The vital work of women street photographers Favorite 



Mar 16 2021



In 2016, photojournalist Gulnara Samoilova was running a successful wedding photography business. Her diverse portfolio of work spans two decades — with images in the permanent collections of The New York Public Library, 9/11 Memorial Museum and Houston Museum of Fine Arts — but weddings had become her staple business. By the year's end, she'd decided to pack it in. Reaching a professional crossroads — "making money wasn't enough," she says — the result of the presidential election was the final push she needed.

"Trump's behaviour triggered memories of the sexism I had experienced throughout my life, both in Russia and the United States," she says. "I decided to channel my frustration into something positive: a platform dedicated to women street photographers, to create the kind of support I would have liked to have received in my career.” And so Women Street Photographers, initially an Instagram-based platform and now a Prestel-published, 224-page anthology, was born.

With Women Street Photographers, Gulnara seeks to champion the vital image-makers who are reshaping the way we see the world. Acknowledging how gender is no longer the obstacle it once was within contemporary street photography, the project spotlights women taking up space previously not held for them. In an accompanying essay, the street photographer Melissa Breyer distinguishes this from other instances where gender is recognised. "When women are given platforms for their artistic work, it is often under the subcategory of their sex… In many artistic mediums, the inclusion of this caveat feels patronising and irrelevant," she says. "However, with street photographers this acknowledgement feels not only necessary but celebratory; these images were not created in the safety of a studio but on city streets and village backroads around the world, where in the past it has not always been possible for women to take photographs."

Underscoring Melissa's point, Gulnara believes the work of women street photographers is not a monolith. "For some, the personal is political, and being a woman informs their approach to making work," she says. "For others, gender is not an integral part of their creative process. Some women have spoken about being a single woman working on the street in their native lands, and how they adapt their practice to comport themselves accordingly. Other women are dealing with physical disabilities and use street photography to help manage their conditions. LGBTQ women recognise how a queer gaze informs their work," and so on.

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