To celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, the editors of LensCulture have selected 30 female photographers whose work captivates and inspires us. These 30 women have created projects that were among the most popular projects published on LensCulture in the last year.

This list is full of stories that stood out because of their remarkable vision, innovation, and dedication to the medium. Of course, this list could not accommodate all of the amazing photographers who inspired us this year—no slight is intended.

Diana Markosian - Looking Inward
Dominika Gesicka - This is Not Real Life
Elena Anosova - Out-of-the-Way
Vanja Bucan - Anatomy of False Memories
Sophie Gabrielle - Bl_nk Sp_ce
Gioia de Bruijn - Weekend Warriors and Beyond
Jessica Kelly - Boys & Men
Sandra Hoyn - The Longing of the Others
Luisa Dorr - Maysa
Johanna Benaïnous and Elsa Parra - A Couple of Them
Weronika Gesicka - Traces
Sonja Hamad - Jin-Jiyan-Azadi: Women, Life, Freedom
Gohar Dashti - The Stateless, Placeless Desert
Rahima Gambo - Education is Forbidden
Diana Matar - Evidence
Kate Fichard - Scarecrows
Naomi Harris - Oh Canada
Birgit Püve - Estonian Documents
Alia Ali - People of Pattern
Laurence Rasti - There Are No Homosexuals in Iran
Fatemeh Behboudi - Mothers of Patience
Mary Calvert - The Battle Within: Sexual Assault in America’s Military
Debi Cornwall - Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play
Annabel Oosteweeghel - Everlasting
Sandra Mehl - Ilona and Maddelena
Hannah Modigh - Hillbilly Heroin, Honey
Sara Lewkowicz - Maggie
Marta Berens - Suiti and Sami: Northern Love Stories
Laura Pannack - Youth Without Age, Life Without Death
Yan Preston - Mother River

Below, you’ll also find a selection of images that showcase the work of each of the photographers. Click on “see the full series” to view all of their amazing projects in full. We hope you enjoy, and cheers to all great women, everywhere!

—The editors of LensCulture

Young, talented and never shy of a challenge, Diana Markosian offers penetrating insights into making documentary work that is both personally rewarding and deeply moving for viewers to behold. © Diana Markosiansee the full series

A place where no one is born and no one dies; where there are no cats, no trees, no traffic lights. People come here for just two weeks and have stayed for years. This is Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost city; this is not real life… © Dominika Gesickasee full series

This project was created in the far away territories of the Extreme North of Russia, where the centuries-old way of life involves a special relationship with nature, isolation, and a unique mythology of the region where fictional things are very often more important than modern reality. © Elena Anosovasee the full series

“I prefer tension to beauty”—step into the ambiguous yet captivating world of this talented photographer, who transforms the stuff of dreams into memorable images. © Vanja Bucansee the full series

We base our identities on memory, yet over time, these defining points in our lives become (re)shaped through the act of reflecting on them. An aesthetic (yet scientific) look at this mercurial subject. © Sophie Gabriellesee the full series

A wide-ranging discussion about the idea of the “invisible” photographer: “Sometimes you have to choose: is this situation aesthetically more interesting to me? Or it is a situation I want to experience?” © Gioia de Bruijnsee the full series

The sex industry is one of the world’s oldest, yet continues to be kept largely out of society’s view—these portraits, focusing on male escorts, offer a sensitive look at a group of deeply overlooked individuals. © Jessica Kellysee the full series

Documenting, with deep sensitivity, the harsh realities of a Bangladeshi brothel. The resulting portraits bear witness to the daily trials and tribulations experienced by the sex workers there. © Sandra Hoynsee the full series

A kind 11-year old girl entrenched in the poverty and trauma of one of Sao Paulo’s worst slums. One possible way out? The “Young Miss Brazil” beauty pageant. © Luisa Dorrsee the full series

Drawing on the long, rich lineage of fictional self-portraiture, a pair of young French artists push this genre into a resonant new space, delicately balanced between gritty realism and a touch of magic. © Johanna Benaïnous and Elsa Parrasee the full series

Vintage family scenes, long-lost vacation souvenirs, bygone everyday life—suspended somewhere between truth and fiction, this project takes old images and fills them with new, strange vitality. © Weronika Gesickasee the full series

“They say that death by a woman’s hand blocks the way to paradise for potential martyrs.” So begins this powerful, embedded look into the all-female fighting units in Kurdistan. © Sonja Hamadsee the full series

Shot in placeless, deserted landscapes, these images examine the timeless relationship between body and home in contemporary Iranian society as well as for the swelling number of refugees around the world. © Gohar Dashtisee the full series

We have heard about Nigeria’s terrorized schoolgirls for years—but reports and statistics alone cannot convey the vulnerability of these brave individuals. These photographs take a more conceptual approach to illustrate this contemporary trauma. © Rahima Gambosee the full series

A true story — with photos and chilling yet poetic diary entries—of a man who was imprisoned many years ago, never to return to his family. © Diana Matarsee the full series

Contemporary “scarecrow” sculptures address how humanity’s relationship with nature has gone beyond scaring pests—these days, the environment itself is an all-too-frequent victim. © Kate Fichardsee the full series

What does it mean to be Canadian? A female photographer breaks through the male-dominated genre of the road trip and produces an engaging photoessay that captures Canada as we’ve never seen it before. © Naomi Harrissee the full series

This haunting series of portraits explores the effects of enduring life in a still-struggling Eastern European nation 20 years after the Soviet Army left the country. © Birgit Püvesee the full series

What do our chosen fashions, fabrics and clothing say about us as individuals — and how does this affect the attitudes of others towards us? © Alia Alisee the full series

In Iran, homosexuality is punishable by death—yet, with courage and conviction, the people in these portraits choose the truth, even if they must keep it obscure in the public eye. © Laurence Rastisee the full series

The Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 20th century. These moving stories recount the grief of the mothers of missing soldiers who live in hope of finally seeing their sons again—or at least holding a body to bury. © Fatemeh Behboudisee the full series

Women who join the US Armed Forces are being raped and sexually assaulted by their colleagues in record numbers. This important and powerfully told report tells the story of some of the brave individuals who are doing their best to speak out—against an overwhelming pressure to remain silent. © Mary Calvertsee the full series

By showing the empty spaces of work and “play” at the Guantanamo Bay prison, this series offers a side-long meditation on displacement in our post-9/11 world. © Debi Cornwallsee the full series

“What happened to the time, when we chased our dreams, our hearts beating faster?” Love, everyday rituals and memory: an enchanting staged narrative letting us think about the passage of time in life and what remains of it. © Annabel Oosteweeghel—see the full series

A long-term portrait project focuses on a pair of sisters from a working-class neighborhood in southern France, illustrating that unique blend of “fragility and resistance” so essential to young adulthood. © Sandra Mehlsee the full series

Rural Appalachia is known for its poverty and social problems—instead, these still, atmospheric photographs focus on the locals’ unique bind to their fading community. In the photographer’s words, “The crack in the soul is more important than the one on the wall.” © Hannah Modighsee the full series

A gut-wrenching photoessay on the awful dynamics of domestic abuse—and also a profoundly intimate portrait of a woman’s quest for a measure of peace and solace in the world. © Sara Lewkowiczsee the full series

Two interlinked stories about love and survival in Europe’s northern fringes. In the former, a fateful decision almost 400 years ago sealed the fate of the Suiti people; in the latter, the Arctic Circle’s Sami people slowly come into focus. © Marta Berenssee the full series

Balkan folktales inspire this ethereal series (shot entirely on expired film) which meditates on the nature of youth, aging and death. In the photographer’s words, “I needed to stop trying to beat time and instead start respecting it.” © Laura Pannacksee the full series

A Chinese photographer returns home after years away and attempts to understand her fast-changing country through its flowing heart—the Yangtze River. Hear the story of her epic documentary project. © Yan Prestonsee the full series