Photography and politics collide in the work of LA-based photographer Remy Holwick

Text by Irina Baconsky

Future Feminine is a new group exhibition navigating the female gaze in 21st century photography – and looking forward to what the future holds. To celebrate the opening at LA’s Fahey Klein Gallery this week, we meet the participating artists – Honey Long and Prue StentMagdalena WosinskaAmanda Charchian and Remy Holwick – to take a closer look at their work.

The art world may seem inescapably self-regarding, but Remy Holwick’s vision roams far and wide. A child of the late 70s post-hippie California art scene – her father was a painter, her mother a model and her godfather the photographer behind The Doors’ L.A. Woman cover – Holwick had no difficulty embracing the blissful determinism of a life devoted to creative pursuits. “I grew up with the assumption that I would eventually go into art, and I’ve always been perfectly fine with that,” she tells us. “Most art forms are quite solitary and individual, but I was especially drawn to photography because it’s so collaborative, and I feed off other people’s energy.” If today manipulating the camera has become second nature to the LA-based image-maker, her initial fondness for the medium was ignited during her extensive experience of working as a photographic subject. “I got scouted to model at 22 and spent many years on set, which was the best education I could possibly have gotten,” she says, reminiscing on her eye-opening encounters with the likes of Ellen von Unwerth or David Sims.

A hyper-saturated jigsaw of aesthetic influences, Holwick’s work fuses unabashed emotion, a heavy sense of nostalgia, and heightened, psychedelic visuals. As part of Future Feminine, her ambition was to explore an element of femininity that is detached from gender. “For this body of work, I didn’t shoot cis-het women,” she explains. “I don’t limit femininity to biological womanhood, and most of my subjects tend to be gender-fluid people, transgender women, or even men.” Her gaze shifts the focus from the sheer physicality of femininity to its ineffable essence. “To me, there is this grace, this energy that I find fascinating,” she continues. “It’s something that I don’t exude myself, despite being a woman, but when I see it in others I’m instantly mystified by it.”

By examining modernity through the lens of 60s and 70s surreal acid-trip visuals, the photographer draws a parallel between two vastly different eras strongly bound by the element of political unrest. “My work is highly political without being about politics,” she argues. “It’s impossible not to make political work in this culture. The violence with which the categorisation of individual identities has been enforced on society has caused a lot of pain to a lot of people for so long, and it’s part of our duty as artists to try and heal the wounds of time.”

As such, one of the missions closest to Holwick’s heart is to remind people of the importance of dreaming. Her imagery invites the viewer into a utopian fantasy world utterly unrestricted by norms, stereotypes or rigid definitions. “The people in the photos aren’t models,” she says. “They’re just people performing an act of social escapism by going into the desert and, for a weekend, just fully living out their most radical fantasies and dreams.”

Possessing a magical, almost transcendental quality to them, Holwick’s photographs depict a world outside of the possible experience, where norms are defiantly subverted and the standards of beauty don’t fail to reflect the true make-up of the world. “When you feel repressed by the external, it’s easy to forget who you really are,” she concludes. “If you can’t be yourself and embrace what truly makes you feel alive, is life even worth living?”