Photographer Emily Harris has crossed over into a more more expansive medium of film to delve deeper into heavy metal subculture. Her studies first looked at the Atlanta Metal scene, and now find her looking the world over at some of the biggest festivals, from the Tuska Open Air Festival in Finland to the high seas on the 70000 Tons of Metal Cruise. Her current documentary “I Don’t Give a Damn about My Bad Reputation” is set for release in the early part of this year, and takes a hard look at gender roles in the often male-dominated world of metal. So I caught up with Emily to have a frank discussion about the making of her film, and what she learned in regards to tough gender issues in the world of metal.
How did the idea for this movie springboard off the making of your “Atlanta Metal” documentary?
Emily: Well, it’s kind of a weird story. After I finished my first film, “Atlanta Metal,” as part of my thesis for graduate school, I finally graduated and was antsy to travel. Shortly after graduation, I attended a metal academic conference in Finland and met a Finnish metal documentarian. We remained friends, and he approached me later on about working on a documentary together. The only thing I really cared about diving into was women in metal, since it’s something I am a part of personally, but also something I am really passionate about.
Actually, there are academic friends of mine out there doing research on lots of topics, including the participation of women at certain metal events. From what I gather, have read, and from what I have seen the numbers are about even across the board for all genres, with women still being around 20-30% of the crowd. But I would say that black metal probably brings the least amount of women out, and actually most of the extreme metal genres I believe tend to attract more men then women as compared to say, symphonic metal, or folk metal, etc.
Ha!!! Another solid question, and one that I confront a lot in the process of making this film and a topic that I discuss and ponder over many times. I’ll put it this way: being an attractive woman for sure has gained me access to people, mainly men, wanting to talk to me. But it’s a double-edged sword. They may want to talk to you or help you out, but then there is the knowledge that they likely want “more” from you than what you were planning to give back. I think what’s more important in a sense is the fact that doors are opened for me because I am persistent. I am kind. I am honest. I am driven. I give back when I can and I wouldn’t have these doors opened if it didn’t have something to do with my personality and knowing how to treat people.
They are all around me. I know so many women who are involved in the scene. I have academic friends researching and writing about the struggles of women in metal. I know fans. I know other female photographers. I know women who perform or sing in bands. A lot of these women will be in my film, so I don’t want to talk too much about it now, check out the film! I am so proud of all of them.
I think there are some women (and also men) who might be holding us back. If a woman is going to a show just to ‘hook up’ with a guy, then she is not there for the right reasons. At the same time, when you mix a bunch of guys with a few women sprinkled in there, it’s not unrealistic that someone might ‘hook up’ with someone else. I mean, attraction is attraction. I would say that groupies still do exist in a sense. It’s another issue I tackle in the film and try to analyze. What sucks is sometimes when you are a woman and you want to hang or talk with a band because you really like their music, it’s always in the back of my mind of how they will perceive me. Because I know if I were a guy, things would automatically feel different. I hope that by my own example and by making this film, these are some issues people will start to think about.
Yes, I do and I have had discussions with several people from different countries about how women are perceived in their local area. I interviewed some people too for the film from different countries, so I don’t want to give too much away, but I would say that Europe has the best gender equality, and I think that stems from their cultures.