Arts

‘I Don’t Want To Be Part Of The Process Anymore’

After years of feeling his work stifled women's self-confidence, iconic photographer Jez Smith rejects the industry and reshapes his career to lift women up.

By Kate Neroni

Arts

After years of feeling his work stifled women's self-confidence, iconic photographer Jez Smith rejects the industry and reshapes his career to lift women up.

By Kate Neroni

The fantastical, edited world of fashion photography builds unrealistic expectations for everyday women but one of the leading figures has walked away from the industry after becoming increasingly uncomfortable with taking certain images to pursue a radical alternative approach to his profession. London based photographer Jez Smith feels conflicted that such photographs could make him complicit in undermining the self-confidence of women after 25-years of photographing models.

“Photoshoots are fantasies and should be treated as such,” Smith says. “They have nothing to do with what’s real or actually what I find really beautiful. It’s just an idea, a creative concept, and it’s no different to someone writing a fictional novel. It’s just another art form.” Once a face of Next Top Model in Australia and the US, Smith is one of the few serious players to speak out against it.

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Asked what sort of world he would like to see for the next generation of women, he says it is not just about equal pay. “I think the battle for equality has a really long way to go. I actually get so angry when I have girlfriends who say to me, ‘It’s not so bad, I’m doing okay.’ Of course they’re incredible women achieving amazing success in all walks of life, but is seems to be despite the odds stacked against them… I’d like to see the stacks a little more evenly distributed. It’s about all of the elements that go towards equality.

“It’s about the sense of well-being that as a man I think you have. I’m not saying that men don’t have pressures and they don’t have insecurities. But men don’t go walking around worrying about the size of their thighs and nor should women. It’s just different for men and it would be really amazing for it to be the same for everyone. For women to be able to celebrate themselves, and just feel OK about themselves in the same way men do.”

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“For me I don’t want to just shoot physically beauty, but shoot people who are doing incredible work, inspirational people, doing a portrait of someone who’s doing an incredible arts program to help ethnic minorities for example, which I’m doing through Change Creation in the UK. I just recently shot portraits of a couple of ladies who run a performance troupe that only has disabled performers. Just listening to them talk about the people that they work with and the passion for what they’re doing, those are the people I want to be photographing because for me they’re beautiful when they’re absolutely inspiring.”

Jez has also been working on a passion project of nudes where he is shooting precisely the women he wants to celebrate. But instead of art directing the image himself, he’s asking each woman how they would like to be represented, how they would ideally like to celebrate their own unique beauty. The aim is to produce a series of images of women who have had to deal with their physical form being altered, misunderstood, or questioned. Images that absolutely ‘celebrate’ themselves in the ultimate way, as dictated by them.

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