Q&A with Giulia Hepburn

Q&A with Giulia Hepburn
At Playful Promises HQ, we're not just passionate about diversity in our photoshoots, but in our workplace too! We pride ourselves on having ecclectic individuals, who are encouraged to let their uniqueness shine. 

Giulia, our in-house photographer, came on board with us last year and has shot the majority of our campaigns and ecommerce images. Her amazing energy and creativity shines through. Being queer in the creative industry, it was apt that she shot our Disco Pride campaign and spoke with us about queer representation in the media, the inspiration behind the campaign images, and how brands can work to be more inclusive year-round - not just at Pride!


What are your favourite affirming images or representations of lesbians or lesbian relationships in the media?

Having grown up in a time where the representation of LGBTQA + culture was almost non-existent, especially in Italy where I come from, I did not have role models to follow, or affirming images of lesbian relationships. I was so thirsty for queer content that I would watch all sorts of movies / TV series that had even a hint of queer culture (and too often, it was with a negative meaning). My first contact with a representation of Sapphic love was with the Japanese anime Sailor Moon, where two of the main characters, Haruka and Michiru, were clearly a couple. I remember that I was printing illustrations and fan art of the two of them; I found them wonderful and really sweet (and for the time, the early 90s, seeing this type of representation was really something innovative).
When I was a teenager, for the first time on tv, thanks to Buffy, we saw a lesbian couple with Tara and Willow. Then, the L word aired (I watched it in English with the first streaming services on the internet); the first show whose main focus was to show the (too glamorous) life of lesbian women in Los Angeles (can we talk about how gorgeous Bette Porter and Helena Peabody are? Yes, thank you).

How can brands (and other photographers) be more inclusive to the LGBTQA+ community within their work? 

What I would love to see from brands is an inclusiveness that does not manifest itself only during the month of pride. It's not enough to just add a rainbow flag to your logo for a month, pretend to hold on to the cause, then forget about it the next month. Inclusiveness should always be present both in front of and behind the camera, and be a clearly visible, constant stance. This is what I would like to be able to see in every brand, every season. Creating awareness, but at the same time transmitting a message that the LGBTQA+ community is welcome and integral all year round, not just for Pride.

While shooting the Love is Love – Roller Disco campaign, what message did you want to get across to the LGBTQA+ community? 

When I photographed Love is Love, my aim was to create images that could speak not only to a queer audience, but to everyone. I find that too often creative content immediately gets tagged and categorized into boxes that no longer really need to exist. For example, a film that is certainly queer, is not just for a queer audience, and it shouldn't be advertised just for a niche audience. We are still amazed when characters are part of the LGBTQA+ community, whereas I feel this should now be accepted as a fact. We are not talking about a label, but about people.
It was important for me to work with queer models for this photoshoot, as an extension of my response above, it felt right for as much of the team to be part of the community as possible.

Which queer artists inspire you and your work?

When I was young, I remember seeing an editorial in Vanity Fair by Annie Leibovitz, and I instantly fell in love with her work. As a woman and a queer person, she inspired me to purse my dream to be a fashion photographer and my ambition to shoot amazing campaigns that would inspire and excite – I love to think that people dream to step inside my images!
Other queer photographer artists that inspire me are Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst. Outside the photography world, I am also incredibly fascinated by the letters between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackeville West, I found them incredibly powerful and desperately passionate. I’m a big fan of the illustrator Jennifer Prince, her aesthetic is an absolute pleasure for my eyes. And of course, movies like Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Carol (OF COURSE) and The Handmaiden have influenced my aesthetic a lot (as you can see, I have a soft spot for vintage and dramatic queer love!).

How do you feel working at Playful Promises? 

Working in a friendly, welcoming environment is something I've always wanted. Being a very private person, I have always tried to keep my private life, private. Within Playful Promises I feel like I’m in a safe space; I’m able to show an important part of my personality. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to express myself creatively, and to be able to work with a team that understands and shares my own values.

View the campaign here and view more of Giulia's work here.