The first time I ever heard Mandy-Lyn Antoniou's name was in the lyrics of a live performance by No Sinner and I was dead set on knowing who the girl behind the lyrics was. Little did I know what world that question would open me up to: a life of punk rock, skateboarding and stunning girls, all displayed through her photographs. I've been an admirer ever since. I was stoked to be able to interview her for Get Born because it's girls like Mandy-Lyn who break the “no girls allowed” rule that inspire us. To say it in a few words: Mandy-Lyn gets it. She will give you a whole new meaning to NSFW with her photography. She's travelled from Vancouver to L.A. and back again capturing rare beauties in locations she transforms into paradises using a 35mm Canon film camera from the 1970s. Mandy-Lyn explores all elements of sexuality that'll have you asking for more. She's teamed up with HUF, Altamont Apparel and Vans (to name a few) and is a part of three different all-girls event production teams.
Get Born: Can you tell us a little about your upbringing? How did you get into photography?
Mandy-Lyn: I was born in a small Canadian town called Cranbrook. My parents were young, my Mom was an exotic dancer at the time and my dad was in a hair metal band. We moved around a lot and they didn't stick together but they were about as cool and open minded as you could have for parents. Rock and roll was always the top priority for them. I was always really enamoured with the 'reading material' my parents had around– Freak Brothers comics to old Playboys to old Concrete Powders and Thrashers. Album covers really captivated my imagination as well. I hoped I'd be able to make a life like that for myself, something that looked really cool and free.
GB: East Vancouver is known for its gritty but culturally thriving environment. Has living there influenced your work and who you are in any way?
M-L: Absolutely. My Mom lived in the Downtown East Side when I was a kid, and I moved back as soon as I could. It can be really miserable, I see pain on every face down here; addiction issues are overwhelming, lots of dealers and pimps and a really depressing amount of homelessness. There's a couple underage aboriginal girls always prostituting on the corner outside of my house, a lot of screaming and fighting at night. The problems are deep and terrible, the natural beauty of the environment is also similarly extreme. There is exceptional honesty to it all. If you can thrive in a truly hostile environment, I guess you can thrive anywhere. And it keeps you straight... because the alternative...
GB: What is something you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
M-L: I didn't have any expectation, I just wanted to capture my life a bit. I didn't think people would like it per say; I didn't think people would dislike me over it either. I guess that surprised me, how much people internalize artwork and imagery. It's important not to take any of that stuff personally, I'm sure I struggled with that.
GB: When did things really start taking off for you? Was it a gradual climb or was it a certain shoot that really did it?
M-L: Just chippin away. My dad says "Success is a line in the sand that gets washed away every time the tide comes in" — I think that's very true. There's no way to know where you're standing when everything is just perceptions. One day you feel like a winner, the next you feel like a bag of lifeless butts.
GB: What originally drew you into shooting, predominantly, women?
M-L: Women can physically communicate complex themes with an astounding amount of subtlety. Things I think about and deal with, like my sexuality, or my youth; they say you're supposed to write what you know and as a young woman, other young women are what I have the most understanding of (or access too), I guess.
GB: What are some cliches in photographing women you try to avoid?
M-L: Well I wouldn't want to take a photo that felt forced or artificial, I definitely want every woman's uniqueness to shine through authentically. Sexy girl is a dime a dozen, beautiful girl is way more rare and has everything to do with personality.
GB: You've recently done some work with HUF and were shooting at the Van Doren Invitational in Vancouver this past summer. What kind of role has skateboarding played in your life?
M-L: Skateboarding was a part of my Dad's life, and his friends lives, so it was always a part of mine. The first time it really resonated with me was as when I was six or seven, picking up a hot pink Thrasher magazine in our jam room– it had Jay Adams on the front and to me there was no difference between the imagery in that magazine and what I'd see in a Slash Magazine or on an album sleeve. It totally thrilled me to see all these young dudes suspended in the air with Darby Crash style sneers on their face– I remember seeing that Hosoi Christ Air photo where he's basically upside down and feeling like he was Houdini. I've always identified with it as maybe one of the last hold points for what is legitimately punk rock, one of the few places left where someone's reputation was qualified by style and attitude, by the quality of your action. From a philosophical standpoint, skateboarding is fearlessness and danger lust, freedom and style at any cost. That's what rock and roll is all about, to me. That is part of the reason I think it's so crucial that women not feel intimidated by the 'boys club' element of it all. If we want Skateboarding to continue to thrive as a hold point for authenticity and quality, we need to disassociate a little from the corporate bully games and bullshit that flows under the surface, and work together for it. We need to keep the blood flowing, old guard can't do that alone.
GB: You've been featured in a numerous amount of magazines. Where would you like to see your work next? And what can we look forward to see from you in the future?
M-L: I'm always grateful for the shares, I'm stoked to see this article on your rad site :-) I've got some fun stuff in the works– a fave will be this January, I've got a line of tribute tees coming out with Altamont Apparel called Rock N Roll Suicides. I've payed homage to four of my favourite gone-too-soons with some very cool babes I know. We shot them last year, so it'll be sweet to finally share them with everybody!
GB: Can you tell us about your other creative outlets and projects?
M-L: I try to give them as much of my time as possible, but this past year's been pretty fully loaded. I started HUBBA HUBBA in 2011 because I wanted to see more young people sharing their stuff, offering some alternative perspectives to "sexiness". VALI GIRLS, STAR 80 and PARIS 68 are all female driven production teams that throw parties and host events in the city.
I use them to release mixtapes, share and get the vibes out.
GB: No Sinner performs a song titled “Mandy-Lyn”, one can only assume the song is written about you. How did you feel the first time you heard it?
M-L: Hahah, you heard that one hey? They are a very talented bunch in No Sinner. They were in the midst of writing it when we went on a big road trip together, I have a great memory of Colleen [Rennison] shaving her legs in the bath of some Vegas strip hotel room, singing me the lyrics. I'd be lying if I said it didn't make blush a bit, but it's a big honour to have been a muse for them then.
GB: If you could resurrect any deceased rock star (or band) for one more show, who would it be?
M-L: That's a tough question. If I could get myself front and centre for a Richard Hell show circa 1977 so he could sing "All The Way" right to me, I'd weep with joy. That guy at that time with that song and that solo has supported me through all my heartaches. It makes me speechless. For the better of society though, I might have to use my necromantic power to resurrect GG Allin– he'd have something to say that I'm sure would be worth everyone listening to.
All photos taken by Mandy-Lyn. To indulge yourself on the definition of eye-candy, check out more of Mandy-Lyn's work atwww.mandy-lyn.com.