“I was angry”. Melbourne Illustrator and Punk-Rock performer Celeste Potter is describing their first reaction when the now iconic and award winning Tayla Harris photo was targeted by online bullies.
“When I read all the comments appearing on the internet I thought, I want to do something. I hate sitting around angry and doing nothing. It’s useless energy.”
In the aftermath of the Tayla Harris photo controversy, people from not only the footballing world but also from within the wider community, rallied together to stand up to the trolls and to celebrate the image the way it always should have been celebrated. Many were compelled to act in creative ways, such as Celeste.
“I think I felt like everybody else felt about the comments about the photo. It was really unfair and gross. I designed a piece in the same language (as the Harris photo), that celebrated female bodies being athletic – jumping and running and doing all those things that bodies naturally do.”
Celeste created the illustration in their bedroom’s workspace, over the space of five days. Since moving into the Preston house a year ago, this is where they do all their work, surrounded by their illustrator tools and other worldly possessions.
“I began by drawing on the tablet, creating lots of outlines and then I developed a pallete for the piece. I tried to use the AFLW logo colours, matching the colour pallete to the logo. I then finished all the stripes and shadows, filling everything in by hand in Photoshop.”
Celeste has been an illustrator for over ten years, both commercially as well as successfully exhibiting their work in various Melbourne galleries. They’ve also played in punk-rock bands, and most recently as their solo performance outfit delightfully dubbed Chihuahuahua.
Celeste was never really a sports person before the introduction of the AFLW Competition. But as is the case for most Melbournians, an AFL team would ultimately find them. Celeste kind of barracks for the Melbourne Demons.
“It was a cold day in the city and I didn’t have a beanie on me which I normally always do. I stopped at one of those cheap souvenir shops on Swanston Street to get one and they only had AFL beanies. So, I just picked my favourite colours. Red and blue.”
When the AFLW Competition made its debut in 2017, Celeste was able to carry their support for the Dees over and also attended the first ever AFLW match between Carlton and Collingwood at Ikon Park. Despite being one of the unlucky ones who was locked out, Celeste hung about with their mates, trying to peek into the ground from various vantage points.
Following that historical moment, the rising prominence of the women’s game was exciting.
“When the AFLW came along I was excited because it was something that women especially could become a part of. It’s a big thing for our country.”
What’s most important to Celeste is the idea of using the game as a vehicle to celebrate inclusivity.
“The AFLW interests me from both a feminist and political perspective. There used to be the stereotypical “sports people” on one side and “the arty people” on the other. These days they can overlap.”
As well as the AFLW Competition, Celeste points to the Renegade Pub Football League (RPFL) as examples of this in play. The grassroots league consists of mixed-gender teams made up of players from inner city Melbourne music venues with fabulous names such as The Old Bar Unicorns and the East Brunswick Eye Gougers.
“It’s super-inclusive. It’s all genders and people with disabilities and the only rule is to never say sorry for your poor skills,” says Celeste.
They see the AFLW Competition as an important driver for leagues like the RPFL to garner more visibility, and to allow people from any part of society to know that they can play football whoever they are or whatever footballing ability they have.
Alongside Celeste’s illustrations, that’s definitely something worth celebrating.
Photographs Sarah Morton
Celeste Potter Bio
Celeste Potter is an illustrator and designer from Melbourne, Australia. They like to work across digital and traditional, hands-on media. Celeste has a big big big love for drawing and they do it all the time, for work and for not-work.
To find out more, go to www.celestepotter.squarespace.com