We came together intuitively; visual storytellers seeking support from others with similar experiences – namely, Canadian women just past the dawn of their careers navigating a field that remains, for the large part, a male domain. That we’re far from the only ones to feel the need to band together is telling of the enduring gender imbalance in photography. Female-driven initiatives are creeping up here and abroad. The Rawiya collective in the Middle East, the Society of Females in Art (SOFIA) in Toronto and the Ardorous, an international creative platform launched by Toronto-born artist and Contact festival headliner Petra Collins, are but three recent examples. All were founded post-2010. The past year has also seen the creation of Women Photograph. More than an index of nearly 600 documentary photographers identifying as women, within a few months it has become a space of exchange, support and even research.
If pressed to consider what unites our work, our minds drift toward how conscious and critical each of us is of the ramifications associated with the act of representing ourselves or others. Whether this comes from personal experience – women having so often been the silent other in front of the lens; as a result of socialization – being told that women are empathetic creatures; or coincidence – the meeting of like-minded personalities, is hard to say. What’s easy to say, however, is just how crucial diversity is for the health of our storytelling landscape.
In this respect, the MUSE exhibit at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel as well as the partnership with Women Photograph on view in the Window Box of Gallery 1313 are starting points to consider how women in visual journalism approach questions of voyeurism, subjectivity and the often unbalanced relationship between artist and subject. The works on display encompass a variety of practices, from environmental portraiture to long-form photo essays, introspective journeys to collaborative endeavours. They also span large physical and emotional geographies, sharing stories from diverse local and international communities.
If pressed to consider what unites our work, our minds drift toward how conscious and critical each of us is of the ramifications associated with the act of representing ourselves or others.
Muse is the work of Laurence Butet-Roch, Chloë Ellingson, Marta Iwanek, Anica James, Hannah Love Yoon, Galit Rodan, Annie Sakkab, Michelle Siu and curated by Rachel Wine at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto and on view in the Window Box of Gallery 1313 from April 30 to June 11.