What do Sophie Calle, Rineke Dijkstra, Susan Meiselas, and Hannah Starkey all have in common? They’re all on the list of 100 contemporary women photographers picked out by the UK’s Royal Photographic Society, after an open call for nominations. Over 1300 photographers were recommended to the organisation by the general public, which was slimmed down by a judging panel headed up by photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg.
The final list includes well-known names but also less recognised image-makers such as Native American artist Wendy Red Star, Moscow-based photographer Oksana Yushko, and Paola Paredes from Ecuador. Each Heroine will be awarded a Margaret Harker medal, named after the first female president of The Royal Photographic Society, and the first female professor of photography in the UK. An exhibition and accompanying publication will follow, all part of a bid to highlight women working in what is still a male-dominated industry.
“Although it was a truly challenging exercise having to consider 1300 women, being a part of the jury for Hundred Heroines was ultimately an incredibly stimulating and inspirational process,” says Luxemburg. “This final list reflects both the global expanse of female practice and the intergenerational input into contemporary photography. It reflects the wide range of methodologies, practices and diverse approaches of women working with the photographic medium. This is a moment of change and this list of heroines pays heed to it.”
“We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the positive response to the campaign,” added Del Barrett, who is vice-president of The Royal Photographic Society, and who instigated the campaign. “It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions reading the stories of heartbreak, hurt and hope, and we’ve been moved by the extraordinary lengths women will go to in order to highlight the plight of others.”
Hundred Heroines has been supported and encouraged by Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and the granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, both of whom were instrumental in the campaign for the women’s vote in Britain. “What a wonderful way to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage,” said Pankhurst.
“If my grandmother and great-grandmother were able to come back and look at the world today, I think they would be heartened by much of the progress in women’s rights. However, they would also be spurring us on, highlighting how much we still have to do – given ongoing levels of gender inequality in almost all spheres – including in the world of photography.”
In addition to contemporary heroines, the campaign received hundreds of nominations for women who have now passed away, but whose work continues to be relevant. The RPS plans to continue its campaign in 2019 with a focus on historical heroines, with a new list of photographers to be put to the public vote.
The full list of Hundred Heroines is:
Adama Delphine Fawundu & Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Anastasia Taylor Lind
Carrie Mae Weems
Chloe Dewe Mathews
Cristina de Middel
Daesha Devon Harris
Hannah Reyes Morales
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons
Wendy Red Star
Yan Wang Preston