Feature image by Anna Caitlin Harris
Meet 20 women photographers behind the lens creating game-changing, happily disruptive imagery right now. These are voices not magnified by a larger-than-art online presence: Each artist commands only modest social media influence, yet gloriously immodest photographic prowess. Still, we’re pretty sure you’ll want them in your Instagram feed.
Could these 20 fresh and female perspectives help shape the future of photography? We can’t wait to find out.
Ana’s thoughts on photography: “Photography’s my way of staying in the moment. As someone who suffers from severe anxiety, it’s a therapeutic way for me to stay grounded and process everything around me.”
Q: What makes a great photo? A: The two “C”s: connection and composition.
Q: Best advice: A: Take it slow. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the camera models and which lenses create the creamiest bokeh. Just learn your camera inside out.
Q: What have you learned? A: Photography has taken me on a spiritual journey, and allowed me to look at myself from different perspectives. Photography’s pushed me to find out who I am not only as an artist, but as a person.
Photo gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 50mm f/1.2L USM lens.
Molly’s thoughts on photography: “Photography is such a huge part of my life — it’s never just work to me. I try to seek out the in-between moments that show connections and clues to personalities. Taking time to listen and talk to people is very important, even if I’m photographing a stranger in the street. There needs to be a connection between me and my subjects; they must be able to trust me. People who are passionate about what they do or create inspire me.”
Q: What makes a great photo? A: One that makes you want to know more about the subject, almost like something special about them is being revealed to you.
Q: What you’ve learned: A: The importance of personal work. It’s through personal projects and photographing family and friends that I’ve discovered my own style, which I’ve then been able to apply to my professional work.
Photo gear: Contax 645, 80mm lens and and my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens or 16-35mm wide-angle zoom. For personal work I also use my Canon AE-1 35mm SLR, Fujifilm GF670 Rangefinder, Holga, and Yashica Mat-124G medium-format camera.
Ashley’s thoughts on photography: “I used to take my camera everywhere; I was obsessed with documenting every facet of my life. After a few years, I started leaning toward conceptual projects. Lately, my portraits have been inspired by pop culture and how it ties to deeply personal subject matter. The feeling I get when the concept and the subject I’m shooting connect perfectly is unmatched… It’s a personal victory.”
Q: Best advice: A: Make sure you’re making the photo for yourself, not your viewership. If you’re doing your best, your work will pull the right audience and opportunities for expansion or acceleration into your orbit.
Q: What you’ve learned: A: As a photographer who relies solely on natural light, I have a keen understanding of the sun’s angles throughout every hour of the day.
Q: What’s next? A: I am committed to creating unique local art experiences. I’d like to turn my home into an art gallery for a year. I feel I finally have a direction: To give literal life to my subjects and the subjects of other artists.
Julie’s thoughts on photography: “My images are an interpretation of what’s unfolding in front of me, and for which I’m using visual elements like blur, light leaks and film soup, to give intensity.”
Q: What inspires you to grab your camera? A: People. Hands down.
Q: What makes a great photo? A: When the image makes the viewer feel something.
Q: Best advice: A: Learn the rules, but don’t forget that it’s OK to break them. Don’t be afraid to be bold and to experiment.
Q: What you’ve learned? A: Figuring out what I like in photography and why I like it has helped me to produce work that’s more intentional and meaningful.
Cameras: Pentax 645n, Nikon F100, Nikon N80, Holga, Yashica Mat-124G. Lenses: Pentax-FA 645 45mm f/2.8, Pentax-FA 645 75mm f/2.8, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art, AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G. Films: Kodak Portra 400, Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Ultramax 400 (for my film soup), Kodak Ektar (my fave for light leaks). Lab: The FIND Lab. Experimenting with film is the vehicle I’ve found to be heard and fight the dark areas of my soul. It fills me with color.
Texas Hill Country
Ana’s thoughts on photography: “I’m drawn to the story within the photograph, what the subject was feeling and why. That’s in my mind as I’m capturing my children playing or when they’re being still. I’m looking for honesty.”
Q: How does photography make you feel? A: As a child, I loved the old photos in my grandmother’s house of my parents when they were children. Photography is our way of visiting the past and stirring up memories.
Q: Inspirations? A: I love the black-and-white masters who were documenting what they saw, like Dorothea Lange and Vivian Maier. But my daughters inspire me the most. They’re always up to something; they run pretty wild and I’m fascinated by the things they come up with.
Q: What you’ve learned? A: Your best work will be when you photograph what you love. Focusing on my children and our life has helped me grow as an artist because my subjects and location don’t change much and it’s forced me to get creative and do something new each time.
Photo gear: I keep it simple: Canon EOS 6D and a 50mm f/1.4 lens.
Kenya’s thoughts on photography: “I find solace in knowing I have the ability to create a connection between the subject and the viewer despite distance or time.”
Q: What draws you to photography? A: Photography is a vital part of human nature, like literature and music. It captures moments in time that make up simultaneous narratives. It gives me hope to think of photos as time capsules.
Q: Inspirations: A: Carlota Guerrero, Benjamin Holtrop, and Deun Ivory.
Q: Best advice: A: Learn the art of patience. I work on affirming to myself that not everyone is going to like my work and I’m going to have clients who are difficult to please. As long as I keep an open mind and an open eye, the work won’t have to suffer at the cost of another’s opinion.
Photo gear: My go-to camera is my very first, my Canon Rebel T1i, and I keep my 35mm lens with me at all times.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Zoë’s thoughts on photography: “One unexpected thing I love about photography is its healing powers. When I’m taking a photo that’s resonating with me, I feel a physical sensation: My mind says OK this is it, my heart beats faster, my body starts to tingle.”
Q: What inspires you to grab your camera? A: My daughter and I are often out in the wilds playing in an imaginary world together with an idea we’ve set out to shoot, a collaboration we compose like a painting. Other times I’m shooting real life moments as they happen.
Q: What makes a great photo? A: After seeing a great photo, you never forget it. Being present while shooting… There is a little magic to making great pictures. One can learn all of the fundamentals and rules and then put them all together correctly, but sometimes something is missing, and that’s the magic!
Photo gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lenses.
Damola’s thoughts on photography: “As a black woman, I’m often navigating a world that doesn’t always want to acknowledge my existence, or presents it in a watered-down way. Photography has always been a way to reclaim the narratives that relate to different parts of my identity. My goal is to be intentional with my work by drawing inspiration from true-life experiences. It’s remarkable how many different perspectives can be shared regarding a certain topic or experience.”
Q: Inspirations: A: Solange Knowles. I often reference her work with Saint Heron and I appreciate the unapologetic nature of her music. Yagazie Emezi is probably my favorite photographer hands down. She’s vocal about breaking the traditional mold of what it means to be a photographer, especially in terms of documentary work, a field I hope to break into soon.
Q: Best advice: A: Comparison will be your biggest downfall.
Photo gear: Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lenses.
Jonya’s thoughts on photography: “I approach photography with the intention of finding small moments of controlled chaos. I want to capture the ridiculous day-to-day energy and anxiety of being a human, and transform it into visual expression. Photography provides a record of life’s odd little moments I would otherwise easily forget.”
Q: What’s the key to a great photo? A: It’s different for everyone. I’m drawn to unexpected compositions. The photo could be minimal or just absolutely bonkers as long as it demands my attention and raises questions.
Q: Best advice: A: Make work that is true to you and explore different directions of photography. And learn how to use your camera in manual mode.
Q: What you’ve learned? A: Not to care about other people’s opinions and to follow my instincts and create what I want. I’ve learned that time does improve skills and pushing personal boundaries is rewarding.
Photo gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a 50mm f/1.2L lens. Occasionally I use a 24-70mm f/2.8L, an old 100mm lens, or my little Fujifilm X100T to challenge the way my brain gets stuck in seeing 50mm with or without a camera.
Anna’s thoughts on photography: “I shoot with a documentary approach, reacting to what’s happening naturally. I tend to be drawn to quiet moments, but am trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and take louder and more energetic pictures.”
Q: What does photography mean to you? A: For me, taking photographs has been a way to cope with all the changes and chaos that come with bringing up young children; I hope one day they’ll look back through our photo albums and see how much they were loved.
Q: Best advice? A: Don’t be afraid to photograph the ordinary things that make up your day. I thought I couldn’t take good photographs because I couldn’t travel to beautiful or interesting places. Once I realized my most important subjects (my three children) were right beside me, I started to experiment more and my confidence grew.
Q: What you’ve learned? A: Be mindful of everything. Look carefully at what’s going on around you, camera in hand or not.
Photo gear: Nikon D750 and most often my 50mm or 35mm lenses and sometimes an 85mm.
Gisele’s thoughts on photography: “I’m generally a shoot-and-move photographer, but sometimes I’ll stay in one place if I see a situation unfolding. As a street photographer, I tend to shoot from a low angle, which gives my subjects prominence in the frame. I’m fascinated by people, especially people aging naturally. I don’t care for shots where there’s no connection, such as people looking at their phones. Photography both quiets my mind and inspires me.”
Q: Best advice: A: Don’t let anything stop you. Don’t be afraid to get out there. I’ve traveled alone to more than a dozen countries, walking all over with my camera.
Photo gear: My top go-to cameras are: Fujifilm X100F, Leica Q or Leica M10 (usually with a 35mm Summilux lens). I’ve been almost exclusively a natural light photographer, but in the past year I’ve started experimenting with flash. I like the effect of flash on a sunny day; it helps remove shadows and gives the subject some pop.
Anna Caitlin Harris
Anna’s thoughts on photography: “I consider myself a visual poet. I don’t focus on rules or perfection. What I care about is evoking feeling. I feel a deep responsibility to ensure there is authenticity in the moments I capture. I want them to be beautiful and poetic, but also raw and real.”
Q: Inspirations: A: Amazing design, ceramics, textiles, interiors, paintings and cinema.
Q: What you’ve learned? A: Comparison is a trap and a total dead end. I’ve learned to give myself, my relationships and my business boundaries. I even give my camera boundaries: There are moments for capturing and other moments when the camera should be put away.
Photo gear: Nikon D810; Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens, 45mm tilt-shift, 35mm lens, 24-70mm lens. I use a Speedlight 700 flash, but only when absolutely needed. I prefer grain over flash any day.
Rebecca’s thoughts on photography: “My work is mainly about light; its presence and absence, and how that makes me see and feel. I work a lot with darkness and shadows, which usually have an association with fear, evil or the unknown. I’m drawn to forgotten little corners or scenes that have some element of impermanence or mystery. I’ve always been a dreamer, very conceptual and cinematic. Photographs allow me to capture how I see my life.”
Q: Inspirations? A: My husband [photographer Johnny Patience], is my creative muse. We talk all the time about art and what it means to both of us. These conversations always challenge and inspire me, and have helped me grow over the years.
Q: What you’ve learned? A: Letting go of perfection is good, not only for me as a person, but also for my artistic work. The images I’ve made that speak to me most are the ones that were unplanned and unstaged, and where I didn’t fix flaws, either before I shot or afterward. The flaws ended up being the most beautiful part of the photograph for me.
Photo gear: Leica M9-P, Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH lens. I’ve shot only this combination for the past 3 years and have a comfortable connection between what I see and how the camera and lens translate it. I also occasionally shoot a medium-format camera, the Rolleiflex 2.8F, with black-and-white film. I enjoy developing and printing my film at home.
Julia’s thoughts on photography: “My kids aren’t the best at cooperating, so I really just capture what unfolds. The same for my client sessions; I work better if I haven’t planned poses, which distracts me and takes me out of the moment.”
Q: What does photography mean to you? A: I love to tell a story. From a young age, I’ve been putting together photo albums. Every time I head back to the United Kingdom, I go through my family photo albums, and they bring back so many fond and vivid memories; it’s like I’m re-living my childhood again.
Q: Best advice: A: Be patient. Practice, practice, practice. Spend time learning and understanding as much as you can. Cutting corners doesn’t work, trust me! Force yourself out of your comfort zone, try new things, start to see things in different ways — that’s how you evolve. Find what you want to photograph, not what you think others want to see.
Photo gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Sigma 35mm & 24mm f/1.4 Art lenses for both indoor and outdoor work, and occasionally a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens.
Walker Richmond, Virgina
Nivea’s thoughts on photography: “I’m always inspired by, and try to make time for the little moments of my children’s lives I want to remember. Recently, I’ve been trying to get myself in the frame to leave them with something to remember about me as well. My dad has played a part in my love for capturing moments. In the good old VHS days, he carried around his camcorder recording home films of my family as I grew up. For that reason, I’ve also fallen in love with video. It’s my new obsession!”
Q: What you’ve learned? A: I’m most happy when I shoot for myself. I don’t put pressure on myself to hurry into a business that I’m not ready for.
Photo gear: Nikon D750, AF-S Nikkor 35mm 1.4G lens.
Cathlin’s thoughts on photography: “Photography saved me and made me. I was searching my whole life for a piece of myself, and photography helped me find her. I’m an artist and photography gave me the courage to come out from hiding. To me, a great photo is one that leaves you wanting more, and stirs something inside you. It comes down to amazing composition, beautiful and interesting light, and some kind of tension. There’s often that extra something, maybe the photo poses a question or demands your attention, maybe it stirs a feeling inside you, expresses a universal truth.”
Photo gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Sigma 35mm and 50mm Art lenses, Canon EF 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses. For film I use a Pentax 645N medium-format camera (my favorite!) or a Contax G1 35mm because my ego wanted some Zeiss glass. Film: Kodak Portra 400 and 800, Kodak Ektar, Ilford HP5, Kodak TMAX 400 and 3200. Lately I love experimenting with expired film stocks, or “film soup,” and I got my hands on some Ektachrome recently and became enamored with the results; they’re bringing it back and I can’t wait.
Naomi’s thoughts on photography: “My work is centered around my family, and I try to capture the spirits of my children. My images are an extension of me and my creative soul. They reveal the things I love.”
Q: Why photography? A: A few years ago, I felt I’d lost a part of myself as I got caught up in the busyness of caring for a growing family, home-schooling, everyday life. I bought my first DSLR and fell in love. Once I began working on my photography on a regular basis, I realized my creative spirit was coming back to life. I was nurturing a part of me that I’d neglected.
Q: Best advice: A: Stay true to your creative heart; you’ll find the most enjoyment and fulfillment.
Photo gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Sigma 35mm Art lens.
Zaida Lucia Ortega
Zaida’s thoughts on photography: “Like many mothers, my love for photography saw its inception when our first daughter was born. It didn’t take long before I realized photography was no longer just a hobby, but a newfound passion God had instilled in my heart. Of the many things that inspire me to grab my camera, my children, beautiful light, love, and laughter are always at the forefront. My connection to photography overwhelms my soul; I strongly believe we were created to create!”
Q: Best advice: A: Try not to rush anything. Take your time experimenting. The more you practice, the closer you come to finding your own voice and style.
Photo gear: Canon EOS 6D. Lenses: Canon EF 50mm and 85mm f/1.8 USM, and Canon EF 40mm STM f/2.8.
Jessie’s thoughts on photography: “My work is an extension of my curiosity and awe of the human experience. My approach is simple: I show up. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I am present and open to whatever experience presents itself. There is usually a vision, of course, and maybe a loose plan, but it’s about being in the moment with my subjects. The moment remains there in the photograph and that’s incredible to me.”
Q: Best advice: A: Be brave. Do what’s never been done! Be collaborative instead of competitive. You have to have a lot of courage to find your voice as an artist. I’ve had to be very patient with myself in finding that voice; eventually I learned to enjoy the search.
Photo gear: Nikon D810, 24mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/1.4 lenses.
Catherine’s thoughts on photography: “The process of heading out to take photos is like meditation for me. As a street photographer, I like to draw out scenes that capture a slice of life in that place. I like telling a story in a minimalistic style. There’s a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity. Street photography evolved organically for me. I became captivated by the fact that every image is unique, every moment a chance encounter that cannot be repeated.”
Q: What makes a great photo? A: One that just works on every level. It has impact. It evokes feeling. It includes ambiguity and invitation. best advice? Start somewhere and persist! Your first images will be experimental and your style will evolve. Know that you have chosen photography for a reason and allow yourself to learn and express your creativity via this medium. Intuition is a thing!
Q: What you’ve learned? A: Photography has taught me to look. I notice so much more about life.
Photo gear: Nikon D750, Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens, 35mm prime.
Who inspires you?
These 20 women photographers are truly inspiring, but we want to know who else is feeding your creative genius. Who inspires you? Is it another photographer? Your family? An artist from another genre? A writer? Tell us your muse in the comments.
The story originally appeared in the September/October 2018 issue of Click Magazine. Subscribe here.