A hundred photographic heroines

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.”

Elephant feet turned foot stools, confiscated in the US © Britta Jaschinski

“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
Aida Muluneh
Alix Marie
Anastasia Taylor Lind
Aneta Grzeszykowska
Anne Hardy
Annegret Soltau
Britta Jaschinski
Carrie Mae Weems
Chloe Dewe Mathews
Clare Strand
Clementine Schneidermann
Collier Schorr
Cristina de Middel
Daesha Devon Harris
Dana Lixenberg
Dana Popa
Dayanita Singh
Dragana Jurisic
Elina Brotherus
Ellen Carey
Eva Stenram
Evgenia Arbugaeva
Fatma Bucak
Gillian Wearing
Gohar Dashti
Graciela Iturbide
Hannah Collins
Hannah Reyes Morales
Hannah Starkey
Heather Agyepong
Helen Sear
Helene Binet
Indre Serpytyte
Isadora Kosofsky
Jane Hilton
Jenevieve Aken
Jillian Edelstein
Joana Choumali
Jodi Bieber
Josephine Pryde
Joy Gregory
Katy Grannan
Laia Abril
Lalla Essaydi
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Laura El-Tantway
Lise Sarfati
Lorna Simpson
Lua Ribeira
Marcia Michael
Mari Bastashevski
Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons
Marianne Mueller
Martha Rosler
Mitra Tabrizian
Miyako Ishiuchi
Monica Alcazar-Duarte
Nan Goldin
Natasha Caruana
Newsha Tavakolian
Noemi Goudal
Oksana Yushko
Paola Paredes
Pixy Liao
Rahima Gambo
Rena Effendi
Renate Bertlmann
Rineke Dijkstra
Rinko Kawauchi
Sarah Jones
Shirin Neshat
Sian Davey
Sonja Hamad
Sophie Calle
Susan Derges
Susan Lipper
Susan Meiselas
Tacita Dean
Taryn Simon
Tereza Zelenkova
Tracey Moffatt
Trish Morrissey
Ursula Schulz-Dornburg
Valerie Belin
Valie Export
Vanessa Winship
Viviane Sassen
Wendy Ewald
Wendy McMurdo
Wendy Red Star
Yagazie Emezi
Yan Wang Preston
Yto Barrada
Yushi Li
Zanele Muholi
Zarina Bhimji
Zineb Sedira
Zoe Leonard

Ranch, from the series Precious, 2010 © Jane Hilton
Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner © Jillian Edelstein
Untitled, from the series Until You Change, 2016 © Paola Paredes
Valie Eport – Smart Export, 1970 © Valie Expot
From the series The New Colonists, 2017 © Monica Alcazar Duarte
Orange Event, part 4,2017, from the series Règle du jeu © Elina Brotherus
From the series, Still My Mother, Still My Father, 2017 © Isadora Kosofsky
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy