Since 2017, born in Bashkortostan Photographer Gulnara Samoilova sought to empower women in photography. She started with a small group on Instagram dedicated to their work, but she quickly expanded the effort to include a website, traveling exhibitions, an artist residency – and now his new book, Street photographers. Published earlier this month, the book highlights 100 such photographers, amateurs and professionals, from 31 countries, ages 20 to 70.
It couldn’t be more perfectly timed. After a year of lockdowns and quarantines, it’s a reminder of an earlier era Covid-19, when people could go out, meet friends and family, and travel freely. Looking at these images now, they feel intimate – flashbacks to the days before masks and social distances were needed to survive. In the wake of a global vaccine rollout, they also feel like an affirmation that our earlier sense of normalcy is always at hand.
Even in its most mundane moments, Samoilova’s book also asks readers to recognize the unique challenges these women face. Street photography is all about capturing interesting public gatherings and nuanced narratives. Although each person has their own approach, any street photography requires a certain amount of courage. These photographers regularly navigate complex interactions with their subjects, some of which are non-verbal. Sometimes they have to be quick and nimble, other times they have to be patient. But above all, it is extremely important to be present. During the time it takes for a photographer to remove his lens cap, the moment he is attempting to capture may disappear.
As we wrap up Women’s Future Month, WIRED connected with Samoilova to discuss her book, take photographs during Covid-19 and why highlighting the work of creative women is always essential.
A future without the descriptor “ woman ”
One day it may be possible for women in all professions, including photography, to stop associating their gender with their work. Right now, that’s not how it’s going. Being a woman is a very different experience depending on where and how you live. Some countries still require that women obtain permission from their husbands to vote or leave their homes. Even in places where women enjoy de jure equality, there are still barriers that prevent them from using their talents. In Samoilova’s book, Melissa Breyer explains why it was important to include the descriptor “women” when discussing the featured street photographers. “Despite this continued increase in the number of women around the world who use cameras, women still remain under-represented in photography and other fields of the arts. When women are given platforms for their artistic work, it is often in the subcategory of their gender: “female artists,” rather than just “artists,” ”Breyer writes. “In many artistic mediums, the inclusion of this caveat seems patronizing and irrelevant; a judgment of the artist’s work tempered by their biographical background in a way not experienced by their male counterparts. However, with street photographers, this recognition seems not only necessary but festive; these images were not created in the safety of a studio, but in city streets and village roads around the world, where in the past it was not always possible for women to take pictures and take up space.