In honor of International Women’s Day, we reached out to an impressive network of female curators, photo editors, program directors, and photographers to compile a list of women who are making remarkable photographic work today. Our associate editor, Coralie Kraft, shares her thoughts on the inspiring range of projects that emerged—
It was a powerful experience, putting this article together.
A couple of weeks ago, we sent out an email asking a wide range of experts to share the names of female and female-identifying photographers who have inspired them recently. “Who’s been on your mind lately?” we asked. “Who has made a strong impression on you?” The outpouring of praise, affirmation, admiration, and advocacy that we received in return lit a fire in my chest that only grew as I dug into the work by these accomplished women.
Composing the article, and scrolling through the 35 images and names below, I was struck by the distinct variety in style, subject matter, and vision represented by the photographers and organizations in this list. Some of the photography in this article fits neatly into the lineage of documentary photography, while other images are more conceptual, feeling out the crevices and edges of personal tragedy or the messy formation of identity. Several of these photographers address the complex strands of contemporary womanhood, while others delve into different subjects entirely, whether climate change, the battle for Mosul, or pure aesthetic experimentation. There are also stories that likely wouldn’t see the light of day if dedicated, talented women didn’t devote themselves to the work: breast ironing in Cameroon, or coming-of-age rites for young women in Swaziland.
Women can and do photograph stories of all kinds from around the world. Women are embedded in Iraqi Kurdistan; women shoot covers for
TIME; women create breathtaking installations at the world’s premiere art institutions. The photographs below prove that the concept of “women’s work,”—work “suited” for female artists—deserves to be dead and buried.
I hope you will be impressed and inspired, as I was, by the powerful diversity of subject and tone in the images below. I hope that some of the images will stay with you, as they have for me.
Please note: By clicking on the names of the photographers below, you will be taken to their websites to discover more of their work.
Abbie Trayler-Smith Nominated by Fiona Shields, Director of Photography, the Guardian
Fleeing Mosul, from the series “Women in War: Life After ISIS.” © Abbie Trayler-Smith. Nominated by Fiona Shields.
Claudia Agati Nominated by Max Houghton, Senior Lecturer in Photography, London College of Communications
“Terrible things happened in my home. No one knew…It is about the abuse that you cannot see. Just because someone is not walking around with bruises or a black eye, it doesn’t mean that inside they aren’t suffering hugely.” From the series “Domesticity.” © Claudia Agati. Nominated by Max Houghton.
Jana Romanova Nominated by Barbara Stauss, Photo Director and Founding Editor, Mare
Young Russian couples, inhabitants of Saint Petersburg and Moscow, are sleeping in their bedrooms early in the morning, the time when people don’t really care about their appearance, being natural. They are preparing to become parents in a few months. From the series “Waiting” © Jana Romanova. Nominated by Barbara Stauss.
Ina Jang Nominated by Stacey Baker, Photo Editor, New York Times Magazine
Lemonade. Inspired by Asian soft porn, the series “Utopia” features silhouetted female bodies that embody passive, girlish stereotypes. © Ina Jang. Nominated by Stacey Baker.
Karen Miranda Rivadeneira Nominated by Daniella Zalcman, Documentary Photographer and Founder, Women Photograph
The serpent road. From the series “In the Mouth of the Mountain Jaguar everybody is a dancing hummingbird.” Black and white, larger format negative, printed in the color darkroom. © Karen Miranda Rivadeneira. Nominated by Daniella Zalcman.
Natalie Krick Nominated by Lesley Martin, Creative Director and Publisher, Aperture Foundation
Mom on her Carpet © Natalie Krick. Nominated by Lesley Martin.
Clare Rae Nominated by Susan Bright, Independent Curator and Writer
Le Pinacle. No 2. From the series “Never standing on two feet,” a visual response to my experience of viewing the Claude Cahun archive in Jersey, Channel Islands, UK. The photographs are performative self-portraits exploring the physical and cultural landscape of the island. © Clare Rae. Nominated by Susan Bright.
Fatemeh Behboudi Nominated by Francoise Callier, Program Director, Angkor Photo Festival & Workshops
Every year in spring, the people of Kurdistan in Iran celebrate the beginning of the New Year (Nowruz). At this celebration, the men and women dance and rejoice in front of the fire. © Fatemeh Behboudi. Nominated by Francoise Callier.
Erika Diettes Nominated by Anne Wilkes Tucker, Curator Emerita, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Installation shot of the series “Sudarios / Shrouds,” exhibited in the Iglesia de San Francisco in Madrid from February 24 to March 3, 2015. The series consists of black and white portraits of women who are victims of armed conflict in Antioquia, Colombia. © Erika Diettes. Nominated by Anne Wilkes Tucker
Alexandra Hunts Nominated by Emilia van Lynden, Artistic Director, Unseen
From the series” History of Desire.” In the project, I explore the history of “progress” from the invention of the wheel. © Alexandra Hunts. Nominated by Emilia van Lynden
Guia Besana Nominated by Arianna Rinaldo, Director, Cortona on the Move, and Independent Curator
In the last 35 years biodiversity has declined by more than a quarter due to population growth and our consumption. Overexploitation is currently unsustainable and habitat destruction is causing a major decrease in species. Adding to the complexity of this problem is climate change. Performed by feminine figures, the series “Poison” illustrates through a series of images the journey of my mind entering and exiting some of the themes which represent this concern.
In this image a group of poisoned women lie on a grass field. This image re-enacts a situation in which a poison contaminates a group of farmers. © Guia Besana. Nominated by Arianna Rinaldo.
Greta Rybus Nominated by Magdalena Herrera, Jury Chair, World Press Photo 2018 and Director of Photography, GEO France
“We are destroying the earth. The weather will continue to be unstable. I think it is mostly done by humans, by lots of things we do. Our industries. Now we have several seasons in a week.” —Berit Sara. From a series about climate change in Norway, Panama, Senegal and hence, around the world. © Greta Rybus. Nominated by Magdalena Herrera.
Dee Williams Nominated by Daniella Zalcman, Documentary Photographer and Founder, Women Photograph
The Chosen One. © Dee Williams. Nominated by Daniella Zalcman.
Giulia Mangione Nominated by Elena Boille, Deputy Editor-in-Chief and Photo Editor, Internazionale
From the series “A Swedish Americana” © Giulia Mangione. Nominated by Elena Boille.
Alexandra Rose Howland Nominated by Barbara Stauss, Photo Director and Founding Editor, Mare
“Mosul Road, 88km” This project is a single, 88km image connecting the last city to escape the grasp of ISIS and Al Noori Mosque, where the Caliphate was declared. © Alexandra Rose Howland. Nominated by Barbara Stauss.
Laurence Aëgerter Nominated by Emilia van Lynden, Artistic Director, Unseen
Photographic Treatment ©, PHT #008. Ultrachrome print on enhanced matt paper, silkscreened with the scent of lavender. This series consists of black and white photographic diptychs collected and edited by Laurence Aëgerter. The photographic diptychs are silkscreened with soothing or vitalising fragrances like eucalyptus, soap, caraway, orange, honeysuckle, peppermint, garden rose, clove and lavender. Conducted in collaboration with neurologists, gerontologists and psychologists, the project aims to provide an image-based therapeutic tool to improve the well-being of senile dementia patients. © Laurence Aëgerter. Nominated by Emilia van Lyden.
Magda Rakita Nominated by Max Houghton, Senior Lecturer in Photography, London College of Communications
In South Sulawesi, Indonesia, traditional gender systems still exist. Five genders are recognized: male, female, calabai (male living as a female), calalai (female living as male), and Bissu. Bissu is considered to be the embodiment
of male and female elements and this causes it to be seen as a gift, allowing Bissus to communicate with the Deity, whose gender is unknown. Given this unique ability,
Bissus traditionally served as spiritual leaders, advisors and healers.
Bissu Wa Nani prepares for a performance of traditional trance dance at a cultural event. Malino, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. November 26, 2017. © Magda Rakita. Nominated by Max Houghton.
Hsin Wang Nominated by Elinor Carucci, Photographer
No. 24. From the series “De-Selfing.” © Hsin Wang. Nominated by Elinor Carucci.
Paola de Grenet Nominated by Arianna Rinaldo, Director, Cortona on the Move, and Independent Curator
The portraits of albinos celebrate a different kind of beauty and eliminate the stigma sometimes associated with difference. From the series “Albino Beauty” © Paola de Grenet. Nominated by Arianna Rinaldo.
Krisanne Johnson Nominated by Coralie Kraft, Associate Editor, LensCulture
This photograph is from a project on South Africa’s housing crisis exploring issues concerning spatial and social segregation and income inequality.
Leoney Van Wyk, 16, hangs out with friends in the Lost City neighborhood of Mitchells Plain in Cape Town. The new neighborhood is part of South Africa’s Reconstruction and Development Programme. “This place is not safe at all. When you go to the shops you just hear bullets past you,” says Van Wyk’s friend Shahiem Fataar, 23, a community spokesperson. “Our biggest problem is gangsterism. We want peace. We live in fear.” © Krisanne Johnson. Nominated by Coralie Kraft.
Megan Winstone Nominated by Zelda Cheatle, Independent Curator, Editor and Writer
Amber, Eadie & Isabella. “Fenyw” (Welsh for Female) is an ongoing documentary piece that explores the various representations of womanhood. These women grew up in a New Age Traveller Community. Their free-living lifestyle and outlook on life have contributed to the lifestyle choices they make today. © Megan Winstone. Nominated by Zelda Cheatle.
Shahria Sharmin Nominated by Francoise Callier, Program Director, Angkor Photo Festival & Workshops
From the series “Call Me Heena,” a penetrating, multi-year report on a unique group of people—who fall outside of Western notions of gender—trying to carve out a place in the world. This image, and several others in the series, was made with a wooden instant camera. © Shahria Sharmin. Nominated by Francoise Callier.
Sheila Pree Bright Nominated by Lesley Martin, Creative Director and Publisher, Aperture Foundation
Students of Historically Black Colleges and Universities stand in solidarity with the students of University of Missouri, demanding the resignation of the university’s President Tim Wolfe. Wolfe stepped down in November 2015. From the series “#1960Now,” which will be published as a book this fall. © Sheila Pree Bright. Nominated by Lesley Martin.
Susannah Baker-Smith Nominated by Susan Bright, Independent Curator and Writer
Interior - 4. From the project “Scattered Dreams” © Susannah Baker Smith. Nominated by Susan Bright
MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora Nominated by Fiona Rogers, Global Director, Business Development, Magnum Photos and Founder of Firecracker.
“MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora” is an exclusive and commemorative publication committed to establishing and representing a collective voice of women photographers of African descent. The inaugural issue of MFON features over 100 women photographers across the Diaspora. Cover photo © Mmekutmfon Essien. Edited by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn and Adama Delphine Fawundu. Published by Eye & I. Nominated by Fiona Rogers.
Sabrina Gschwandtner Nominated by Stacey Baker, Photo Editor, New York Times Magazine
I work from a collection of 16 mm films that were de-accessioned from the Fashion Institute of Technology. These short films, dated between 1950 and 1980, focused on textiles as art, craft, industry, fashion, military camouflage, political expression, and scientific metaphor. After watching the movies, I cut and sew them into configurations based on popular American quilt motifs, dismantling the narratives of the historical films and re- interpreting them. © Sabrina Gschwandtner. Nominated by Stacey Baker.
Sian Davey Nominated by Alessia Glaviano, Senior Photo Editor, Vogue Italia
Torquay, 5am. From the series “Martha” © Sian Davey. Nominated by Alessia Glaviano.
Milagros de la Torre Nominated by Wilkes Tucker, Curator Emerita, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Hidden systems and constellations, 2015-2018.
This work started out of an interest in understanding the new parameters of the human face, from historical 19th-century theories based on physiognomy to the new biometric systems developed for facial recognition, and on a personal note, understanding prosopagnosia or “face blindness,” the impairment in the recognition of faces and facial expression of emotions. Each face is a universe. The survey is based on the study of features, gestures and the mapping of the human face and how these configurations are changing our perception and the contemporary idea of ourselves. © Milagros de la Torre. Nominated by Anne Wilkes Tucker
Heba Khamis Nominated by Magdalena Herrera, Jury Chair, World Press Photo 2018 and Director of Photography, GEO France
Because of the high incidence of rape in Cameroon, mothers and grandmothers in the country frequently “iron” their adolescent children’s breasts to make them less prominent. The hope is that this will make them less attractive to men. © Heba Khamis. Nominated by Magdalena Herrera.
Aida Silvestri Nominated by Marion Hislen, Delegate to Photography, French Ministry of Culture
Type II C. From the series “Unsterile Clinic.” This project aims to raise awareness of the procedure of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the hope that women, young girls and children who may not realise the severity or what type of FGM they have are encouraged to go through an early screening process before it becomes an emergency. © Aida Silvestri. Courtesy of the artist and Autograph ABP. Nominated by Marion Hislen.
Sima Diab Nominated by Tara Todras-Whitehill, Documentary Photographer
A series of images commissioned by the Swedish Institute in Alexandria, Egypt for the Climate Networking Conference 2017. It depicts ways in which climate change has already started to affect life in Alexandria and the Nile Delta. From the series “Climate Change in Alexandraia.” © Sima Diab. Nominated by Tara Todras-Whitehill.
Charlotte de la Fuente Nominated by Barbara Stauss, Photo Director and Founding Editor, Mare
In Macao’s casino district, koi fish are being displayed in an aquarium at a restaurant. The koi fish is believed to bring good luck and fortune. From the series “A Chinese Game of Luck,” a photographic exploration of Macao, Asia’s biggest city of gambling. © Charlotte de la Fuente. Nominated by Barbara Stauss.
Klea McKenna Nominated by Kaycee Olsen, Director, Von Lintel Gallery
Artifact #1. Photographic relief. Unique gelatin silver photogram. 41.5x75 inches. © Klea McKenna. Nominated by Kaycee Olsen.
Iiu Susiraja Nominated by Marion Hislen, Delegate to Photography, French Ministry of Culture
Lucia. Made with a Mamiya 6x7, using a cable release. This is a self-portrait. © Iiu Susiraja. Nominated by Marion Hislen.
Rosaline Shahnavaz Nominated by Caroline Hunter, Picture Editor, the Guardian Weekend magazine
From the book “Fern,” a meditation on the photographer-model relationship. © Rosaline Shahnavaz. Nominated by Caroline Hunter.