WORDS BETH CUTTING
Anna Fearon is a Director and Photographer who explores the joy within Black culture through varying mediums. Fearon is also the founder of two platforms Blue Magazine, which celebrates black beauty and The Black Exchange, which celebrates black history and culture.
Her debut as a director was the short film Muse, which explored themes of the experience met by Queer Black women and Black non-binary people living in the western world. With an overall hope for the next generation of Black LGBTQ+ people, that they will feel secure to be true and proud of who they are, as there will be a community who supports and champions.
Anna’s latest film Movement In Stillness reflects on the recent events of a pandemic, which led to a lockdown. Visuals consist of dancers expressing themselves through movement, accentuating the restrictions that were placed on people during the weeks in lockdown. Dancers include Ramario Chevoy and Stessy Emelie. The film also showcases Anna's other skill of spoken word, as the poem that is read, is a piece she wrote exploring the themes of feeling trapped and imprisoned, alongside what the new version of freedom looks like.
WATCH MOVEMENT IN STILLNESS
Beth Cutting: What is life like post–lockdown?
Anna Fearon: I’m trying to be optimistic, it's important to focus on small joys during such unsettling times. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on myself and on society, this period of time has amplified the existing inequalities that exist. With the pandemic disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities and the police brutality in the US, and the new era of the black civil rights movement in the fight for justice and equality.
Part of this is the reasoning behind wanting to create imagery of Black joy in my work and tell authentic stories, as we are so used to seeing traumatic images of Black pain and suffering, it is so important to see images of Black joy and hope. Fighting for Black lives to matter is just as much about justice as it is dismantling all systematic oppression that impacts the ability of Black lives to be able to thrive.
I’m really excited about the series of events we’re running for Black Exchange throughout Black History month (October) at Newington Green meeting house. Black Exchange is a community project I co-founded, the talks and events focus on relearning history and unlearning western ideologies. I feel optimistic about creating spaces for the Black community to enable them to have critical conversations and create celebratory events that are uplifting.
I found I was able to be quite productive during lockdown and didn’t want to let it stop me from creating work. In making ‘Movement in Stillness’ I had the Nina Simone quote “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times". This film felt important to make because it speaks to a specific point in history of a global pandemic and also acts as a broader analogy to question what freedom means in society.
The time during lockdown also gave me time to work on my other creative projects. I finished working on the latest issue of my magazine Blue, which is a publication with the ethos to celebrate Black beauty, which I launched last month and is available to order online.
There were moments throughout lockdown that felt challenging and frustrating alongside so many joyful moments of creating. I started taking a lot of self-portraits during lockdown which was quite a cathartic experience. As a photographer you can spend so much time looking for external beauty it was interesting to turn the lens upon myself and find that beauty in myself.
B.C: What were the pros and cons of shooting ‘Movement In Stillness’ throughout lockdown?
A.F: The entire film was directed via zoom, we sent the dancers go pros and some shot on their phones. It was challenging but also exciting to try working in a new way. I love collaborating in person and the energy of being on a shoot, but for me it was important to find ways to still create despite the restrictions and lean into the possibilities to create a piece about connection in a time of great physical disconnect. Through the project I was able to collaborate and connect with new people even if it was virtually.
B.C: So how did you start out & what's your background?
A.F: I studied Graphic Design Communication at Chelsea Art college, whilst I was studying I started assisting photographers and really fell in love with being on set. Then I began developing my own creative practice and shooting fashion editorials. I have always had a love of moving image, so my recent progression into filmmaking has allowed me to evolve creatively and hone my voice in talking about subject matters and issues that are important to me.
B.C: What drew you to moving image?
A.F: It is a natural progression from my photography practice. What really excites me about filmmaking is that it gives me space to explore narratives and communicate issues that are important to me as well as to create conversations.
B.C: Is your process for directing different to that of photography?
A.F: I have always been very interested in the relationship of the still image and that of moving image and how the two mediums influence one another. My gaze as a photographer is an important part of my moving image work. In my first film the Muse, I deliberately chose the visuals to feel quite slow with all the subjects looking at themselves in the mirror, so it almost felt as if you were watching a moving portrait.
I see filmmaking as an evolution of my creative practice, I really believe in an artistic medium being a vessel to tell your stories. I don’t like limiting myself to one creative medium and believe that different messages of communication lend themselves to different outputs. Film feels accessible to all and has the potential to reach a broad audience of all backgrounds, the arts are so often elitist and exclude so many people, but film is for everyone which makes the medium so important.
B.C: Your films (The Muse & Movement in Stillness) have a delicate balance of celebratory and sensitivity.
A.F: With my filmmaking I want to create pieces that are both honest but also cathartic that can give us hope. I think it is also important to tell the stories of people who have historically (and still to this day) have been erased or overlooked. I want younger generations to see artists making work that includes them, tells their stories and represents them. It is hard to feel like you belong and to know the validity of your stories when they are rarely authentically told within mainstream media. There is a natural sensitivity when you are creating work that is personal, and hopefully this translates in terms of people connecting with it.
In Movement in Stillness for the choreography, Maji Claire directed a beautiful sequence of movement, this created a sense of connection between the dancers even though we were only able to connect virtually. Each of the dancers freestyle movement and expressions encapsulated their individual feelings during this period of time. When writing prose for film I focused on the notion of freedom within a society that does not offer freedom and equality for all. This very specific moment in time lockdown could act as an analogy for questioning our society as a whole.
B.C: What can we expect to see from you next?
A.F: I am working on a new short film project at the moment and I am always researching and developing ideas so lots of new work to come.
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ANNA IS REPRESENTED BY GREATCOAT FILMS PRODUCTION COMPANY
DANCERS INCLUDE -