A celebration of women in pictures
With the backdrop of actress Frances McDormand rising as an admiral for feminism at the Oscars, and the war drum of the #MeToo movement beating around the world, our celebrations for International Women’s Day on 8 March seem all the more poignant. It is perhaps not a coincidence that in such a climate, the launch of the 2018 International Women’s Day Photography Exhibition, in Melbourne, saw people spilling onto the street.
Exhibition Coordinator and Director of The Melbourne Camera Club, and award-winning landscape and street photographer, Susan Brunialti said: “It’s been an incredible start to the exhibition.” The exhibition brings together 200 prints from over 50 Women Photographers from across Australia. “We’ve set out to help empower women in the arts – we are so pleased it’s being amazingly well represented and received so far,” Brunialti says.
The exhibition features professional, award-winning and globally recognised photographers as well as emerging photographers across the many photographic genres. “We have some fantastic award-winning women landscape photographers exhibiting too – a genre that although changing, has historically been dominated by men.”
Landscape photographer and exhibitor, Mieke Boynton who recently had a photograph rated amongst the Top 101 landscape photographs in the world knows this all too well. Having worked in The Kimberley, Western Australia, over the past ten years, Boynton ran a stall at the popular Saturday Markets in Broome: “I would stay up until after midnight, printing, packaging, labelling, laminating… then arrive at the market before 6am to set up my marquee, drag my tables into place, set up all my photography products, and then sit with my coffee while visitors looked around. One of the most common questions was, “Does Mike have a gallery in town?” It hurt. I made a sign with an arrow pointing to my chair saying ‘Photographer’. I put my photo on a banner in front of the stall. I even had a t-shirt made that said: ‘PHOTOGRAPHER – Yes! Me!’ But it didn’t seem to make any difference. People continued to assume that I was the chick running the stall for the man with the gallery in town.”
Despite having to fight gender stereotyping, Boynton says the outlook is positive: “I admit that I do look forward to the day when camera companies start choosing more women as their brand ambassadors, and I look forward to the day when no one mistakes me as the chick just minding the stall for Mike… but I’m also incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I have which were not afforded to my mum when she was my age. There has never been a better time in history than right now in Australia to be a female photographer. Technology is making it easier, and the stereotypes are fading. And that is certainly worth celebrating.”
Alli Harper, AIPP’s 2017 Victoria Emerging Photographer of the Year, is recognised for shooting buildings and urban environments. “I tend to have a very graphic eye and like to deconstruct images in stark visual terms.” Going against her usual architectural depictions, for the exhibition Harper says: “I wanted to put in work that was representative of me as a woman, and particularly as a mother.” In her image Beneath, a self-portrait behind the shadows of her curtains, Harper says: “It addresses how women after having children can go from having a strong sense of self in the work place to that of a mother – and the struggle of losing their sense of identity.” Her other piece in the exhibition, The Abyss, “explores the unexpected and deep love that you have for your children, and how your life and time becomes immersed in them.”
Harper says that her photography has always been her outlet for creative expression. “My photography has always been a way of doing something for myself,” she says. Although her escapism, children are often her muse. “I’m doing a documentary style photography series at the moment, exploring teenagers in their bedroom environment.”
For Brunialti, having recently fought breast cancer, photography, in many ways, came to her rescue. “Photography has been instrumental in getting me through a rough time health wise. It has been so important in keeping me mentally strong, and has brought a sense of stillness and calmness to my life around the craziness of appointments and treatment at a very difficult time in my life.”
Brunialti hopes the exhibition will inspire others. “As women, we of course want to have it all – we want to be successful, work hard, and have children, which of course can leave us very busy and, sometimes, depleted. I hope that the exhibition encourages women to have a creative outlet that too brings them some kind of peace.”
The 2018 International Women’s Day Photography Exhibition is open free to the public 10-12 March and 17-18 March at the Melbourne Camera Club Gallery, 256 Ferrars St, South Melbourne.