Beta Bajgart is a super talented photographer. On Wednesday next she launches her new book “A Womans Work” a set of portraits of beautiful, imaginative and strong women in creative, unusual and usually male professions; including a champion chess player, a mechanic, a pilot, a boxer, a blacksmith, and electrician, a pilot, a fire fighter, a writer, a scientist, a rally driver, a farmer, a percussionist and an undertaker. We are excited to attend the launch in Dublin Castle, but in the meantime, lets have a chat….
Beta, tell me about “A Womens Work”?
‘A Woman’s Work’ is a portrait series of beautiful, imaginative and strong women in creative, unusual and predominantly male professions. I have travelled across Ireland for over one year and I photographed 53 amazing women.
What inspired you to start working on this project?
My friend in the Czech republic, who is photographer, asked me to take part at his exhibition called “Women and beauty”. It was a great challenge because for me the real beauty has always had very little to do with the way we look or dress. I needed to find an answer to the question “who really was that ‘beautiful’ woman” I saw through the lens of my camera. So I started to photograph my female friends – women who I love for many different reasons and who were always beautiful to me: a cinematographer, an illustrator, a felt designer, a writer, an upholsterer and a minister. That is how the journey began.
Why do you think this book is so important?
In the times we live it’s absolutely crucial to be showing positive role models to our children, especially to girls. The world of social media, cult of celebrities and images of models in the magazines is overpowering, yet very limiting. It’s very important for me that my daughters are aware of different possibilities and opportunities in life. And for all of us – it’s important to be recognizing that life can’t be pink and blue. There should be no gender and society obstacles that should stop anyone from doing what he or she loves and is passionate about. We should support girls who would like to become construction workers but we should also support boys who want to work as nurses.
Of all the women you have photographed, which career were you most surprised or impressed by and why?
I get this question very often and I don’t really have an answer. I was genuinely impressed by all the women I have met because they all are inspiring, strong, brave, kind and hardworking. And many of them had profound influence on expanding my views and opinions. But in general I think it’s still quite unexpected to see women in trades – industrial abseilers, welders or aircraft engineers.
Why do you think girls don’t pursue these careers more often?
I think very often it might be as simple as not seeing them. Not having the opportunity to see other girls or women who exceled in those jobs. There are many girls out there who like technical side of things, who like to work with their hands, who like engineering activities and play with cars. They only pursue other careers because their parents, teachers and society don’t show them that there are other options.
Do you think seeing women such as these might inspire girls to have a different attitude about their bodies and what they are capable of?
Absolutely. First of all they will be able to see that beauty has many different forms. We come in all shapes, sizes and colours. The reason why all women I photographed are beautiful is that they are passionate about what they do and it brings joy to their lives. And the joy and confidence reflect in their appearance. The other day I showed my eight-year-old daughter my picture of a truck driver and a picture of a skinny model outside the truck. They both have tattoos. I asked my girl – who do you think is cooler and prettier? Without hesitation she pointed at the real truck driver. Why, I asked her. Because she has a tattoo! But the model has a tattoo as well, I said and my daughter replied: yes, but she is only pretending. I think when you put beauty in a context of a real life; you can inspire and support all girls. And of course, the book is a testament to the fact that women are capable of absolutely anything and everything and they can thrive in every job and profession.
If you were to start over again, and had no preconceived notion of what a women can work at, which career do you think would appeal to you?
I think I would always end up in visual arts. But I would pursue this much earlier. I only became professional photographer at the age of 30 and it was just a knocking on the door to the dream, which is filmmaking. Saying that I’m very happy where I am right now. It doesn’t feel like work, because I love and enjoy every aspect of what I do. So perhaps, getting closer to what you dream about, works too… But if visual arts didn’t exist I’d want to be a lead singer and songwriter in a big funk band. I used to have really cool band in my twenties but I was always told that I’d never be able to make a living as a singer.
What would you like to say to young girls who are currently in school, and deciding which careers to choose, what do you wish someone had said to you?
Watch yourself, and identify your spark! We all have it… some activity that brings us moments of joy and excitement. It doesn’t have to be continuous interest supported by attending after school activities. And there is no need to investigate where does the spark come from. If it’s there, just go with it… try figure out what would be the job where the spark can come out most often. If you like stories and dreaming, maybe you can look at career in writing, if you like carving with knife to the wood, check out decorative furniture or musical instruments making and if you love helping your mum cook, why don’t you consider career as a chef or cafe owner…?
I wish I wasn’t told I couldn’t make a living as such and such. I wish I wasn’t encouraged to get the career in the ‘safe’ job first. I wish there was someone I could talk to about my dream aspirations, that someone who would help me to make the first step. And I wish I’d had an access to a book like ‘A Woman’s Work’.
Click through the gallery below to see some of the pictures…