Two people sat on a bed with a redheaded woman lying between them

Being Wanda: Life, love and identity

“In the early stages of my photographic journey, I developed a passion for celebrating love regardless of gender. I was really interested in gender identity and identity as a construction – the postmodern approach. Mixing this with my interests in sub-cultures had a huge effect on my fashion photography. Within a fashion context, I played with elements of unisex, androgynous identity and gender. Bringing in influences of different sub-cultures, I let it all unfold.

I enjoy photographing androgynous people and am drawn to feminine boys and quite boyish looking girls. I always liked femininity and this androgynous side keeps coming out in my work, whether I am capturing fashion or music. My generation has a new way of looking at gender and likes to break boundaries – it’s ok for boys to look feminine and girls to embrace their masculinity. I am mainly a fashion photographer, but I love to get the personality and natural stories out of my models. I'm also drawn to street casting and think that’s beautiful.

Two people sat on a bed with a redheaded woman lying between them
Part of an editorial for NUMERO Russia and inspired by the movie 'The Dreamers', this represents the lovers, the outsiders, and the ongoing search for identity. © Wanda Martin

I'm from Hungary, this little, conservative town in the countryside. My dad is a photographer as well, but he never really wanted me to become one. I had very good grades at school and was this good girl that was always studying. He wanted me to do something financially stable and 'normal', like studying law or medicine. Of course, that didn't happen, and I fell in love with photography when I was 15, so my dad started teaching me the technical side of things, as well as the history of art and photography. But I always felt like an outsider in my home town, so, when I was 18, I moved to Budapest [to study] and started hanging out with a completely different crowd, getting involved in music and fashion – the artistic scene of the capital.

This group of people changed things for me and inspired my photography. Having always been 'the good girl', reading my books and doing my homework, I remember going to classes and everyone was late all the time after going out the night before, and I was like, 'what am I surrounded by?'. As we all spent more time together it opened my eyes. Then out of nowhere, I fell in love. Coming from a very conservative background, it took me by complete surprise when I fell in love with a girl, but my dad didn't like it at all and had a really hard time with it. I guess I became a bit rebellious, as I wanted to have the freedom to love who I wanted. In the end, we dated for almost a year and this experience changed the way I looked at things.

In Budapest, I studied fine art photography. During this time, I learnt about photography as a conceptual art form and started a personal project called 'Lovers'. We were asked to find something very personal to us, and my new relationship was something that was naturally at the forefront of my mind. ‘Lovers’ was all about shooting couples, mainly my friends to start with, in their private environments.

Canon Ambassador Wanda Martin, holding her camera
“photography has helped me to explore unlearn and relearn” ©Wanda Martin

Ever since I was 14, I had this obsession with London and anything English. It started with the Bronte Sisters, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Jane Austin. Then I got involved in the music scene; rock-n-roll and punk. I felt that London was my place to be, so I moved and did my master's degree at the London College of Fashion. Although my relationship ended shortly after I moved, it was still very inspiring for me and my work, and the continuation of 'Lovers' became my degree project.

Hungary is still very ‘white' – even the capital is conservative compared to London. In London, my work, as well as personal project, naturally became more diverse. When I graduated, 'Lovers' was published in Dazed Magazine and got quite a lot of publicity. Even today, I get emails and interview questions about this project, which is great. Dazed is a great platform, and they're all about gender, identity and acceptance.

When it got published and received all the publicity, I think my dad was secretly proud, despite the fact he never approved of my previous relationship. He actually shared it on his Facebook and that was a big moment for me. When Dazed publishes something, that audience is very familiar with gender identity and these sorts of conversations, but when it reaches an audience in a conservative little town in the countryside in Hungary, that means something. It feels amazing! It was more important for me to raise awareness of the topic of gender and acceptance to a wider audience, than anything else. Obviously, it won’t change everybody's way of thinking, but at least they get to hear about it. Even if it changes the awareness of one person, that’s really something.”

See more of Wanda Martin’s work on her website and Instagram.

Written by Cecilie Harris and Wanda Martin

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