Photographer captures inner 'creature'

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NORTH ADAMS — Augusta Rose wants to start a multi-media movement, one that moves away from forced poses and fashions, and one that moves toward embracing subjects as they are.

It's why she was chosen to be a part of this Friday night's "Feminism in Art Showcase and Celebration," hosted by the city's Sounds and Tones Records and Common Folk Artist Collective. A local capstone to March as Women's History Month, the event starts at 7 and features music by Francesca Shanks, Sophie Lane, Catherine DeGennaro, Darling Valley; and visual art by Augusta Rose Photography, Misa Chappell, Julian Grey and Lynda Field.

Rose, 25, who moved to the northern Berkshires back in the fall, will bring to the space her ongoing photography work, as well as the debut of a project she calls, "Be Your Creature."

A concept that's developed over the past two years, Rose said she created it "to address a lack of authentic media relatable to female role models."

The "creature" aspect isn't about costumes or makeup. Quite the contrary. The project title was inspired by a friend who told Rose — who once struggled with her own image and identity — "You need to be your creature, girl."

"And that stuck," said Rose.

To bring this concept to fruition in her project, Rose interviews, photographs and video records women she meets for the "Be Your Creature" blog (beyourcreature.com), with an emphasis on using natural light, capturing candid moments and using Mother Nature's backdrops. She describes the content as a collaborative effort between her and the woman she's working with. Rose acts as a guide, prompting her subject to think about "what makes you feel most beautiful," letting her choose what she wants to wear and where she wants the photo shoot to take place.

"I love connecting with people. I love sharing stories and hearing stories," she said. "I've been so moved by these women's stories and what they've shared with me. I've learned a lot and they tell me they leave with a new perspective on themselves."

Her first "feature creature" for the blog's debut is a woman named Marta Moon, a fellow photographer Rose met in Oregon. Though adept behind the lens, Moon told Rose that she's less comfortable in front of it. So, she and Rose went off the beaten path in the Portland wilderness and did a photo shoot, Moon building her confidence, shedding fears and striking strong and beautiful poses.

In an interview, Moon tells Rose, "One of the most vulnerable things for me is to be seen in a camera. There's something about that that feels solid, like there is an opportunity for more ideas or judgment to be formed about me.

"I want to meet that vulnerability and share all of myself, I want to be seen for all of myself. I have less desire to hide my vulnerability; I feel it is a strength of mine to contribute that piece. Going into a place that feels edgy, and sharing myself anyway. That's what I get excited about; when I see other women sharing their imperfections without shame, or even with shame, but doing it anyway. That's so inspiring to me."

Rose said that in a world where women are often typecast in media, are subject to assault or criticism based on their looks, she hopes the "Be Your Creature" project offers a new narrative and stream of media to expand views on women. "People need to be exposed to this ... women standing in their power to be seen fully."

The rising photographer and multi-media artist said she hopes to continue sharing the stories of other women in a monthly "feature creature" blog post and also offer "Be Your Creature" photo shoots as a branch of service from her photography company.

Next month, she'll be working on a documentary film project about a woman from the Pioneer Valley, who is a double amputee. Rose will follow her to Australia where the woman will undergo osseointegration surgery.

"She, too, is an amazing person, and I think this will show how this [Be Your Creature] project can be done anywhere as a form of global outreach to women," said Rose.

She also hopes to continue working with local efforts like Friday's Feminism in Art showcase and other Berkshire-area women's empowerment projects, like the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers and The Wild Woman Project.

"The purpose of 'Be Your Creature' is not to get people to see it, but to follow it, and forward it, and be moved," said Rose. "We're trying to build a community."

IF YOU GO ...

What: Feminism in Art Showcase and Celebration, an all ages event featuring visual art, food, music, poetry, friends and the lives of women.

Who: Music and poetry by Francesca Shanks, Sophie Lane, Catherine DeGennaro, Darling Valley; with visual art by Augusta Rose Photography, Misa Chappell, Julian Grey and Lynda Field. Support and information will be provided by Sounds and Tones Records, Common Folk Artist Collective, UNO Community Center and Susan B Anthony Women's Center.

When: From 7 to 10 p.m., Friday.

Where: UNO Community Center, 157 River St., North Adams.

Cost: A suggested $5 donation, with all proceeds to go to support "Females in Recovery" a branch of the Josh Bresette Commit 2 Save A Life: Resources For Recovery Foundation.

Info: facebook.com/wearecommonfolk and commit2savealife.org.


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