With 2018 marking 100 years of women’s suffrage, it was fitting that the Royal Photographic Society launched its Hundred Heroines project last year. Its aim was to find photography’s 100 most inspirational women, putting out an appeal for nominations.
Within a few minutes of hearing about the project, I’d drawn up a mental roll call of women who must be a shoo-in for the historic list. Most, if not all of them seemed to have been nominated, but what interested me more, is the modern-day list. It contained the names of many women who I’ve never heard of.
I mean them no disrespect, they’ve probably been doing what many female photographers do, quietly getting on with being brilliant without making a fuss or drawing a great deal of attention to themselves.
That’s an approach I’ve always admired. It seems logical that if you work really hard at something and you get really good at it, you’ll get the attention you deserve. However, you only need to look at the line-up of camera brand ambassadors to realise that this isn’t working for women. They’re not being recognised. That means that a lot of fantastic, creative photography isn’t being seen and is therefore unable to inspire other photographers – men and women.
Getting out there
I think the Hundred Heroines initiative is a great step in the right direction for equality in photography. It’s got people talking and has received good coverage, but what happens after the panel has agreed the 100 heroines, the exhibition is taken down and the medals have been handed out? I’m sure the RPS (and specifically the Women in Photography group) has something in mind, but to really make a difference, we all need to play a part. Magazine editors need to try a little harder to find female photographers who can contribute – I know I’m pushing on an open door with AP here. Photographers can also help by doling out praise beyond a remark about the attractiveness of the subject. Acknowledging someone’s technical decisions can go a long way to building confidence. And yes, women need to be a little braver. They need to put themselves out there, enter competitions, submit images to magazines and try to get their work seen.
For my part, with help from trusted and respected female colleagues, I’ve founded a women’s photography network called SheClicks to offer support and enable female photographers to grow in confidence. With hundreds signing up to the Facebook group via @sheclicksnet in just a few weeks, clearly there’s demand for it. It’s also become obvious that there are lots of highly skilled female photographers who are very giving with their time and knowledge. I’m hoping by the time the RPS is looking for 200 heroines, the nominees will be much more widely known.
Angela Nicholson founded the SheClicks Facebook group in 2018 – it now has over 3,000 members. Anybody who identifies as a woman is welcome to join the group for support, photography chat and more. Meet-ups, webinars and giveaways are often organised, too.
On 1 May 2019, an open-call for submissions to the first ever SheClicks exhibition was announced. Due to be held at the After Nyne Gallery in London in September, you can enter your photos for consideration – 50 of the best images will be framed and hung, photographers will get to keep their prints and a catalogue of the exhibition. Find out more at Photocrowd.