Photographer Naomi Davison Documents The Artists Underrepresented At Music Festivals

The award-winning photographer shares her portrait series celebrating the queer, female and non-binary artists performing at The Great Escape festival.

HEADER IMAGE Phoebe Go by Naomi Davison

We’re not surprised, just disappointed, taking a look at this year’s festival line-ups. Outrage first ensued following the announcement of Glastonbury’s all-white-male headliner line-up, with vocal critics including Lana Del Ray who was also performing. But it’s far from the only culprit, as Latitude, End of the Road, All Points East and TRNSMT similarly feature no artists of marginalised genders as headliners.

Latest figures suggest as little as 13% of UK headliners at the top 50 festivals were female. A 2019 report by Ticketmaster has also identified that “29% [of the 4000 UK festival punters interviewed] feel there is not enough diversity in festival line-ups, with 47% wanting better gender representation among artists appearing. Three in ten also say that the gender balance of line-ups is something they actively consider when choosing a festival to attend.”

Regardless of your preference in genre, festival organisers have a responsibility to artists and music lovers alike to curate fair representation across event rosters. Some have also criticised ‘legend’ headline slots that feature music icons and throwback performances for limiting organisers to a historically exclusive pool of talent, while others cite exclusivity clauses, which limit acts from playing other UK festivals and shows in the same season, for restricting available artists.

Looking to celebrate communities forgotten or hidden in these spaces, photographer Naomi Davison set to this year’s The Great Escape festival to capture artists of marginalised genders and sexualities across the three-day event. “Being queer, female and not coming from a place of financial privilege myself, I know how hard it can be to prove yourself and find confidence in your work as a creative,” she explains. 

“There are so many amazing female, queer and non-binary musicians right now and we are definitely in a time where the industry is becoming so much more diverse,” she continues. “But I also know that prejudice and discrimination are still very real for many people even on a micro level day-to-day, whether it’s someone having to work harder to prove their ability beyond that of a cis man or someone putting up with discrimination based on their gender, identity, race or appearance.”

But this discrimination doesn’t just exist for headliners, and the Portrait of Britain winner explains that she was also inspired by the experiences of friends working across the music industry. “Whether they are musicians, music photographers or work in the business side they all frequently share their experiences of frustration over how they have been treated or instances where they feel they are taken less seriously than their male counterparts,” she says. 

Far too often, stories [of discrimination] are shared and it’s frustrating that we are still in a time where people are being treated differently at all. The music industry has a lot further to come in terms of diversity and equal representation.

Naomi Davison

This year, Naomi was impressed with The Great Escape’s diverse roster of talent and wanted to highlight the success of the event, snapping portraits of the artists in their downtime over the weekend rather than while performing. “I wanted to shoot everyone in as natural a way as possible so I would spend a bit of time chatting to them first and explaining the project a bit,” she shares. “Because of the nature of the project, it gave us common ground to discuss straight away and we could share our mutual experiences.”

Below, find a selection of Naomi’s portraits taken of the artists performing at The Great Escape.

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