In walks the firefighter, clad in formidable equipment as if she were going to extinguish a fire that very minute.
Her ventilator was a disarming piece of garb, emanating sounds resembling Darth Vader throughout the room.
“I wear this now without the threat of fire so that you will not be scared when we come to the rescue,” said Kristine Ellis of the Hamilton/Wenham fire department. She was fearless and strong, her eminence reaching every soul in the room; cherubic children scattered on the floor stared wide- eyed and adults smiled encouragingly. She was their idol.
It was at this moment that Tracey Westgate decided to honor women in uncommon jobs who through exemplary behavior, teach young girls that they can accomplish anything. In an illustrious marriage of creativity and feminist activism, her piece “Grit & Grace: Portraits of Power and Perseverance in Women,” presents the dignity in every life path that a woman chooses.
The myriad passions featured –– firefighter, bus driver, aeronautical engineer, to name a few . –– present not only vast opportunity to younger generations but also demonstrates solidarity in women. Her work serves as a reminder that even though women may feel isolated or insecure, a common thread of hardship inextricably binds females together and conjoins our life experience.
Simply put, girls support girls.
Although some believe praising women in the workplace may seem antiquated, it is as important as ever given the current political climate, one which champions the eradication of fundamental women’s rights. The message of unity and opportunity is even more pressing in younger generations dominated by social media interactions, which inadvertently pit girls against one another.
Westgate remarks on her intention to debunk the unhealthy habit of determining success on alternate definitions By simply using the word “community” over “competition,” Westgate emphasizes the value of connecting with other women and being genuine with one another.
“One’s success doesn’t negate your own success,” she says.
Moreover, Westgate cautions feminists from indulging in unfair assumptions about men. While photographing Kristine Ellis, a firefighter in the feature, she expected her male counterparts to be wary of helping, quizzical about the art’s purpose, and overall critical. However, Tracey recounts her pleasant surprise at finding them to be the exact opposite, posing Ellis like a model and sharing their own creative tips to make the shoot more stunning.
Westgate describes her creative process as a “collaborative art project,” because she was equally exposes to the transformative experience that the project induced in all of its participants. She expounded on the insecurity, doubt, and anxiety that plagued her in the impetus of the project, and that were prevalent in the women when asked to be photographed. However, when the project was finished, both Westgate and the women experienced a cathartic revelation about true beauty and self-definition.
“Seeing the women view their images and view themselves as beautiful was what made the project,” Westgate said.“It was a transformative process for everybody.”
Katie Vandi, a farmer who was featured in “Grit & Grace “shared this view at the project’s completion. “The extraordinary is truly found in the everyday people of this world doing and living what’s in their hearts,” she said. “I am proud and grateful beyond what I can express and seeing myself up there surrounded by so many other beautiful women was a humbling and proud moment.”