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In Pictures: International Women’s Day 2022
Photography by Imogen Freeland

Girls by Girls: Portrayals of Womanhood by Women Photographers

To mark International Women’s Day, we spoke to 13 emerging female photographers about their approaches to the medium and how they hope to portray women in their work

Lead ImagePhotography by Imogen Freeland

Imogen Freeland (lead image) 

“[My] photographs are made in collaboration with the women pictured. They are an act of coming together, sharing ideas and lived experiences. They are also a response to a culturally dispassionate gaze, loaded with the distortion of unrealistic and unrepresentative beauty standards.

“When we begin to challenge and unlearn what we have been programmed to define as beautiful, we start to unearth a more compassionate view which celebrates the differences and unique ’imperfections’ that very often tell a story about who we are and what we’ve lived through.”

Joanna Wzorek

“I want the women I photograph to feel free: free of the burden of what others think of them, free of the masks that they put on when they go in public. When I portray someone I try to get to know them and build trust as it can be really intimidating to open yourself up to some stranger with an intrusive camera.

“We all see ourselves in other people’s eyes, I’m no different, but I like to try and capture real emotions, reactions and beauty. Raw and rough with no sugar coating. Everything can be so controlled these days, so I want [my subjects] to let loose, let it all out, and be as they are. With all the baggage and flaws.”

Rubee Samuel

“I use photography as a medium to respond and react to personal experiences. It’s a way for me to take ownership of my narrative and tell my truth. Working predominantly with women and children, I hope to start conversations, find correlations between cultures and eventually dismantle existing prejudice against women and children.”

Marie Deteneuille

“Women becoming their own character for a moment – I think this is what I am looking for in my photography. I intend to only create a context, define a stage, so we are conscious of the model-photographer moment and relationship. I don’t take control to get an image; I wait and see what she reveals herself. I hope women in my imagery look in control of the process, like they are taking part without the need to impress. That’s what makes them the most powerful. A kind of empowering modesty.”

Annie Lai

“I like photographing my subjects in an intimate, natural environment where they feel comfortable and relaxed, so the process of photoshoots is about an interaction. I always hope women in my photographs convey more or less their true characteristics. I like the complex quality of both strength and fragility in women and I always try to capture that.”

Adriana Parrilla

“All the women I collaborate with deserve to be represented with respect, dignity and empathy. They must be recognised for their resilience and their ability to thrive beyond systemic discrimination. With my photography, I trigger an education process with myself, and I ask myself uncomfortable questions about my privilege to become a more meaningful ally with those women who come from historically marginalised communities and from my own Afro-Caribbean community.”

Nicole Ngai

“As a female photographer and a person of colour, I’m highly sensitive to the power of representation. I aim to establish trust and a common ground with my subjects, working together towards the final image that I hope will be beautiful and true. 

“This is a Polaroid of my friends Ruoyi and Wenchu on a hot summer day. I suppose I am in it too, as Wenchu gazes at me over her shoulder. It is an image about empathy, female friendships and finding kinship in a foreign country.”

Rachel Lamb

“What drives me to be a photographer, as a female, is to further our perspective. To nurture the relationships with the people I come across and build on those experiences through my intimate portraiture. What’s always been important to me is for my subjects to be themselves – it is my goal to make them feel comfortable, and I like to think that I capture a little part of them.”

Isabel Okoro

“This image is the cover of my debut monograph, Friends in Eternity, and I believe that it encapsulates the motivations behind my work and why I create. By creating my own visual universe, I aim to establish a space where people who look like me, other young Black girls, can exist and see themselves existing freely. I believe in creating work about what I know and what is true to me, and so I’m always looking to represent women the way they want to be seen. I approach all my subjects with empathy and I hope women feel safe when I image them.”

Jet Swan

“I approach people knowing that a body is this strong physical structure, and there is a physicality to that perspective that I find really liberating. For me, it’s more to do with form than gender. I love feeling the physical weight of a body in a photograph and knowing that it feels like the real weight of that woman – not a lighter, gravity-less suggestion of her.”

Kristina Shakht

“As a photographer, I shoot personal stories. I tend to talk about self-identity, isolation, femininity, and sexuality, and I try to incorporate fashion and fine art in my work.

“I find a lot of inspiration in Slavic fairy tales and mythology; in female creatures. There’s a big footprint of our civilization in fairy tales. They can reveal how we evolved as a society to build complex intergroup connections. 

“In the 21st century, we are far beyond fairy tales about the human desire to get away from savagery. I think we need to talk about feminism, liberation, and sisterhood. I’m still working and exploring my style.”

Isabel MacCarthy

“I approach my subjects with respect, humour and warmth. I portray women as they are; often lost in thought, interweaving their internal world with the external. Much like my subjects, light plays a fundamental role in my work. It changes from one moment to the next, it is rarely constant, similar to life itself. I place my subjects in a carefully composed environment to create a balanced, contemplative, sometimes eerie scene. I invite the viewer to look into themselves to find meaning in my photographs.”

Virginie Khateeb

”As a female photographer I work to capture women in their essence. I aim to show women’s true beauty, a beauty that is pure, raw and unspoiled.”