Featured: Caitlin Vickers
Caitlin Vickers is from Colorado and is currently in her 4th year pursuing a degree in English and Management. She has been taking photos since she was 14 years old and has studied under professional photographers at both the University of Oxford and the Rhode Island School of Design. While fashion photography is her personal preference, she also enjoys creating still lives and taking travel photos on her 35mm film camera. http://www.caitlinvickers.com/
When George Floyd died on the 25th of May, light was shed on many of the injustices that the world had either forgotten or ignored. I began to question everything - especially how to respond and how to move forward. Some people advised that the best way to start is with family and friends, having challenging conversations. For others, it was spreading and sharing stories or educational information, fixing the biased algorithms that cloud our social media feeds. Yet, there were also some who confronted the fact that this is not enough. Performative activism is something we all must be made aware of and work through for a long time to come. What are we doing to make people look, and what are we doing when no one is looking? Which actions are genuine and meaningful?
My reflection on these ideas led me to come up with a personal project which I called Should Still Be. The premise is that I would take my time and skillsets - photography, writing, research - to educate myself and give back to the BLM movement. I set out a personal goal to create roughly 10 works of art before I returned to Scotland in August. Each image would be a still life representing a victim of racial injustice, and each would be accompanied by a written statement discussing the person and the art. I didn’t want to focus on how each person died, but instead, how they lived, who they were, and who they should still be.
However, my plans for this project when it began did not go as expected. I managed to create two pieces, one for Breonna Taylor and one for Botham Jean, but these two pieces showed me that I had less time than I needed to continue doing justice to these individuals. On top of this, I was working for Romeo Hunte, a New York fashion designer, who was receiving a lot of attention as a leading Black designer in the industry. I found a different avenue for educating myself. I learned about the prejudice and racism that pervades the fashion industry and witnessed big players such as Anna Wintour begin to listen. I cannot express how meaningful the time working for this company was for me. Coming from a predominantly white background and having attended predominantly white schools, my exposure to the things I was researching and writing about was minimal at best. I even had to face the reality that though I was using my photography to do good, I had little to no diversity in my personal portfolio. So, I put my project on hold. I have spent time hearing other perspectives and holding myself accountable.
Should Still Be is not finished. It is an ongoing project. This still life on the cover of Calliope’s first issue was the last that I created before I left Colorado. The thistles represent my transition to Scotland, the yellow roses represent the friendships that I will carry with me here and continue to value, and the carnations represent my ongoing fascination and love for powerful art. The chess pieces symbolise the ongoing struggle and reflection in seeing each situation or story from other perspectives. Each step forward is a calculated choice built from past decisions and hopes of future victory. However, the difference between this photo and reality is that this isn’t a game. Real people are being affected by this in their daily lives. We are all capable of taking meaningful action towards a better future.