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Graduate merges renaissance portraits with selfies of women to highlight inequality

Since the digital era prompted the rise of the selfie, women around the world have found themselves judged and scrutinized for the way they look and present themselves online. Noting the similarities between selfies and how women are portrayed in classical works of art, a University for the Creative Arts (UCA) graduate has fused the two mediums together to highlight tensions between the art forms.

Digital artist Vanessa Omoregie, who studied BA (Hons) Fashion Promotion at UCA Epsom, says: “I wanted to reframe selfie contributions as art, juxtaposing them with paintings like The Birth of Venus to highlight the tension between the two mediums. It also opens up the opportunity for discussions about why the idea of women who post pictures of themselves online aren’t viewed and respected in the same way as ‘Venus’ is.”

Vanessa, who is 24 and from South London, originally began the project, CamGirls, while she was still at school and is now launching the second phase of the project, pushing the concept far beyond its early days on Tumblr.

“I'm involved with feminist communities both on and offline and find that women have a hard time existing because of the way we're represented. I hope that the project gives a voice to female identifying and non-binary people, changing the narrative from the 'male gaze' of being watched, to being visible, present and in control. The project involved contributions from a variety of women not often represented in art and explores what it really means to be seen online.

I think there's definitely a story between the two art mediums,” Vanessa adds on the unusual pieces. “The format of combining this very traditional art with a digital medium that in some respects is yet to even be considered real art, creates a discussion about where art is going and how it can be more inclusive.”

The project works by women supplying their own selfies to Vanessa, who then manipulates them into images of widely-acclaimed renaissance portraits, renowned for their places in galleries and museums. Vanessa is now hoping to progress the fusion of art forms to video to draw further attention to the inequality of the perception of women in traditional art and digital media poses.

Explaining how the project will work on video, Vanessa says: “I found that interviewing contributors to the project was actually one of the most interesting parts of the project and it didn't really get the chance to be showcased. I think bringing this element into the project will bring new dimensions to the digital collages and will open up a new avenue, where the focus is very much about online identity.”

Vanessa credits receiving an art education for equipping her with the skillset needed to develop the project and gain further exposure. “Studying gave me the opportunity to learn to process research,” she says. “In a project like this it really helps, especially when you’re in a creative mindset and you have to be okay with having a lot of ideas and channeling them into a single, clear narrative.”

To find out more about CamGirls 2.0, click here.