French photographer Iris Della Roca, a member of Anouska Beckwith’s all-female collective World Wide Women, is presenting her six-year series As the king is not humble, may the humble be king from March 14th at Chelsea’s The Little Black Gallery.
Having previously exhibited with World Wide Women at Southbank Centre’s ‘Women of the World’ festival’, this is Iris’ first UK show. The work itself stands on the borders of fashion photography, portraiture and fine art, featuring the children of Rocinha, the largest favela in South America, and the Parisian suburbs.
Having lived alongside these children, Iris witnessed the discrimination against them due solely to appearance. Therefore each image has been made in collaboration with its young subject who became artistic director, free to construct their own answer to Iris’ question “how do you want to be seen?”
Our Editor in Chief Claire Meadows was thrilled to meet Iris for an exclusive interview ahead of the show opening.
Iris, can you start by telling us a little about the World Wide Women Collective?
World Wide Women is a collective of women photographers; I don’t know all the girls personally, but I love their work. We have a really positive energy, it’s inspiring and it feels good to be together in such a tough industry.
You’re presenting a six-year series at the Little Black Gallery. Take us back to the start of the project – what was your inspiration?
At first I just started living in a favela because I wanted to know what it was like. There I met Tio Lino, the founder of the NGO Rocinha o Mundo da Arte, and started working as a volunteer. I spend a lot of time there and with the kids, and together we created a special bond.
After some months I proposed this project of creating the children’s portraits in the way they want to be seen. Then together, we built the project: each of the kids gave their idea, I asked them to draw it, to visualise it.
It’s a fascinating title… ‘As the king is not humble, may the humble be king’.. where does this come from?
A friend, born and raised in Rocinha, thought of the title when he saw the pictures.
I like it because it represents the people triumphing over their living conditions, affirming who they are and not letting others do it for them.
As a woman in the creative industry, do you ever feel you have a harder job proving yourself?
I can truly say this has never been a problem for me.
Who are your icons/idols?
I have so many: Gandhi, Einstein, Martin Luther King , Bob Marley, Jane Goodall – all people who have dedicated their life to a cause, they are inspiring. Amongst photographers I particularly admire Dianne Arbus, Alex Webb, Richard Avedon just to quote a few.
Away from your work, what are your further interests?
I do a lot of volunteering and I love to organise cultural exchanges between people that would never meet in their normal life. Of course I also try to see a lot of art: dance, photography, paintings, anything that is creative really!
Finally, what will you be exploring in your next body of work?
I’ve been working with the transsexuals of Rio for the past two years, so that’s the next work I plan on showing.
Iris Della Roca will be exhibiting at London’s The Little Black Gallery, March 14th – 21st.