BETSY FROST DOESN’T WANT YOUR DICK PICS
By Lana Linton
Have you ever wanted to reinvent yourself? Would you be bold enough to change your name? Move to a different city? How far would you go to begin a new life? These are all questions that we ask ourselves at some point in our lives. Do you like who you are? Maybe you do, or maybe there’s some changes you’d like to make. Betsy Frost is the stage name or alias of a young, female photographer based in Victoria, BC. Her work is daring and speaks for itself, but I got the rare and quite frankly unheard of chance to sit down with the elusive and mysterious Frost for a chat about her message, her work, and herself. Frost has asked that her real name be withheld from the interview; it’s not about who she was, it’s about who she wants to be.
As a child Frost was homeschooled. She ventured into the public school system once, a misguided attempt to have a relationship with a teenage boy. We’ve all been there as women, the rush of a crush, the butterflies and blushes and inevitably the heartache upon discovering that your pedestaled prince is not but a childish and hurtful fink. Frost spent three months in public school and during that time she took a photography class. Her Mother had given her a camera as a child, and photography class didn’t have a text book so Frost thought “fuck yeah, I’m just gonna’ take pictures.” The class was a success, but Frost felt that she “didn’t fit the system,” so she left.
Betsy Frost was born, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of depression and a lack of self-love, “after so many years of people telling you you’re ugly and worthless you so start believing it. And I spent so many years hating myself and not feeling good.” Frost was visiting Vancouver at the time and was about to model in a photoshoot with photographer Megan Magdalena. Frost had never modelled before and was unsure of what to expect, so she talked with her best friend Caroline, “when she was like sixteen she moved here from Alberta and she decided she was going to create who she was. She changed her name, she changed her hair and created this entire new persona for herself, and she felt stronger. I’d always thought that was so cool.” The girls had dinner one night and Frost decided she needed a stage name, “my real middle name is Elizabeth, so I thought ‘Betsy’ and everyone I’ve ever known has called me ‘the ice queen’ because apparently, I’m cold as ice. So, that’s where the Frost came from.”
“I started to think that maybe I could do something, maybe I could help other girls feel better about themselves, feel beautiful.”
Frost’s studio is a homage to the past. Vintage is everywhere in all its glorious forms; cameras, photos, posters, clothing and props. The studio is on the top floor of a curiosity shop in a heritage building, which seems uniquely fitting for Frost’s work, authentic even. She still has the camera her mother gave her. Frost has run an Etsy Shop, Born to Be Bad Vintage, for years. The money she makes from selling her prints and vintage clothing pieces goes directly to purchasing film. “If you’re not willing to go literally hungry for your art, then what are you even doing?” Frost holds herself to an incredibly high standard in terms of her willingness to suffer for her work. There’s an inspiring and unsettling desperation in her eyes, true, raw artistry at its finest.
Frost’s work is predominantly featured on her Instagram account, @supportyourlocalbadgirls, a mouthful to be sure, but a meaningful one. “I started to think that maybe I could do something, maybe I could help other girls feel better about themselves, feel beautiful.” Frost coined her term “bad girls” early into her career, “it’s like a black widow who just killed her husband, and she’s just fucking smoking a cigarette.” Not necessarily as empowering as you’d hope on the surface, but underneath that description is a nasty woman who believes in herself and does what she wants. It’s about having the confidence in ourselves to be able to make mistakes and still love who we are as women. The work is all film photographs featuring young women dressed in stunning vintage pieces, it’s so authentic you’d hardly be able to tell that the photos weren’t in fact taken during the time periods they represent. Frost finds it hard to pick a favourite decade, so she explores most of them to a point, the 60s, she says, is always one of her most loved.
“the idea isn’t to take sexy pictures. It’s not about sex. It’s about appreciating the female form and doing something beautiful with it.”
People have always reacted strongly to Frost’s work, but not always favourably. Some people have called it “pornographic” and “inappropriate,” but Frost doesn’t see it that way, “the idea isn’t to take sexy pictures. It’s not about sex. It’s about appreciating the female form and doing something beautiful with it.” The pictures do have a voyeuristic appeal, like a sneak peek into Victoria’s ‘it-girls,’ but it’s clear that the relationship between Frost’s camera and her models is campy and playful. Frost can appreciate the sensuality and taboo of her work though, “I always admired people like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flint for making it okay to look at a woman’s body.”
The downside that Frost has experienced with making her work open to the public online has been the overwhelming amount of sexually indecent response to her photography, “so many of the comments are disgusting. The dick pics are disgusting. I get so many and it feels like a violation every time, not just of me and my work but of my models.” Frost loves her models in a sort of infatuated yet sisterly way. She admires them, they admire her. Together these women can empower and strengthen each other and create interesting and sensual work with proud attitude. “I love them,” she says with more conviction than she’s shown throughout the entire interview. Frost is one of those rare photographers who truly cares about her models, they’re her colleagues, her friends, they’re basically her family. She respects them and speaks of them like goddesses, “I couldn’t do this if it weren’t for them” she says, tears glistening in her bright eyes.