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NomadHer Female Globetrotter Festival 2021

On Honesty

Jannica Honey
+May 04, 2019
My name is Jannica Honey (@jannicahoney) and I moved to Edinburgh to study photography and digital imaging after completing my BA in Humanities (anthropology & criminology) at Stockholm University 1998. After building extensive editorial experience as The List Magazine’s in-house photographer, where I shot more than 20 covers and covered the full-spectrum of arts, travel, food and events, I began focusing on more challenging subjects in a series of photo essays. In 2011 I spent several months photographing lap dancers in Edinburgh for an exhibition premièred at the city’s Festival Fringe, providing a candid and unusual perspective.
The following winter, I visited the Mohawk reservation in Kahnawake (Montreal) portraying residents including chiefs, peace officers and drug dealers. Later, I returned to my native Stockholm to document the life of a group of aging amphetamine addicts, a community my recently deceased aunt had belonged to.
In the summer of 2013 I was given unprecedented access to photograph the Orange Order’s controversial parade through Glasgow, capturing both the marchers and by-standers. Most of my commissions have been totally dependent on an authentic connection and a transparent approach to the participant. Honesty is fundamental in my work!
When I talk about honesty, I am not talking about honesty in that more “normal” sense, you know, when we avoid being honest because we are worried we will offend someone?
When you are honest, doors open.
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In 2011 the door opened for me to Sapphire Rooms, a strip joint on Lothian Road In Edinburgh (Scotland). I was commissioned by the strip-club owner to spend time with the women working there and create a photography exhibition. I knew that to create authentic images I had to not only be honest in my approach to the dancers, but also share me, what I was all about. Let me give you a funny example: One of the dancers told me about getting fired from a lap-dance. Apparently she was bleeding and her Tampax string was showing, during a dance. I was pretty shocked, just the idea that women who dance don’t bleed was pretty insane. I came in one afternoon ready to photograph and when I approached the group of women I shouted: “I’ve just got menstruation!” one of the dancers responded with, “I am on my period too!” I thought it would be an important image to show this, so this is how the image unfolded. Nothing voyeuristic, just a shared experience between two grown-up women.
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What you see unfold here, is the sharing of something personal. Honesty hasn't got to do with being frank or bold, it’s something you share. You can't fake it. You will always give something of yourself when you are honest and you most of the time get something back.
Going back to what I mentioned above, in 2012 I photographed both Mohawks in Kahnawake (Canada) and The Orange Lodge in Bridgeton (Scotland). Two completely different communities with different histories, but where identity and belonging is the most important thing. In fact, identity was really about life and death.
When I approached the Orange Lodge in East End of Glasgow I knew that I had to be completely genuine about myself to even get through the doors to the lodge. My honesty (well, yes, I told them that if I believed in a God it would be a goddess) didn't only allow me to walk at the front of their July march in Glasgow photographing the occasion, but my honesty ended up getting invited to lunch at the high table with all the Grandmasters. They knew my whole story. We had open conversations about sexism within the lodge and I asked if you had to be a Rangers supporter to be in the lodge. As much as I don't agree with the activities of the Orange lodge this still left me with some respect for the people I met, not because of their beliefs but their absolute openness with me.
Honesty cements real connections and we humans can feel it. We don't only feel it, it feels good, it feels real, honesty is a gift to treasure. Honesty creates connections and In my photography, this is central.
When I visited Kahnawake I was keen to find out about what it meant to be a Mohawk. I grew up in Stockholm. My mother is Swedish, but my father grew up in Istanbul, he on the other hand is Armenian. I know one thing, I am a city girl, but how do I identify?
Sharing my story of belonging and identity gave the locals of Kahnawake the key to honesty, I actually ended up getting a tour by the local coke dealer. You can’t fake honesty. Saying that, I think the young man showing me his spliff smoking places was more impressed with me partying with the Scottish punk legends The Exploited rather than talking about my dad being Armenian…saying that, again, there you see, honesty is a connection.
Last but not least is When The Blackbird Sings (@whentheblackbirdsings). When The Blackbird Sings unfolded over 12 months, I photographed women and nature at every full and new moon, always at twilight. It started at a time in my life when I felt compelled to reaffirm my own ‘feminine voice’ in the face of personal challenges and male-dominated political events – in particular the recent death of my grandmother and the US elections. By basing my shooting schedule on moon cycles – an intrinsic feminine rhythm – I channel the earth’s natural rhythms into my work, and explore my own reconnection to womanhood and femininity. The two-three years leading up to the start of this year long project, I started to feel really scared and disempowered. Not only because Trump was shouting about grabbing vaginas, but also because I had my own private struggle. I tried to create a new generation meanwhile the older one, my grandmother, passed away.
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After a couple of unsuccessful IVFs I knew I had to do something to strengthen myself and I knew to strengthen myself that I had to strengthen women around me. I went on this journey, to be completely present and honest with not only friends and family, but sometime also strangers. When I was baring my story, the women did too. I know that honesty leaves you feeling vulnerable and vulnerability is really scary, isn't it?
You feel like people can see right through you. It is a bit of a double edged sword. It leaves you feeling transparent, but it is just THAT that gives you strength. It is vulnerability that makes you powerful and honesty is essential in this process. Obviously, to be dishonest is not going to kill us. If you shut that inner door other doors will close, too. All of this is okay, we can always work on ourselves; just make sure you don't lose the key. Because that key is your key to creativity and the birth of something new.
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