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Aoife Light

05.04.2019

Aoife is a photographer and a life model currently residing in Spiddal. She’s an art history graduate, a single mother and feminist. In her work, she celebrates the raw vulnerable side of the human form and experience.

 

 

Generation 20 is a photo and interview series by Julia Monard focusing on the new wave of artists in Galway.

What inspired you to take up photography?

I first started taking self-portraits on my phone a little over a year ago in my room. For most of my twenties, I was in a relationship and when I came out of that, I felt lost. So, it was kind of a journey into self-love. I was trying to explore accepting my body and my sexuality. At the time, I was taking photos for me and I didn’t intend on sharing it with anyone, but then I did. I appreciate vulnerability in people and I could see I was touching on that with what I was doing.

 

How has your art changed since?

About six months ago, I had a great conversation with a friend that I hadn’t seen in years and I happened to tell her that I was really enjoying photography. She said she had an old Canon that she never uses and that I could have it indefinitely. Once I got that, I started taking my work a bit more seriously. Other photographers had encouraged me before with the photos I was taking on my phone, but when I actually held a camera, I felt surer in myself. I started to think more about what the photos could be for the world. It started with women and the drive to convey an emotion that resonates in someone else. I like images that are pretty and aesthetic, but also interesting and make people think – images that empower not only the subject, but the viewer.

What do you look for when you’re capturing a portrait?

I very much work in the present moment and the energy in the moment. That makes me nervous because I am going to a shoot and I have no game plan. I look for basics in photography, like framing the subject and guiding lines, but I always try to think about different and more obscure viewpoints. I don’t try to make the person into a vase of flowers – a pretty thing, but instead try to unveil more of a feeling rather than just a vessel.

 

What intrigues you about people?

The qualities that I see in other people I think are the ones that I would most like for myself. I used to see a lot of negativity in people; I was hiding behind a cloak of conformity before. I think I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted if I was myself and I didn’t even know who that was. Then I was wondering why I felt so disconnected. These last two years have been transformative; I’m completely compelled and amazed by all the people in my orbit at the moment.

 

You recently shaved your head. Can you talk a bit about what inspired you to do that?

It was a couple of things. It came to me very suddenly – I woke up one morning and felt that I had to do it. Initially, I felt like it was a celebration of freedom, a liberation from restriction that I had experienced. A part of it was two fingers to society and patriarchy. Then it was also a test of myself – will I be able to still love myself if I take away a part of myself that is so tied up in femininity? I felt like I had truly come to learn to love and accept myself that year, but I wanted to see if it was really true.

 

So what did it feel like?

It felt amazing and incredible, but also terrifying. Afterwards, I did feel very vulnerable, as I went straight on the bus and to a gig that evening. There was no getting used to it in the privacy of my home, but it felt great.

Aoife Light

“I like images that are pretty and aesthetic, but also interesting and make people think – images that empower not only the subject, but the viewer.”

What have been some of your highlights up to this point?

Meeting with other people who are working in creative fields and interested in collaborating. Connecting through something that’s so true to me has definitely been a highlight.

 

What is your process when you go to take a self-portrait?

I usually know that I have a free afternoon and I play in an imaginative space for two or three hours and I’ll get completely lost. Light in the room will inspire me, either in the morning or afternoon; I go into a world of my own. Some pretty dark places have also driven me compulsively to do these sessions. I struggled with my mental health quite a bit and I feel, especially as a mother, like this is a way I can escape without hurting anyone. When I come back to my reality, the feelings about my reality change; I’m able to survive better.

Aoife Light
How would you like to see your artform represented?

I would definitely like my art to be seen in physical form, displayed on a wall in a gallery space. I would love for it to come off screen and in a place where people have to be present for just a little bit longer with a piece. Women have such resilience and inner strength and I would love to see that feminine energy represented. Sometimes we struggle to see it ourselves and forget that there is a real strength in our softness.

 

What intrigues you about the physical form of people?

It’s as basic as line and shape. From Matisse or Miró, anything like that really captivates me. The female form just seems to be more inviting to my mind and my eyes. I spend a lot of time on Instagram and at one time, an awful lot of my feed was completely taken up by consumerism and I wanted to cull that. I didn’t want it to be about clothes, about fast fashion. I didn’t want to support that industry at all. That was a part of the reason why I started taking off my clothes; it wasn’t just about desexualising myself or accepting my body and celebrating my sexuality; it was about a certain non-conformity to that material world.

How do you feel about social media now in relation to what you do?

I feel like it’s a necessary evil. Like many people that take the types of photos that I do, I struggle with the rules of censorship on these platforms. I know it’s really hard to classify something as art when it’s an algorithm and AI, so I understand the complication there. But when our posts get taken down or an account shut down, I find it’s further fuelling the view that women are just objects for men.

 

What is guaranteed to lift you?

I was having a really low day recently and then I just took my kids and we went to the seaside and that was it – my mood lifted. I do love woodland places as well. The sea and the woods they’re both very different energies. Sometimes I feel that it’s the sea that I need – that expanse, that openness, the idea that you’re this tiny little dot. Then when I’m in the woods, I always feel like I’m more held, grounded, with the branches over me – it’s very supportive in a different way.

“What intrigues me are new ways in which to display art – for art spaces not to be so revered, but a space where people can be loud.”

Aoife Light
What are you most excited about for Galway 2020?

I am mostly very excited about the space that can be created for up and coming artists. Sometimes I feel like artistic circles can be quite cliquey and it can be hard for new people to be recognised. The coming together of creative minds and having the space to do that is incredible.

 

What would you personally like to see happening in 2020?

What intrigues me are new ways in which to display art – for art spaces not to be so revered, but a space where people can be loud. I’d love to see different things happening in a place where art is viewed and that it’s accessible to people across the board.

 

What is your Galway story?

I was born in Galway; I’ve lived here all my life. I moved around a bit with my mom, but most of my growing up was in Moycullen. It was wonderful; I mostly have memories of cycling with my friends, exploring and picking blackberries. I would sit on a boulder in our back garden, speak to my cat and climb apple trees. A year or so after school, I moved to Dublin for a few years; now I’m back in Galway. For most of my life, I couldn’t wait to get out of Galway; I felt claustrophobic and I always felt drawn to Dublin. Now I’ve done that, and I love Galway; I feel like it’s home and the perfect place to raise a family.

“Sometimes I feel like artistic circles can be quite cliquey and it can be hard for new people to be recognised.”

How would you describe Galway to someone who hasn’t been here before?

Galway is a real microcosm of unexpected treasures and people. It’s a busy little hive that changes so much with the seasons and the influx of students and tourists. It can be a whole different experience depending on when you come. The landscape always changes, even in the city, hour to hour. I don’t know if there is anywhere else like that.

 

How do you juggle creativity and motherhood?

I don’t always have consecutive days where I can commit to creativity, so that’s definitely an ongoing challenge. I am torn about including my children in my art, but I don’t operate with a locked door policy. My daughter knows that I life model as well; she knows what that’s about and it’s not a thing, because I haven’t made it into a thing. I very consciously want my children to not feel any shame in their bodies.

 

Is there a quote that represents you right now?

I have two. One is more about my art. It’s by Lady Gaga and it goes ‘I want women and men to feel empowered by a deeper and more psychotic part of themselves. The part they’re always trying desperately to hide. I want that to become something they cherish.’ The other is more about me and it’s by Frida Kahlo. ‘I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best, the subject I want to know better.’

Aoife Light
Generation 20

Generation 20 is a photo and interview series focusing on the new wave of artists in Galway. With each interview and portrait, we aim to uncover their motivations, aspirations and frustrations. To get the full authentic picture and find their common link, bring them all together and into the light. How does their journey relate to Galway and where would they like to see it in 2020? We want to see the people in the budding stages of their expression, those that are quietly grafting and doing wonderful things.

Open, bold and colourful, this is #generation20.

Photos and interviews by Julia Monard.

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