Jackie Dives is a Vancouver-based portrait and documentary photographer who is drawn to telling stories of people, their private lives, and their bodies. In the series featured here, Jackie captured experiences of menstruation—a subject that is as old as our species, but one that has been laden with cultural discourses of shame and sexism. Her work contributes to a burgeoning feminist movement that actively re-embraces the period as a beautiful and empowering phenomenon.
She was inspired to create the "Menstruation" series as a means to personal catharsis—a way to work through the socially-embedded discomforts. In an interview with VICE, Jackie explains her confusion over the endless mystery and imposed secrecy surrounding "that time of the month": "Nobody's figured out how to handle it, it's just something that happens all the time. I don't want to apologize for that anymore. Like why do women slip a tampon up their sleeve when they go to the bathroom at a restaurant? Why is it a secret?"
Jackie wanted to document women and their periods in her own way, by incorporating colour and all the vivid shades of red. She also wanted to show the faces of her models, which re-personalizes the often-abjected blood. By providing representation for bodies in inspiring and fearless ways, Jackie hopes to help change the world by healing the stigmas that hinder our abilities to love ourselves.
We had a chance to ask Jackie a few questions about the series. Check out the interview and her incredible photos below.
Where are you currently based, and how did you become a photographer?
I am based in Vancouver, BC.
I can't really remember a time when I didn't want to be a photographer. Finally, after years and years of being paralyzed by the fear of failing at it—and doing jobs that weren't photography and weren't right for me—I realized that not pursuing photography would be more detrimental to me than pursuing it and failing.
So I spent the last two years teaching myself how to take photos while forcing myself to answer the question "What do you do?" with "I'm a photographer."
What are some over-arching themes or subjects that you explore in your art?
I like to take pictures of things that are real.
Can you tell us how you first conceptualized your beautiful menstruation series—were there particular personal and/or political inspirations?
I struggle with putting into words how I "conceptualize" my photo series. Usually I act on impulse and then think about it later.
I post on Facebook to get models for my shoots. For all my shoots.
The experience of photographing someone with their menstrual blood is intimate, but also casual. The people who invite me into these intimate situations trust me. When I'm taking photos, regardless of the subject matter, I'm always focused on the photos—on taking great photos—so I'm usually not even thinking about what it is I'm photographing.
Your menstruation photos were featured on VICE—congratulations! I think it's great to be battling body stigmas in a media culture that continues to shame women. How was your series received, by both media and individuals?
Most people hated it. I got some death threats. But I also got emails from women who said that it made them feel very empowered.