Announcing the winners of the 2021 Equal Lens Competition

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Championing work by women and non-binary photographers, the competition focuses on the feeling of joy

Equal Lens is a non-profit platform founded by Jaki Jo Hannan in 2019. She and the team behind the initiative, are calling for agencies to be more proactive in balancing the gender inequalities found across the photographic industry, especially within commercial photography. According to the group, women account for less than 25 per cent of the talent represented by over 70 leading commercial photography agents, a number that Equal Lens – a community of buyers, producers, photographers and industry professionals  – wants to change. 

Part of this mission includes elevating, celebrating and showcasing the work produced by women and non-binary talents. As well as their online database of artists working within the industry, the team have launched a photography competition with an inaugural theme, Every Joy. This year’s judging panel included Sachini Imbuldeniya, Founder and Managing Director or Studio Pi; Jason Heward, the Managing Director at Leica UK; Lorie Jo Trainor Buckingham, Global Creative Director at Deliveroo; Rosie Hart, the Director of Serlin Associates; Zuki Sedgley, the Creative Director of Phantom and Equal Lens; and BJP‘s Izabela Radwanska Zhang. 

© Naomi Wood.
© Naomi Wood.
© Naomi Wood.

Last night, it was announced that Cordelia, an image created by British photographer Leia Ankers, won first place at the competition. The portrait is part of the series The Same As You, a project in which the photographer created portraits of individuals living with a disability. “The project was instigated from having a disability myself,” she explains. “I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of three. These differences from a young age introduced me to the experience of stigma, of being the ‘Other’. I wanted to change the way that people with dual sensory impairment and additional disabilities are perceived by society,” she adds.

Mardi Gras reveler Jennifer Jacobs dances upon the former platform of the Battle of Liberty Place monument as Flozell Daniels of the Foundation for Louisiana looks on for a portrait in New Orleans, Feb. 6, 2021 © Jennifer Ortiz.
© Kim Black.
© Kristina Varaksina.

The Same As You is a series of portraits, yet also forms a deep investigation into sensorial experiences, and how we navigate our surroundings. “Most of the time we take our senses for granted. In this series, I aim to represent the perception of disability,” she explains. Through the series, the physical phenomena of touch, and the sensation of hearing, act as a comfort and joy for the subjects. Through this, Ankers reframes disability, focusing on the subject’s own relationship to their senses and experiences.

© Laura Pannack.
© Laura Pannack.
© Laura Pannack.

Alongside Ankers, Laura Pannack’s Island Symmetries became the first runner up. The series documents young people “on opposite sides of the earth,” capturing their youth in emotional and transitory periods. “The intense joy we feel as a child is rarely matched in adulthood,” she says. Kim Black and Jennifer Ortiz both won second runner up, with Naomi Wood and Kristina Varaksina being highly commended.

The competition celebrates the joy captured by these photographers, a joy that can feel simultaneously universal and deeply personal. Equal Lens has an important mission, and through this competition, they hope to exemplify the work being made by women and non-binary photographers today.

All winning entries for the 2021 Equal Lens Competition can be found here.

Isaac Huxtable

Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Photography in October 2020, where he is currently the Editorial Assistant. Prior to this, he studied a BA in History of Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.