Her Sound, Her Story: Michelle Grace Hunder & Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore throwing spotlight on female strength in the music industry

This year’s Melbourne Music Week will see many different productions and performances take the spotlight throughout some of the city’s best established and reworked spaces but one of the most special and most talked about, has to be the debut of Her Sound, Her Story.

From the creative minds of Melbourne photographer Michelle Grace Hunder and filmmaker Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore has flourished a project that has championed Australian women in the music industry; we’re talking musicians and industry professionals and personalities who have been blazing their own paths both in today’s scene, and in previous years.

As Michelle explains, the origins of Her Sound, Her Story stemmed from some pretty real confrontations she was met with throughout the process of her last project RISE – a photo-documentary on Australian hip-hop.

“I realised I had shot for two years on a project and really struggled to find many women within the genre. Once I did a bit of research, I found that gender disparity really existed across all genres.”

“From an artistic point of view,” she explains. “I wanted to explore that and I didn’t think just having portraits would do that story justice. So I asked Claudia if she wanted to come onboard; we’d interview all the women as well, and just talk to them about their experiences being women in the industry. We didn’t go into the project with any preconceived ideas about a result or what we would hear, we just wanted to listen. Although sometimes there might be common threads, every story is so different, every experience is unique.”

Thelma Plum, photographed by Michelle Grace Hunder.
Thelma Plum | Photo: MGH

Although they’ve worked together in the past, Her Sound, Her Story is the first project of this calibre both creatives have collaborated on. A multi-faceted venture; Her Sound, Her Story is set to include a photography exhibition displayed at Emporium Melbourne (November 9th-23rd), while video vignettes featuring interviews with the likes of Ecca VandalThelma PlumJulia Stone and more will also be screened throughout the week. As part of the opening of Melbourne Music Week too, the project will be officially launched with a live concert featuring performances by not only Ecca Vandal and Julia Stone, but also AirlingMojo Juju and more.

“It’s one of those projects that has the prospect to be delivered in many different ways.” Claudia says. “The platforms we are presenting on in November are definitely part of our original vision, but we still have more to come.”

“Anything you see come out of the project has been a totally collaborative effort,” she adds. “We are so fortunate to have found the right mix in how we work together. That constant teamwork and work ethic is a testament to how any of this is has been possible to bring to fruition.”

“We actually almost didn’t apply to be part of MMW,” Michelle admits. “We actually decided [to] last minute. I put the application in literally the last night it was open. We had already confirmed the exhibition at the Emporium and it was really them who said they thought we should perhaps apply. Once we submitted the applicaton, MMW called us in for a meeting and said the line up we had proposed was really strong, and would we consider it being the Opening Night.”

“We are really thrilled with the partnership with MMW as it really gives the whole project some amazing exposure, and this whole project is about shining a light on the incredible female talent we have in this country. Thats the most important thing for us. However we need to give a huge shout out to the amazing artists who are performing that night, everyone has been so supportive of this project and we could not do this without that support.”

Behind the scenes with Airling | Photo: MGH
Behind the scenes with Airling | Photo: MGH

While the support from the industry has definitely shown itself strongly since Her Sound, Her Story became public, the project hasn’t come without its own challenges.

“The biggest challenge is that we were completely independent and without funding.” Michelle says. “It’s a huge project to take on without any financial backing and that has meant some pretty big hurdles, not only artistically but logistically; it just means we have to do everything ourselves. That puts a lot of pressure on us as individuals, because it’s a really big project to take on and we want to do it justice. Having said that, I do think we have done a good job of what we have managed to pull together.”

Both Claudia and Michelle reflect on the responses they’ve been met with so far from both individuals directly involved with the project and from those coming to Her Sound, Her Story for the first time since its reveal.

“Having no specific agenda as we approached these conversations created a really unique space for people to say whatever they wanted, void of a censor.” Claudia explains. “There has been a common thread of how grateful women have been for being asked to share their voice on thing that they never traditionally get to talk about within interviews. As women in today’s world, it’s nice to be asked to take a moment to consider your place in the world and then be respectfully listened to, so naturally we have been very much embraced by the artists themselves. We are yet to see how the broader industry responds to the conversation as a whole; that will all begin to [be] travelled over [through] the next six months and will be really interesting to observe.”

Ella Hooper, Michelle Grace Hunder & Mojo Juju (Photo: Melbourne Music Week)
Ella Hooper, Michelle Grace Hunder & Mojo Juju (Photo: Melbourne Music Week)

Ahead of the sold out live show at State Library Victoria (November 11th), the duo attempt to isolate any particular favourite lady they’ve worked with on the project so far. Understandably, it’s a hard task.

“It’s so hard to pick one,” Michelle says. “There have been so many unique stories, but the ones that had the most affect on me were probably Sampa The Great, Mojo Juju and Simona Castricum.”

“There is something very special about being given the opportunity to sit down with women and have such open conversation with them.” Claudia adds. “These stories are real and these women are real; it’s been a very big privilege for us to have be given such an intimate window into their lives.”

No doubt, conversations about the Australian music industry and its perceptions of women and indeed, the opportunities and platforms women are offered professionally, are set to be further explored as Her Sound, Her Story takes off. And while they’re aren’t new conversations, as our media landscape is constantly changing and we’re seeing gender boundaries continuously blurred and broken down with more forward thinking and ambitious creatives striding out, they’re conversations that have remained incredibly relevant and crucial to be having.

“Without a doubt the biggest thing that affects young women is self confidence.” Michelle affirms. “It’s absolutely paralysing for some young women and it’s the reason why so many drop off early because the real effects of being in the public eye are sometimes very harsh and brutal. Women need to see to achieve, role models are so important; this is really about showing young girls the women that are kicking ass and doing well. Having a good support network around you and just backing your talent is paramount and having women in higher decision making positions will also leave for future change.”

Julia Stone, photographed by MGH.
Julia Stone, photographed by MGH.

While Her Sound, Her Story is going to be a Melbourne-only event, with aims to take it elsewhere around the country, Michelle and Claudia have been floored by the level of interest that has come their way.

“First and foremost,” Claudia says. “The entire project was created with the hopes of inspiring a future generation of young women to pursue careers within the music and all creative industries. On a broader scale, we hope to spread a message and create a space where we are celebrating one another for our own individual expression and encouraging people to truly stand in who and their contribution to the world.”

“This is about celebrating the female talent we have in this country.” Michelle adds. “We hope that it will really make people appreciate that we have some incredible women doing really great things in music right now and also appreciate some of the amazing women that paved the way for them. But most of all, we hope to inspire a future generation of young girls to be performing artists in this country.”

To learn more about Her Sound, Her Story visit the official website HERE.

Header Image by Oli Sansom.