In rural Iran, four female fruit pickers diligently collect barberries, helping prop up the country’s agriculture industry. 1500 miles away, in Israel, representatives from a women-led human rights organisation bring Palestinians to the beach for a care-free day by the ocean. In India, meanwhile, three young triplets pose in shirts embroidered with the word ‘united’ — blissfully unaware of how, when they grow older, their culture will come to separate them due to their genders.
Such scenes are among the winners of Female in Focus 2021, a global photography award celebrating women’s* exceptional contribution to contemporary photography. While awareness around gender inequality in the photography industry may be growing, the numbers aren’t changing fast enough. Globally, 70-80% of photography students are women. Yet they account for only 13-15% of professional photographers.
From Imogen Freeland’s poignant take on motherhood to Marzena Han’s look at the “social invisibility” felt by middle-aged women – Paola Vivas’ defiant portrait of Latino identity to Thandiwe Muriu’s vibrant celebration of African individuality – Female in Focus 2021 weaves a raw and intricate tapestry of women’s experiences from around the world.
The exhibition – sponsored by MPB, the world’s largest online platform for buying and selling used photo and video kit – will go on show at Green Space Miami as part of the inaugural WOPHA Congress in Miami, USA, from 18 November 2021 – January 2022, as well as a UK exhibition in 2022.
In the Series Category, Jodie Bateman’s winning My Hijab Has a Voice: Revisited is a bold series of portraits investigating the experiences of Muslim women from an autobiographical perspective. “Often Muslim women are only seen to wear black, and are portrayed as ‘old fashioned’ or ‘backwards’ for their choice to cover their bodies,” says Bateman. “Western society continuously feeds the stereotype of oppression… It is vital to listen to Muslim woman’s voices.”
Paola Jiménez Quispe’s winning series, meanwhile, is a compelling amalgamation of photographs, texts and objects relating to her father’s murder, which happened in their native city of Lima, Peru, when she was five years old. More than simply re-investigating his death, the series – titled Rules for Fighting (Reglas para pelear) – is about “who my father was to my family,” says the artist. “What kind of partner he was to my mother… And finally, what his loss meant and the trauma that has been with us for a long time.”
Traversing tales of beauty and pain, joy and injustice, humans and nature, other Single Image winners include Annie Tobin, Natalia Garcia, Layla Sailor and Bailey Quinlan.
Female in Focus 2021 was judged by an internationally esteemed jury including Joanna Milter, Director of Photography for the New Yorker; Aldeide Delgado, Founder and Director of Women Photographers International Archive (WOPHA); Holly Fraser, Editor-in-Chief of WePresent, and others.