Inkblots: Women and Non-Binary Folk in Live Music
Updated: Feb 28, 2021
This series is an extension from our Instagram, with full Q&A's instead of the shorter Instagram bios. Here you can read the full in-depth interviews with music photographer & videographer Amelia Jones aka. Inkblots, & go direct to their provided donation link to show your support:
My name’s Amelia or inkblots, my pronouns are she/her and I’m a photographer, filmmaker & creative in the music industry! I’ve just graduated with a BSc in Digital Film and Post Production Technology, and I’m currently doing a master’s in Documentary Production. I’ve been going to gigs since I was about 14 and I’ve never looked back. I’ve had a passion for live music for as long as I can remember, and would always queue to get to the barrier so I could take photos - so I thought I’d make a career out of it - haha! I’ve also done photography for a number of years because my parents got me into it, and it just evolved into something bigger than I’d imagined. It’s a hobby that’s gone out of control. I had a bunch of support from my friends and family at the start, and in April 2018 I plucked up the courage to ask my favourite band Little Comets for a photo pass. Since then I’ve done more than I ever thought I would.
I did research on the effect of working as a woman or non-binary in the music industry for my undergraduate dissertation, and there’s such a huge bias against women and non-binary people. I’ve often been turned down for jobs because I’m a woman, which is why I decided to choose 'Inkblots' as my identity! Bands don’t expect me to turn up. I did have a couple of experiences on tour in 2019 where members of the crowd were trying to explain to me how to use my camera, and questioning my ability to use it - was really odd. I also did a photo shoot this time last year where the band were making incredibly sexist comments toward myself and a friend, it was extremely uncomfortable. Being inkblots has allowed me to gain more work due to not being tied to a person, and instead just being about the work I produce. Although now I’m starting to let people know I’m me before working with them, I shouldn’t have to hide my identity to be able to be hired for jobs. Dressing rooms are particularly gendered. I’ve overheard band members say that women shouldn’t be allowed in dressing rooms, even if the band had asked for behind the scenes content. It’s frustrating when you just want to do your job and you’re told you can’t do it! Also the “which member is your boyfriend?” question, I’ve had that more than once - one of the reasons I’m glad I wear earplugs when I’m working! The ‘no women on the tour bus’ mentality also needs to get in the bin as far as I’m concerned, it is toxic and excludes a lot of people in the industry.
Sometimes women and non binary folk are completely looked over by the older generation in the music industry due to it being male-dominated. They often want proof of your craft, and want to know if you can actually do your job because you aren’t a man. I’ve been patronised before because more often than not, a band will put ‘Inkblots’ on the guest list and I’ll be asked numerous times if it’s actually me, or if I’m just trying to meet the band. Like, no? I just want to do my job!
Has COVID affected my career?? How hasn’t it affected my career?! Inkblots has basically come to a halt and I can’t work anymore. My last gig was on the 13th of March last year, and we went into lockdown the following Tuesday. I had a fully booked month with photo shoots and music videos, and I still haven’t been able to do the majority of them - especially the music videos. My job relies completely on people and live music, two of the most inaccessible things right now. I have a lot of things planned but they keep getting pushed back because of lockdown. I’ve been able to still network and plan projects with people, the next thing is just being able to carry them out. The minute I can photograph a band again, I’m there! Can someone invent a time machine? Please?
I’ve seen some publications move towards majority male-centred content and there’s no clear reason why! I’ve also had more male photographer friends get more jobs during this pandemic than anyone else, again not sure why that is. I definitely do have more experience of this, but that’s a story for another day.
The majority of gigs I photograph, there’s maybe 2 or 3 women in the pit. I photographed Zara Larsson a couple of years ago and I was the only woman in the pit! Shocking for someone that has such a large female fanbase. There’s a picture of me photographing on the Albert Hall Manchester’s Instagram account, and I’m literally the only woman there! Speaking of, after that gig I reposted the photo and received a message from a fellow photographer (a man) that said “upskirting! get her!” which I was incredibly shocked by. We don’t need that in our industry. I also find that if I’m in the pit with male photographers I tend to get pushed aside, as if my work is less important than theirs. If it’s photographers my age, we often work together so we get the same time on different sides of the stage. If I’m confronted by a middle-aged male photographer, they’ll often step in front of me and I can’t take photos. I’m 5’4”! I can’t see over someone who’s 6 foot tall! Sometimes I’ll get a security person I haven’t met before, and they’ll really question me to be able to get into the photo pit - even though I have a pass and ID. I’ll get questions like “You aren’t going to go backstage to find the band are you?” or “Are you sure you’re meant to be here?”. It’s really patronising.
I’ve never worked with specific venues, however, I’m normally at a gig with my client during soundcheck so I do get to meet the promoter and often the venue manager. If it’s a female promoter they’re normally amazing! We had one on tour who told me that there were some regulars at the venue that may behave weirdly towards me, and showed me somewhere I could go where they couldn’t. If I’m working with a male promoter I don’t know, it’s a different story. I’ve again often been asked if I’m just loitering or if I’m one of the band members girlfriends, it seems like nobody takes you seriously. The male promoters I do know though - amazing and so inclusive - I’m really lucky to have stumbled upon them. They couldn’t care less that I’m a woman!
We need to be taken seriously really! No, we aren’t just there to meet the band or 'get with' them, we are there to do a job. Also, just because we aren’t men, doesn’t mean we can’t do an amazing job. I also know that being misgendered is a huge problem for non-binary or trans folk, normalising asking for pronouns or wearing pronoun badges (if comfortable) should be a priority. We are just as capable of doing our jobs as the men in our industry. Don’t overlook us.
Interview conducted by Bea Bennister