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Meet Shaina Rose Woolley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shaina Rose Woolley.

Shaina, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I am a filmmaker and photographer with a focus on queer representation. I create image-based art that showcases joy, color, and individuality. For most of my life, I wanted to be a nature documentarian, spending weeks at a time in remote parts of the world with only a camera and a few other people who were on my crew. The film “Moonlight” is what changed my life and my desire to switch from documentary to narrative film. I realized that if I wanted to impact as many people as possible without making them feel like I am yelling preachy-leftist-activism at them, a better way to reach them is by sneaking my intersectional-feminist, queer, and environmental agenda into beautiful and colorful art. Similar to nature films being the kind of films I was interested in making, nature was the kind of subject I was interested in photographing. That all changed when I took a 35mm black and white photography class at USC where I got to spend loads of time in the dark room processing and developing my own film. That was when I realized I was interested in photographing the individuality of human beings. Photos of people are a lot more interesting to me than photos of nature. Photographers like Diane Arbus and Ren Hang changed the way I view the possibilities of my photography.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I would not call it smooth, however, I have a lot to be grateful for! One of my biggest struggles has been coming to terms with my identity as both queer in my sexuality and gender. While I find it easy to share provocative art that expresses queerness, in my everyday life I find it really difficult to stand up for myself when I am constantly misgendered. I use they/them pronouns and get called the wrong pronouns pretty much everyday. I am learning how to not only be loud and take up space with the art I create, but also in the daily interactions I have with people who may not be queer, familiar with using non-binary pronouns, or how to be respectful of non-binary identities. The other major struggle is having a steady income as a provocative queer filmmaker and photographer. While I have so many projects I wish I could dive into and spend all my time on, (like so many other artists) having money to survive takes precedent.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Shaina Rose Woolley Art – what should we know?
I take portraits of human beings, showcasing their beauty and individuality. I also work on film sets doing a lot of different jobs—Production Designer, Camera Assistant, Grip, Gaffer, BTS photographer. Some of the work I am most proud of is my Fluidity photoseries that helps queer folx see themselves how they want to be portrayed, while exploring each subjects experience living in a binary-gendered world. Through pouring paint on the model and an object of their choice, Fluidity explores queerness, gender, color, and texture. It asks how society has gendered inanimate objects and colors. The dripping paint is symbolic of the fluid nature of identity. All models represented in Fluidity are part of the LGBTQIA+ community. I am still taking photos for fluidity, so if you or someone you know is interested, please contact me! Another specific project I am particularly proud of is my work as a Production Designer on a film called Jelly (directed by Ariela Barer), where I got to turn a space into the cult headquarters for a group of teenage girls. This piece commented on White Feminism and “when inclusivity borders on exploitation.” Working as a Production Designer and transforming spaces into film sets by thinking deeply about the characters’ desires and circumstances is one of my favorite ways to tell visual stories. I am always trying to make space for groups of people who seldom see themselves represented on screen. I am really excited about my debut role as Director of a short film I wrote called “Swoontown”. It’s a silly and sweet queer-romantic-satire inspired by the 50’s and love at first sight! It comments on how heteronormative performances of gender infiltrate their way into queer relationships. “Swoontown” is currently in pre-production!

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being authentic is most important to me. Representing people authentically and telling authentic stories. Next to authenticity is perseverance. The life of an artist is not always easy, but if you love it enough and do not give up on your dreams, I believe that things will work out and I will get the chance to tell my stories at the scale I dream of!

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Image Credit:
Me, Shaina Rose Woolley

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