The Inspired: Being "Other"
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Why We Tell Stories

Featuring Isa Benn & Aisha Evelyna; photographed by Kristina Dittmar; Inspired by "This Body, My Body" by Ameema Saeed

The Inspired is a series we produce every few months when inspiration strikes; we ask a photographer we love to produce a visual story in collaboration with an artist who inspires us. The artist gets to play the role of the subject behind the lens, and the collaboration manifests in response to something (a story, quote, paragraph, visual) in our body of work that moves our subject to create, elaborate, design, engage. 

In this installment of The Inspired x With/out Pretend, we ask writer Aisha Evelyna and director Isa Benn about their short film, ShoeGazerShoeGazer explores how women of colour internalize the concept of being "the other" in response to Eurocentric beauty ideals. The film's World Premiere screening happens this month in Los Angeles. WATCH THE TRAILER.

Women of colour, especially in the Western world, consistently navigate spaces which enforce the idea that one's natural self is “other” than the "norm" and therefore lesser through the lens of Eurocentric standards. How do we begin to unfold such complicated, socially and politically charged subject matter, while still giving space to our intimate feelings and experiences? How do we create a safe space for ourselves while we do the work to confront individual and collective trauma? The creators of ShoeGazer use the medium of film to explore the narratives and realities that exist inside and outside of ourselves. Aisha and Isa have created a film which centers Black women and invites us to reflect on our trauma surrounding image, body, and hair.

Aisha says: “I firmly believe self-actualization is a life-long journey with its bumps along the road, and I do not stand here writing at the top of the mountain I have just climbed, looking down. I am very much still in the thick of things, striving to figure out what it means to live as a woman in our times, as a person of colour in our times, all the while trying to navigate both identities and the many facets of their intersections.” 

Inspired by Ameema Saeed's story for the Vault about living in a body, produced by Chantelle Blagrove, and captured by Kristina Dittmar, this photo series illustrates the power and self-compassion that comes from connecting to ourselves through art.

See the full shoot and read the Q&A here.

Sending light,

Kristina Dittmar's photo essay was produced by With/out Pretend and was directly inspired by Ameema's Saeed's story for The Vault, This Body, My Body.

"Sometimes I’ll catch myself in a particularly self-loathing thought, and I’ll wonder — did I do this to myself? Two and a half decades of anger and bitterness and spite? It was bound to eat away at my insides, eroding my joints, crumbling my bones into dust."

— Ameema Saeed, This Body, My Body 

This Body, My Body

A story about living in a body. Written by Ameema Saeed, Illustration by Paola Saliby

More manifesto than memoir, This Body, My Body reads like a letter Ameema is writing to herself, one of the many steps in her journey to come to terms with her body, for all its glories and hurdles; and with her pain, for all it has taught her about perseverance, wishing, coping, and healing. 




Isa Benn is a Toronto-based, award winning filmmaker, whose work predominantly touches on the decolonization of history, gender, sexuality, spirituality and even film itself. @Isa.Benn

Aisha Evelyna is a Toronto Based actor and filmmaker, a resident of the Toronto ACTRA Women’s Committee Short Film Script lab. @AishaEvelyna
In Toronto? Attend Unruly Bodies 3 on August 25.

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