Announcing the judges for Female in Focus 2020

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Having launched to international acclaim in 2019, Female in Focus is back to celebrate exceptional women in photography. Following last year’s finale exhibition at United Photo Industries in Brooklyn, New York – which was extended due to popular demand – 2020 will see 1854 Media and British Journal of Photography continue their commitment to discovering, promoting and rewarding new generations of women photographers whilst working to combat gender inequality in photography.

Female in Focus welcomes entries from women-identifying and non-binary photographers based anywhere in the world. Presiding over this year’s winners is a judging panel of editors, directors and curators from leading global institutions:

The panel will select two bodies of work to win the Stories category and 20 individual images to win the Single Image category. The selection of works will be exhibited at a New York gallery in 2020, with the two Stories winners being flown to New York for the opening of the show. All winning work will receive international press coverage and be featured on BJP-online.

© Edwin Montoya

“If you’re a woman unsure of your photography and on the verge of quitting,” says new judge Gulnara Samoilova, “getting your work seen and exhibited can be the push you need to continue your passion. There is room for everyone to pursue their passions.” Before founding Women Street Photographers, Russian-born Samoilova was nearly buried alive in the ash and debris from the fall of the World Trade Center while documenting the events of 9/11 as a staff photographer for the Associated Press. She received national and international awards for her photographs from 9/11, including first prize in the World Press Photo competition and a nomination for the Pulitzer.

© Fiona Morris, Female in Focus 2019 Single Image Winner

With a staggering minority of women photographers being rewarded, published and exhibited around the world, Samoilova is acutely aware that the industry can feel thankless for some: “I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep working and applying to contests, grants, residencies, competitions and exhibitions,” she urges.

Samoilova is joined on the panel by Kate Bubacz. Prior to Bubacz’s time as Photo Director at Buzzfeed News, she held positions at ABC News and the New York Post. “I think that gender inequality in the photography industry is just the start of a good conversation about who gets to tell stories, and how,” she remarks. “The effects of photography on society and the people who choose to be subjects in stories are more far-reaching than ever before. It’s very easy to forget that storytelling is a collaborative process — not just a sole creative pursuit.” What’s Bubacz looking for in entries? “I get really excited about a new take on an old idea, and images that break the rules.”

© Valérie Six, Female in Focus 2019 Single Image Winner

We also welcome award-winning photojournalist Carol Allen-Storey to the panel. A UNICEF ambassador for photography specialising in complex humanitarian and social issues, Allen-Storey’s clients include Save the Children, International Alert, the Elton John Foundation and WWF. “There is still a long way to go for women to secure their position in a highly competitive universe,” she observes. “Female in Focus creates a high-profile community for women’s photography to have a vibrant voice; it’s a global billboard that can open doors of opportunity which have previously remained closed.”

Joining Samoilova, Bubacz and Allen-Storey are Vogue Italia photo editor Chiara Bardelli Nonino, who also curates the Photo Vogue Festival; Sandra M. Stevenson, who spent nearly a decade at the Associated Press before moving to the New York Times fifteen years ago; Elizabeth Houston, whose contemporary Manhattan gallery has been celebrated in the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker and the New York Times, and Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, who co-authored the first anthology in nearly 30 years highlighting photography produced by women of African descent.

If you’re a woman-identifying or non-binary photographer looking to get your work noticed by industry leaders, apply to Female in Focus today

© Edwin Montoya
Flossie Skelton

Flossie Skelton joined British Journal of Photography in 2019, where she is currently Commissioning Editor across awards, Studio and partner content. She does freelance writing, editing and campaign work across arts, culture and feminism; she has worked with BBC Arts, Belfast Photo Festival and Time’s Up. She is also an illustrator, with artwork published in Marie Claire, ES Magazine, Sunday Times Style and the Guardian.