The Messy Truth podcast by Gem Fletcher

Gem Fletcher’s podcast unpacks The Messy Truth of photography

Photo Director and CR contributor Gem Fletcher discusses social media, gaze and representation with contemporary creatives as part of her new podcast series

“Photography can be a really isolating industry, so it felt important to share these conversations with a wider group to start an honest and direct dialogue about the challenges image-makers now face,” Fletcher tells CR. “I’ve been contemplating starting a podcast for a year, but was afraid to jump into a whole new format.” Though it was uncharted territory, Fletcher believes the medium engenders a fruitful, candid discussion: “It forces us to articulate our process in a more focused way when we don’t rely on the images as a cue.”

With over a decade of experience in the creative industry, the Art Director has turned her attention to her new podcast The Messy Truth, where she examines and exposes the realities of the photography world, going deep into topical issues such as gaze, representation, social media and mental health.

Joining her to discuss these themes are a number of creatives spearheading change and sparking conversation in the industry, including Campbell Addy, Catherine Hyland, Alexander Coggin, Jack Davison and Lydia Pang. Given her vast experience, it was a natural progression for Fletcher to share her reflections and dig deeper on issues that impact so many photographers – particularly those just starting out.

The most recent podcast was in conversation with South African photographer Alice Mann, who last year won the Taylor Wessing prize for her series Drummies. Mann received widespread praise for her project, which focused on all-female teams of drum majorettes in the Western Cape – a hobby often taken up by girls from disadvantaged communities in South Africa – however her position within that context has rightfully been debated.

“I was interested to talk to Alice about representation,” Fletcher explains. “As a white South African photographer making work about her homeland, her work raises a lot of questions about the responsibility of gaze and representation. We discuss how she navigates these issues, bearing in mind her upbringing, privilege and relationship to the country while being motivated to tell more uplifting stories about her home country.”

As someone who listens to her fair share of podcasts, Fletcher concedes there are already plenty in circulation on the topic of photography. “But in my experience, they all occupy a similar space. All male hosted and focusing on tech or a biographical interview with very established photographers (also often male). The space lacks diversity of all kinds.”

Instead, as is consistent with her career, she chose to focus on emerging and newly established talent – not least because these are the voices that are genuinely the most insightful, and arguably influential, in the modern landscape. “These are the people disrupting and driving change. I’ve noticed that the next generation of image-makers are less interested in big names, they are really focused on telling their own story and look to their peer group for inspiration.”

It wouldn’t be a discussion on the state of creative industries without bringing up social media. So what’s Fletcher’s stance on it? “The landscape is constantly shifting,” Fletcher highlights. “Social media has removed industry gatekeepers and allowed anyone to build an audience online. With online being such an important space for brands, the impact of this newfound freedom for image-makers has opened up opportunities for a broader spectrum of global creatives who were perhaps previously overlooked.”

The Messy Truth is available here;