
And finally, you’re currently curating the first ever Art Babes zine, tell me a little bit about that?
For me personally, my dream [as a photographer], as is many other people’s, is to get my work published and seen and appreciated. I think zines are a fantastic way for marginalised communities to spread the word either about what they’re doing or just exhibit things. I often find it very difficult to sort of fit my work into the theme of a certain zine and have ended up being too shy to submit anything. The idea for the Art Babes Zine is to exhibit people’s art no matter what it is! There’s no theme, it’s just art of people who are [women and/or LGBT+]. It does not have to be unpublished work—we don’t care if it’s been published before, if it’s on your Instagram or your Facebook, or if it’s plastered on Piccadilly Circus! All we want to do is promote your art, and give you the space to share with other people what you create.
||by Eli Beristain
“Anything that you make as an extension of your creativity or whatever you’re feeling is considered art by us.”
-Eli Beristain, 1/2 of ‘Art Babes’
||by Eli Beristain
We want people to send in absolutely ANYTHING, and this is what encourage on the Facebook group as well. Art does not only mean to us [extremely professional photographs] with five years of experience. We don’t really care about that. We want you to send in your two lines of poetry that you wrote drunk on a night out that you probably wouldn’t show to anyone; the makeup you did the other day that you thought was really cool and you just took a selfie of; nail art. Anything that you make as an extension of your creativity or whatever you’re feeling is considered art by us. [Even if you don’t consider it] a high art form now, it may nevertheless flourish into something that people can appreciate and relate to.
You can check out and join Art Babes, here
(The first Art Babes zine is accepting submissions until the end of September.)