Petra Collins: Artsy Provocateur

The young photographer is taking a new perspective on sexy.

Petra Collins

In becoming an artist, Petra Collins took a time-honored path: move to a cool city, form a gang, turn the gang into a scene, turn the scene into a movement. The 22-year-old Canadian photographer came to attention through the online magazine Rookie, her generation’s Sassy, and since her move to New York from Toronto in 2013, she has stood as a central figure in a posse of downtown girls who are making art that advocates a sexual-but-not-sexy brand of feminism. The devil-may-care attitude and casual nudity in her pictures brings to mind the work of the photographer Ryan McGinley (with whom Collins once worked). Collins’s female subjects—unretouched and unapologetic about their bodies—represent “real” girls rather than an aspirational ideal. Although she shot a recent Levi’s campaign featuring the model Erin Wasson and the rocker Joan Jett, Collins seems more enthused by a project she did this summer with London’s Annin Arts, which involved a billboard-size image she took of a friend from high school. “She’s half-black, very curvy, lots of pimples—I was so excited!” Collins says. “There’s this new trend on Instagram where girls post ugly selfies with zits, cellulite, whatever. It’s cool.”

Hair By Braydon Nelson at Julian Watson Agency for R+Co; Makeup by Marla Belt at Streeters London; photography assistant: Tyra Mitchell; fashion assistant: Martin Hamery; hair assistant: Brittany Mroczek.