Since the interview for DesignTaxi.com on my “Lady Manes” self-portrait series was edited down to just a few lines, I decided I’d post the full interview for anyone interested (my mom).
1) Could we have your full name, age and where you are currently based?
My name is Rhiannon Schneiderman, I’m 23 years old, and I am currently based in Daytona Beach, Florida.
2) Could you describe your ‘Lady Manes’ series to our readers? (eg. what inspired you to produce it; what is the message/concept you are trying to portray.)
The Lady Manes is a series of eight self-portraits. In each image I’m standing in your typical feminine pose in an outfit or article of clothing, and I’ve accessorized each outfit with its own unique, stylized ‘Lady Mane.’ A ‘Lady Mane’ is just a somewhat empowering pseudonym for a bunch of pubes, a “bush,” your “hair down there”… And that’s what the series was about for me: empowerment. I can’t really pinpoint any one source of inspiration for the project because it really was a culmination of so many things going on at the time; I’d moved to and lived in Daytona Beach, the armpit of Florida and possibly all of civilization, for almost two years (for school) during which time I’d witnessed and been subject to some pretty amazingly sexist ordeals. I was moving more into my hardcore feminist phase, which I think every lesbian in their 20’s goes through, and just so happened to have a hardcore feminist, fine-arts-major professor who had been giving me a semester of the most intense and life-altering class critiques I’d ever experienced. I’d been introduced to Cass Bird’s “Rewilding”, an amazing body of work that continues to influence me. All of these things, and maybe a few Lady Gaga songs, were inspiration enough to create a series that kind of laughed at conventional gender norms. I wanted to tell people that they were ridiculous, make them uncomfortable for a change. I wanted to challenge femininity and the objectification of women that is still so incredibly prevalent in society. I guess it was my way of saying, “Fuck you. Enough is enough.”
3) How was it done?
I was fortunate enough to have access to everything I needed for the project. I used industrial-strength Velcro (I don’t recommend trying that at home) to attach the hair pieces which I found at several different wig stores, clothing from my own closet, school studio space and lighting equipment, and the Hasselblad H3D to shoot the images. My friend and peer, Pedro Lopez, who is an awesome photographer that I collaborate with more often than not, took the photos once everything was arranged correctly. Then I spent probably over an hour on each photograph, editing-wise.
4) Your photo series may come across as controversial to some—how has it been received so far?
That is definitely how it’s been received. I think that it made a lot of men and a lot of professors very uncomfortable. Some peers just wrote it off as “well, that’s Rhiannon,” a lot of them thought it was absolutely hilarious. I got a lot of high fives, mostly from women and especially from my female professors. My own gay community really embraced it. There was a guy who said, “you’re so beautiful, why would you do that? I don’t get it” – I didn’t slap him across the face but it did take a lot of effort on my part.
5) Is it alright if we use the images from your website? Are there any additional pictures we could use?
Yes, absolutely! I’d actually use the ones on my Tumblr —-rhiannonschneiderman.tumblr.com, the complete series isn’t on my website. I think there are only six on it. I’m really bad at having a website.
6) Lastly, do you have anything else to add or like our readers to know?
I do, actually! If anyone is interested in photography school, I really can’t give enough attention to the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies at Daytona State College. Seriously, without it I’d be lost. It’s such a great photo school, and the only one I’ve heard of with such an awesome facility that is so affordable. I should definitely also mention Jayanti Seiler, my crazy feminist professor. She’s just the best.