Female in Focus 2021: The winners

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Jodie Bateman, Paola Jiménez Quispe, Imogen Freeland and Joanna Helena are among the winners of BJP and 1854’s 2021 Female in Focus award, culminating in two transatlantic exhibitions sponsored by MPB

© Jodie Bateman, Female in Focus 2021, Series Winner.
© Paola Jiménez Quispe, Female in Focus 2021, Series Winner.

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. 

Bailey Quinlan, Female in Focus 2021, Single Image Winner.
© Teri Varhol, Female in Focus 2021, Single Image Winner.

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.

© Annie Tobin, Female in Focus 2021, Single Image Winner.
© Thandiwe Muriu, Female in Focus Single Image Winner 2021.
© Natalia Garcia, Female in Focus 2021, Single Image Winner.

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.

© Imogen Freeland, Female in Focus 2021, Single Image Winner.
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.