Amy Gibson captures secrets and lies | This is her story
By Anduena Hajdari // Photography Cheyne Tillier-Daly
From the ballet scene in Melbourne to the floors of a clown school in Paris, Amy Gibson’s life was all about the stage. She, like very few of us, had no desire to be a part of the pose-click-capture generation. However, things changed once a fellow clown student gave her a camera, and she found her inner lūmen. Today, years after in her Parisian studio apartment, Amy takes pictures of people and their most hidden and most beautiful self.
THE JOURNEY TO SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS
Amy’s portraits are about capturing moments and sharing their beauty and the feeling they awake in us. And, let’s be honest, what is more beautiful than illuminating people’s inner demons with beauty and elegance in the name of art? Being a ballet dancer was everything for her, and her training to become a ballerina was all-consuming; the perfect escape to avoid old traumas left unhealed, an intense experience that has developed her acute sensitivity to the traumas of others.
Photography Amy Gibson
“I stopped dancing at the age of 20, and when you stop classical ballet, which took so much of my time and energy, you can end up feeling empty”, Amy explains while smoking a cigarette. “There truly was a hole inside of me, and I needed to fill it. So, I looked around for just about anything that would do that, which lead me to directing and producing. After working with artists in cabaret, theatre, music, and circus, I ended up collaborating with a clown who had been trained by the clown master, Philippe Gaulier. I had never seen something so disarming yet so beautiful before.” It then took Amy five years to be able to travel to Paris and join the infamous clown school. “It’s funny that it was in Paris because, whenever I traveled outside of Australia, I would always end up there.” She flicks a smile on her face and a strand of her very Parisian haircut.
Amy finished her studies in clown school as a director, and it was clear to her that she needed to stay in the city. For her “it just made sense”. Six years later, she is still in Paris, living her best life, letting her lūmen shine bright and clear. “I don’t feel like a city, or a place can make you happy, I feel that it has to do with who you are in that place.”
“I could direct someone in front of a camera and make them feel truly beautiful and free”
While learning the challenging and intense art of directing and performing as a clown, Amy’s fellow student gave her a gift, that would change her life. It was a camera, her first ever. “I didn’t like taking pictures, nor did I like the way they interrupted life.” This time, however, she decided to use the gift and began taking pictures of the people around her. “I was completely mesmerized by the pictures I took of people in particular. Not landscapes, not pretty things- people! Maybe because I always have worked with people, and always wanted to direct people in different performances. Now I could actually capture the moments I was directing, which was so exciting”.
Amy pays attention to the veils – the masquerades of choice – the people she shoots choose to use and gently makes them break down those self-imposed barricades, revealing their true beauty. “Masks are great; they protect us. But when it comes to taking a portrait that has to be both beautiful and honest, you need to strip yourself from whatever is hiding your true Self – the very thing that makes us truly beautiful.”
Amy is always open to the unexpected; not working to a pre-destined conclusion but engaging and creating authentically with the person before her: “The portrait may end up being something the subject has not initially envisioned”, Amy explains. She is highly sensitive to the personal experience, and, above all, inquisitive and gutsy. “I love to challenge my subjects. I like to get actors to move and dancers to shout. For people to be silly and free, to take risks to find both the lightness and the darkness. To feel safe to explode or to sit in pain for a moment, before finding the calm in acceptance of their true self. To want to heal their relationship with themselves.”
It is clear to Amy that the process and the outcomes are the same. She ensures that whoever stands in front of her camera is entirely comfortable. Nothing is too radical or out of bounds for the Australian-Parisian former dancer/clown photographer, when it comes to helping the people she works with reveal and revel in who they truly are.