LIFESTYLE

'Women Photograph' Honors The Female Photojournalists Documenting Our World

“We can’t just look at war and politics and human rights stories through the eyes of men."

23/05/2017 1:32 AM IST | Updated 23/05/2017 1:32 AM IST
Jennifer Emerling

Photojournalism is far removed from its glory days ― the so-called Golden Age of the 1930s to 1960s ― when photographers toted Leicas and experimented with the first flash bulbs. Back then, behemoths like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and other founding members of Magnum Photos dominated the field, delivering onto the public historic images of military events, far-away countries, and images of the world people would otherwise never see.

Decades later, after magazines began to decline in popularity, so too did the prestige of photojournalism. Nonetheless, those left on the front lines of professional photojournalism are still responsible for capturing some of the world’s most captivating images. Take, for example, Associated Press photographer Burhan Ozbilici’s photo snapped seconds after the assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey

“Photojournalism is responsible for dictating how the general public sees the rest of the world,” documentary photographer Daniella Zalcman told HuffPost. “The photos in our newspapers and magazines expose people to issues and places and individuals they’ll likely never interact with personally.”

However, much like the early days of Cartier-Bresson, Capa and co., another aspect of the photojournalism scene has persisted: The majority of our chief storytellers are also still white men, Zalcman explained.

According to The New York Times, women have consistently accounted for only 15 percent of the entries to the prestigious World Press Photo awards in the last five years. Furthermore, around 80 to 100 percent of the images contained in publications’ roundups of most significant photos in 2016 belonged to male names. Incredible (and mostly white) female figures like Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange and Inge Morath managed to overcome the stale assumptions of their time ― that women couldn’t handle the necessary equipment or fend for themselves in conflict-ridden areas. Yet their success stories can register as outliers today.

Women Photograph
Side-by-side screenshots of Women Photograph.

Women in the 21st century aren’t getting the most valuable assignments from wire services, newspapers or magazines, Zalcman told the Times, suggesting that gender disparities in the industry are alive and well. She cited a few obstacles contemporary women photojournalists face in particular, such as biased hiring practices, a gender-based confidence gap, the difficulties of balancing personal lives with careers, and sexual harassment in the field. 

In an attempt to help women overcome these obstacles ― and educate publications unaware of the many, many female photojournalists available for hire ― Zalcman founded Women Photograph, a database promoting 400 women photojournalists from 67 countries across the globe. Described as “a resource for female* documentary and editorial photographers and the people who would like to hire them,” the site links directly to the portfolios of women from Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Cameroon, Chile, Russia, Canada and beyond. It also provides resources and grant information to aspiring photographers who might frequent the page.

(The asterisk denotes that “gender nonconforming, transgender, and genderqueer friends are all welcome” on the site.)

“We can’t just look at war and politics and human rights stories through the eyes of men,” Zalcman told HuffPost. “If we want to be responsible storytellers, our community needs to be as diverse as the voices it represents.” 

Zalcman is aware that a mere list of female photojournalists won’t erase the gender-based obstacles women encounter in their line of work. But “Women Photograph” is a succinct retort to any editor who claims not to know any women in the business. 

Below is a preview of some of the photojournalists on display at “Women Photograph.” To see more photojournalism from women today, head to the database here

  • Nazik Armenakyan (Armenia)
    Nazik Armenakyan
    Anush Grigoryan was still 9 years old when she watched prominent Armenian professional boxer Vic Darchinyan’s bout and decided that she was also going to be in the ring one day. It was then that she began to train in kickboxing at a sports school that was opened at her native village of Gai in Armenia’s Ararat province. In 2010, when women’s boxing became an Olympic sport, Anush decided to pursue her career in boxing. Anush Grigoryan, 18, has already won or become prize winner at numerous youth championships and competitions. Sport has become a lifestyle for her as the young athlete trains hard every day in the village gym, which, though, does not appear to be quite suitable for training. Among Anush’s aims is to take part in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro where she hopes she can achieve victory.
  • Susannah Ireland (London, England)
    Susannah Ireland
    British army troops shelter from the dust storm as their chinook helicopter departs from Cher-E-Anjir town in Helmand Province, Afghanstan, August 12th 2009. A local building in the area has been taken over by the British armed forces Prince of Wales's Company as an outpost of the Welsh Guards regiment in Nad-E-Ali.
  • Jennifer Emerling (Los Angeles, California)
    Jennifer Emerling
    Scenes from Siesta Public Beach in Florida.
  • Abbie Trayler-Smith (London, England)
    Abbie Trayler-Smith
    Shannon, age 17, relaxes in the living room of her home in Sheffield. In November 2013 she had a gastric balloon that had been in her stomach for six months, removed. Since then the weight she lost has been creeping back on but she has recently started going to the gym and feels that it is "my time" to become the person she wants to be. From the series, "The Big O," an intimate study of the children behind the obesity statistics in the U.K.: One in three children in the U.K. are classified as overweight or obese.
  • Tasneem Alsultan (Dammam, Saudi Arabia)
    Tasneem Alsultan
    Society constrains the definition of a divorcee. What you can or can't do, remains under the control of others. As an independent single mother, I've made peace with the sacrifices i've had to make, but also managed to find happiness on my own. 
  • Emily Macinnes (Glasgow, Scotland)
    Emily Macinnes
    Mahmoud, 22, and Amer, 32, became close friends whilst living in Yarmouk Camp -- a suburb of Damascus, which became home to the largest community of Palestinian refugees in Syria after the 1948-49 Arab-Israeli war. During Syria's five-year conflict Yarmouk was besieged by rebel fighters, and later by Bashar al-Assad's regime. Finally in 2015, Mahmoud and Amer fled to Turkey and then to Greece together after 90 percent of Yarmouk was taken over by the Islamic State. Stranded in Idomeni since the border closure between Greece and Macedonia, Mahmoud and Amer were among a group of 3,000 refugees who illegally crossed the river into Macedonia but were soon caught by the Macedonian Army. The soldiers then separated the men from the women and children and ushered them into army vehicles, telling them they were being taken north to the Serbian border. Instead they were driven back to the Greek-Macedonian border where they were taken inside army tents and beaten by soldiers before being sent back across the border to Idomeni. As a result of the beatings Amer suffered from a fractured a bone in his leg and several broken ribs. Amer's wife and daughter are currently in an asylum centre in Essen in Germany where they wait in hope that he will be able to join them there. Mahmoud had hoped to gauge the journey before his mum and younger brother and sister brother joined him. He fears he will have to return to Turkey where he says Syrian refugees are treated like dirt.
  • Elena del Estal (India)
    Elena del Estal
    Anisha holds a chicken in her home in Haryana, India. Aisha is daughter of a "paro": a women who was trafficked and sold as a bride, because Anisha´s father was not able to find a local woman for marriage. This photo is part of an in-depth photography project about bride trafficking in India: the trade of women and girls sold into forced marriage.
  • Rachel Woolf (Detroit, Michigan)
    Rachel Woolf
    Flint Southwestern student Marcus Washington, 17, poses on Saturday, May 7, 2016 in his room in Flint, Michigan, ahead of prom. "It’s a once in a lifetime thing, so it means a lot to me,” Washington said.
  • Ilana Panich-Linsman (Austin, Texas)
    Ilana Panich-Linsman
    Emily Dextraze is an 11-year-old beauty pageant competitor who lives in Westfield, Massachusetts, a small town of 42,000 people in Western New England located about two hours west of Boston. The beauty pageant industry in the United States is estimated to be worth $5 billion annually; the estimated number of pageants in the U.S. ranges from 5,000 to 100,000, according to an internet search. It is conservatively estimated that 2.5 million American girls, from babies to teenagers, participate. The cost to a family for a daughter to participate in a pageant ranges from $1,500 to considerably more. Entry fees, elaborate costumes, makeup, hairdressing, artificial tans and weeks of professional coaching contribute to the high cost.
  • Jackie Dewe Mathews (London, England)
    Jackie Dewe Mathews
    Ibrahim Issa Choela (29 years old) and his daughter Jueria (2 years old). Ibrahim has been attacked twice, once while asleep in bed which caused him to move home and once on his way back from football training by someone taunting him, calling him a "deal," as it is now common knowledge that albino body parts are fetching large sums of money. His wife and the mother of Jueria ran away shortly after she gave birth as she could not handle the stigma of being with a person with albinism -- she was afraid that if they had another child it could be an albino. He looks after Jueria during the day and her grandparents take her from late afternoon when he goes to football practice with Albino United, a team of players with albinism dedicated to changing attitudes through proving their ability to play football and spreading the message that the killings must stop. Ibrahim doesn't have a job, he doesn't have enough education to get a job indoors which are normally more skilled than those outdoors. 
  • Katie Orlinsky (New York, New York)
    Katie Orlinsky
    Iñupiat harpooner Quincy Adams surveys the horizon in a sealskin canoe for bowhead whales, miles from the Alaskan town of Barrow, on April 18, 2016. The snow wall was built by the whaling crew to conceal the camp from their prey. Shifting sea ice has made whaling increasingly dangerous, and many native villages have begun to experience food shortages. 
  • Myrto Papadopoulos (Athens, Greece)
    Myrto Papadopoulos
    "My name is Amani el Mekhlef. I am 29 years old and a mother of five. When I was in Syria I was seven months pregnant and one day an air strike hit next to my house so I lost the baby. After that they took me to a place to take out the baby from my belly without any anesthetics. It took the doctors about six hours to take the baby out. After that we decided to leave while being pregnant again. We basically left when I was pregnant to my son because of the many bombings. The borders were closed so we waited for about one week to go to Turkey. After that we went to Turkey and we stayed in a camp (Tel Abyad). After one year already in the camp I got pregnant again. It just happened. My husband wanted another baby because of our culture and habits. We don't calculate how many babies we have. It is whatever god gives us. My mother in law has 18 children.The journey from Turkey to Greece was very hard. My husband left turkey alone and after I followed (with the children). We carried many things but we threw most of them. We got into the boat and the kids were crying all the way. We stayed in the sea for two hours. When we arrived an organization came to help us. I was not afraid at all, thank god. Many organizations welcomed us and took us to the camps. When we arrived to the shore I nearly lost my children because of the amount of people that were waiting there. At some point I lost one of my children and we stayed without any food because we had to look for him."
  • Danielle Villasana (Istanbul, Turkey)
    Danielle Villasana
    Like many other countries worldwide, there is a stereotype in Peru that trans women are only capable of working as hairdressers or sex workers. But, because of high competition for salon work and the need to pay for studies, many trans women are relegated to sex work. Here Camila, left, gets out of a taxi after a long night of dancing.
  • Nichole Sobecki (Nairobi, Kenya)
    Nichole Sobecki
    ADI-HARUSH CAMP, Ethiopia -- A family carries their belongings through Adi-Harush Camp at dusk. Ethiopia hosts more than a quarter of a million Eritrean refugees, many of whom spend only a few months at camps like Adi-Harush before pursuing the long and perilous route to Europe via Sudan and Libya.
  • Michelle Siu (Toronto, Canada)
    Michelle Siu
    Thalidomide victim Bernadette Bainbridge at her home where she lives with her elderly parents that she is completely reliant on. She is a talented artist yet is very isolated and has no friends. One of her dreams for her future is that she may pass away before her parents as she is fearful of the uncertainty of who will take care of her. Once hailed as a “miracle drug” for ailments such as insomnia and morning sickness, was in fact working havoc inside the wombs of expectant mothers. Babies were born with limb deformities and internal damage.

All captions were provided by “Women Photograph.”

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