“I was dancing like I was possessed or crazy”, Parisian-born creative Armony Dailly reflects on her younger, carefree self as she describes the urgent need to express herself through an artistic medium. As a kid, this desire manifested itself through dance. “I was dancing all the time, doing shows for my family in the living room, dancing all alone, on my chair during family dinners”. However, as time passed, Dailly found that she was not immune to the aesthetic expectations imposed on women by the media and society in general. With age came the common female tale of insecurity and self-doubt. “My teenage years came quickly and I was very ashamed of my body”, she says,  “so I stopped taking the dance classes”.

Fortunately, whilst her confidence outwardly had faltered, Dailly found an alternative, creative outlet in photography. “There was, and still remains, something magical about the 35mm camera” she explains. “You can fully express yourself without looking at the photo right away, you are living in the moment, you don’t think about the results until later”. As Armony describes her natural drift towards the medium, she seems to come full circle. “Taking photos is like spontaneous choreography. You move your body a lot and you put it in sometimes absurd positions to achieve the perfect angle. I think I never really stopped dancing”.

Armory Dailly

Since 2016, an awareness of her own susceptibility to the problematic pressures inflicted on women (an expectation to be feminine, to be thin, to be pretty, to be kind) has fuelled Dailly’s practice. “When I seriously started employing photography to articulate real perspectives, I was going through a time in my life where I was very angry”, she admits. “Thanks to some young female photographers showing real female bodies instead of photoshopped ones, I realized little by little that my friends, my sisters and the majority of girls in fact spent all these years hating their bodies because of some ideologies based on the patriarchy and the mass media. I wanted to talk about real female bodies by displaying in my work what a lot of people, medias and magazines tend to find disgusting. I wanted to assert that we don’t have to apologize for what we are”.

Dailly’s closest friends are her indispensable muses. Any single photo drawn from her early series, ‘Coming of Age’, speaks a thousand words of the relationships shared between these girls. She says: “I’ve had big family issues since I was a young teenager, the friendship I found with these girls saved me, they are my ‘host family’, if you like. When I take photos, I have to be comfortable and so do the people I’m capturing. My friends completely accept the camera as a part of me. They understand I have this need to never forget, to collect our memories together. So it’s very important that they like the result, and I love it when they say they are pretty in the photo. Photography is about trust and love”.

The deeply personal bond shared between these girls grants Dailly uninhibited access to often concealed or uncomfortable female experiences, which results in particularly immersive photography. Dailly immortalises these moments in her work, yet the presence of the camera remains non-intrusive. In fact, it appears that the girls often forget the camera entirely: each candid instant frozen as if Dailly took the picture with her mind rather than a physical device. “I started to take photos of my periods, my stretch marks, the body hair of girls, the rolls, the shapes, the skin of my friends. To take photos like that, you have to build a strong relationship based on confidence. I try to put girls in the front but not as objects of desire. I focus on the relationships between my friends because when I see them, I can see some magic. I want to show that female friendship is beautiful, hilarious, intimate and powerful”.

 

Dailly’s portfolio is as much about celebrating the strength and beauty of female friendship as it is about challenging popular representations of the female body. Beyoncé once said “I love my husband, but it is nothing like a conversation with a woman that understands you. I grow so much from these conversations”. And it’s true – men and women can complement each other, but female friends offer a support network that comes without the judgment or sexual connotations that can taint relationships with men. It is our girlfriends with whom we share our darkest secrets and our deepest laughter. It is our girlfriends who we go to for guidance when faced with almost any problem imaginable, from what shoes to wear on a night out to career advice and relationship counselling. Our girlfriends are our best outlet to vent our thoughts, divulge our feelings and share our triumphs. Dailly conveys this feeling in her photography, she captures the essence of adolescent female friendship.

As an entirely self-taught artist Dailly looks to other females in the industry for inspiration; Petra Collins, Olivia Bee, Ashley Armitage, Constance McDonald, Luo Yang, Frances Weger to name a few. “There are so many talented female photographers, but there are also a lot of filmmakers like Sofia Coppola, who inspired the generation which I am part of; Jane Campion, Deniz Gamze Ergüven and also Céline Sciamma”. She admits that she initially spent more time looking at the work of photographers of different genders, ages and eras, than taking photos in order to familiarise herself with necessary reference points. But, when it came to honing her own style, Dailly explains “I realized that when I had my camera in my hands, I adapted myself to the events that unfolded in front of my eyes and let my instinct take control”.

Armony Dailly hopes that her work will help redefine contemporary ideologies of femininity by capturing the authentic moments in young women’s lives whilst rejecting the idea of perfection conveyed in the media. Sometimes, this underlying message comes across simply through the closeness and support that you can feel between the girls photographed, whilst at other times it is more obvious in literal stains of menstruation, or the semi-nakedness of the female body. Of course, Dailly admits she’s still got a lot to learn. But, with such virtuous notions informing her practice and an ever-developing but already dreamy aesthetic, there are exciting things on the horizon for this young creative.

Words: Rebecca Wade & Armony Dailly