International Women’s Day: Debbie Todd
We caught up with photography student Debbie Todd who regularly collaborates with other women in her work, read on to find out more:
Tell us about your project working with Tilly Lockey
I have been collaborating with Tilly for several years now. We produce a mix of work usually in connection with my studies and producing content for her socials. We work on the basis of inclusivity and Tilly is an advocate for empowering people to reach their full potential. We tend to work as an all women team to promote diversity and the power or women supporting women.
Our most recent project was a Medusa-inspired Photo shoot as Tilly really wanted to do a fashion photo shoot with snakes and I love trying to recreate images from old stories and inspirations. We used the studio within the Church Street building. We were super lucky to enlist the help of Frank, and his wife, who brought along some of his beautiful boas and Lizzie, who changed Tilly’s hair so we could do several looks within a few hours. Our work is always well thought about and strives to promote a positive image of people with disabilities and differences.
You mentioned you work a lot with women, can you describe this and give us some more information on some of your concepts and techniques etc.
I naturally gravitate towards other women and usually we have a full female team consisting of model, stylist (Tilly’s Mam) makeup artist and costume designer, although I do sometimes have help from my husband who is an amazing assistant. It’s not an intentional thing but it is very satisfying to have a full female team and produce work based on all of our thoughts and ideas. Women generally feel more comfortable working together and the environment is so relaxed with fewer boundaries and inhibitions as we are all total equals so it’s always a good laugh.
I have worked with women who are amputees, blind and transgender. All of the concepts are to promote them as individuals and the ethics around this are always considered. They are meant to make the model feel empowered and the viewer feel inspired and confident that they are a valued member of society and capable of whatever they wish to achieve.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
I think that it’s important to celebrate how far women have come especially in the creative industries. Looking back at even less than 100 years ago and women just did not have the opportunities and the respect that we do today. I feel that things are progressing in the right way although it’s still not, and maybe never will be equal. I’m very proud of the woman who came before who paved the way for us now to be able to have these opportunities and be successful because of our skills and abilities not because of our gender.
Where are you from?
I’m from a small mining village in between Stanley and Consett, in County Durham. There isn’t much promotion of creativity here and growing up I always wanted to be an artist but was told that I needed to get a proper job as I would not make any money be able to support myself. I worked for a lot of years in admin and merchandising and I’m now a mature student studying in my final year of my BA Photographic Practice and Moving Image degree.
Any advice for new students?
My advice would just be to go for it. Don’t let other people put you off and even if you think you are not good enough or you may not be able to keep with the workload you will totally surprise yourself. I’m not academic in the slightest and I do struggle with some of the essays but if you need support you will get it and you will discover that you are capable of more than you believe .
Tell us about any other projects you might be working on?
I’m currently working towards my final major project which is going to be portraits of people with differences. I am hoping to create some images inspired by Julia Fullerton-Batten and Gregory Crewdson, telling stories of marginalised people:
This is mainly as I want to promote diversity and encourage the creative industries to be more inclusive with regards to disabilities and differences. I would love to live in a world where difference is celebrated and everyone feels equal no matter how they look.