The Royal Photographic Society wants the public to nominate their favourite contemporary photographers as part of their Hundred Heroines campaign.
From Dorothea Lange, whose Great Depression-era portraits are currently on show at London’s Barbican, to Zanele Muholi, whose stunning black and white photography explores life as a queer black woman in South Africa, some of the world’s greatest and most influential photographers have been women.
Despite this, women remain underrepresented in photography. In 2016, just 5% of the pictures used by leading photography publishers were taken by women, and women photojournalists are significantly less likely to be employed by large media companies. Last year, photojournalist Daniella Zalcman got so tired of hearing male photo editors complain that they didn’t know where to find female photographers, she created a website specifically to showcase their work.
Now, in a bid to spotlight women’s photography and to celebrate the centenary year of partial women’s suffrage, the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) has launched a competition to find the best and brightest female photographers working around the world in 2018.
The ‘Hundred Heroines: Celebrating Women in Photography Today’ campaign is calling on the public to nominate their ‘heroines’ of contemporary photography, either via their website or by using the hashtag #HundredHeroines on Twitter and Instagram.
A panel of expert judges will then select one hundred nominees to have their work shown at a major exhibition in 2019. Crucially, the photographers don’t have to be well-known already: the RPS is actively looking for women whose work may have been overlooked.
The competition aims to “highlight and promote the overlooked abundance of contemporary female photographic talent in what remains a traditionally male-dominated world”, the RPS said in a statement.
“I come across so many amazing women in photography, and yet their voice is nowhere near as powerful as their male counterparts,” says Del Barrett, vice-president of the RPS.
She describes the Hundred Heroines project as a “major step” towards removing the barriers that make it difficult for women photographers to thrive, by “raising public awareness of the excellent work being created by women globally”.
The campaign has also been endorsed by Helen Pankhurst, the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, who praises it as “a wonderful way to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage”.
“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,” she says.
“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.”
Nominations for the Hundred Heroines exhibition are open now, and will close on 30 September 2018. You can find out more information here.
Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.