Photographer Francesca Rowse redefines Cornish femininity in her 2000-inspired series
“I’m a country thug, born and bred in Cornwall,” Fran Rowse told It’s Nice That. The photographer comes from a long line of fishermen and farmers, “I was the first person in my family to work in the arts and go to university”, she adds. For much of her life she struggled to find her place in rural Cornwall, which she describes as a “male-dominated social hierarchy”. Photography and art offered her solace, allowing her to create “a world I felt I belonged to.” And much to her delight, when she started sharing her work, “it turned out other people wanted to be a part of it too!”
His series Maids is a gift to young women and girls who, like her, have sometimes felt lost between the romanticized image of rural Cornwall and its harsh realities. “As a highly gentrified area, on the outside Cornwall proves to be a rich wealth of beaches, sun and fun,” she explains. “But the realities for locals living in inland parts of Cornwall and more remote areas are quite different. Extreme levels of poverty and lack of jobs create a bleak future outside of the summer holiday season.
Using her golden trinity of skills – ‘fashion, styling and play’ – she set out to empower young women and girls in her community and carve out a new definition of Cornish femininity. For this vision, the culture of the 2000s was an important point of reference for Fran. In her eyes, “Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are the aesthetic quintessence of the freedom of femininity and girl power”. Dressing the young women she cast in ballgowns and extravagant jewellery, Fran created a “striking contrast” between the Cornish landscape and the glitzy fashion statements of the year 2000. “I was described like the creator of the Cornish bimbo look,” she laughs. “I wear this as a badge of honor!”