Inspiring and Daring Women in Contemporary Photography (Part II)


The inspiration is not over. More of our contemporary photographers share us what it’s like to be a ‘woman’ in the craft.

We welcome you to the photography of Klara Johanna Michel, Sharon Heit, Eugenia Loli and Winona Barton-Ballentine, women who have been greatly influenced by women before them.

Klara Johanna Michel

Photo by Klara Johanna Michel

What makes this woman special? What‘s the story behind this photo?

The woman on the photograph is not looking very feminine but nearly androgynous. Maybe this is related to the water surface that partly covers her face or her wet dark hair. The woman on the image is my mother. I took this portrait in 2013. I was thinking about portraying a person in the water so that she looks like a crocodile that is observing the prey. This idea came to mind in wintertime. At this time of the year, nobody wanted to go into the cold water. I was really impatient, so I asked my mother if she can pose for me. She said yes and swam for me in the ice-cold water. I think that the situation says a lot about her character and our relation. She is a strong and supportive woman and mother. She didn’t complain about anything that day. Through her devotion, I achieved the self-confidence I have as a photographer today.

What does it mean to be a woman in photography today?

In my working process and my surroundings, I hardly notice that I am a female photographer and artist. I don’t feel that my gender influences me primarily in my images. And if it is like that it is subconscious. In my work, I never have the feeling that I am taken less seriously. In my private life that is a different thing. You have a lot of strange and unpleasant encounters being a young woman living in Berlin. (in the street, in a bar etc.) In my creative setting, it is not an issue. You don’thave to assert oneself.

Who inspires you as a woman?

When I thought about it, it came to me that all my inspiration sources in art history are men. Of course there are women who inspire me, but my prime influences are males. But the most inspiring and important of my private contacts are female. They are strong and eloquent. They would never be satisfied with things that make them feel small or unhappy. I can’t deal with stereotype behavior (male/female). It is exhausting and feels wrong. Men who hardly show emotions because they are scared to appeal unmanly, or women who act weak and cute, bore me out.

Klara Johanna Michel is a Berlin-based photographer. She shoots in film and reminisces the style of Caravaggio. Read more about Klara in Lomography’s 2015 feature Cold, Calculated, Beautiful. To get updates, visit her Tumblr and Facebook page.

Sharon Heit

Photo by Sharon Heit

What makes this woman special? What‘s the story behind this photo?

The woman in the photo is my friend Alex, who has a beautiful spirit. Growing up with limited support forced her to find her personal strength and independence, but she is still able to embrace the things that make her vulnerable. A writer, she bares herself in her words, opening herself to be truly seen without masks. She embodies the very story that I want to tell through my photography – a story of both fragility and resilience, of femininity and boldness and that our beauty is in our truths.

Lately, I have been shooting with plants and flowers. I think it has come from a place of a new beginning in my own life. I wanted to show Alex in a story of death and rebirth, of letting go of the past to make space for new life. Our strength is sometimes in giving up control and letting the beauty of life around us unfold. And of course, I often use natural sunlight and shadows as another juxtaposition of all things in life.

What does it mean to be a woman in photography today?

As a woman in photography, I want to celebrate the beauty of women (when I use the word beauty, I am never talking about something that is purely physical). I want to tell my story through photographing other women and I want to capture them in their purest essence. What it means to me to be a woman in photography today is the responsibility to honor and celebrate women, and balance the desire to embrace our bodies and ourselves with not participating in the sexualization of women. I want to humanize women and tell our stories because it is my story too.

Who inspires you as a woman?

My favorite photographer is Mary Ellen Mark. I think she captured people in their true nature – their pain and their beauty in a way that was honest and not exploitative. In my personal life, my twin sister inspires me. She makes me want to be a better person every day and I know that I would not be the person that I am today without her. I owe her more than she will ever know and she gives me the hope that I can always be better, that I am not the things that happened to me, that I am human and that I matter.

Sharon Heit lives in Seoul. Her love for bold, daring yet elegant portraiture was in the Lomography feature Beauty, Vulnerability, and Strength of the Female Form. Visit her website, for more new work.

Eugenia Loli

Photo collage by Eugenia Loli

What makes this woman special? What‘s the story behind this photo?

The vintage woman in this collage is seen posing in a way that could both be considered erotic, but also narcissistic, and at the same otherworldly. This piece is titled “Freud vs Jung” and represents the differences found between the two psychoanalysts. One was adamant about the importance of sex, while Jung was more about the collective unconscious and what lies beyond the immediate self.

What does it mean to be a woman in photography today?

Women were always used in arts more than men because they simply look more elegant. It’s the easiest way to beautify a work of art. In more modern times, the female presence is used in more ways than it used to be. Contemporary photography recognizes the complex nature of the woman, as opposed to the more straightforward and often sexist ways of the past.

Who inspires you as a woman?

Hmm… I always liked Sigourney Weaver.

Eugenia Loli grew up in Greece and now lives in California. Her collages have appeared in the Lomography feature Surreal Collages. Visit her website, Tumblr and Cargo Collective for her collages.

Winona Barton-Ballentine

Photo by Winona Barton-Ballentine

What makes this woman special? What‘s the story behind this photo?

She’s my mother. Every summer my mother and I visit the city of Ithaca, New York, near where I was born and where she lived in her twenties. This particular summer evening, we arrived late and rushed to go for a quick swim on Lake Cayuga. The water was cold and the lake floor was covered with sharp mussel shells. We made an adventure of navigating the shallow shore. I appreciated the subtle vulnerability of her goose-bumped skin, the way the luminescent light lined her profile, and the details of her hair, necklaces, and narrow swimsuit strap. Her figure divides the lake’s fading horizon and the darkening trees along the shore.

This photograph was shot on 35 mm film, something I don’t use much anymore. Looking at it now, I see more clearly than ever that photographs made at that time in history will forever hold a certain irreplaceable quality and therefore feel.

What does it mean to be a woman in photography today?

Gender is a constant theme in much of my work. It’s a challenge as well as a gift. While there are many notable and influential female photographers, still many more men have shaped the history of our craft; therefore, many of the images in my mental archive have been made by men. So, while I do make photographs about my experience as a woman, many of my influences are men.

While a woman has more presence in photography than we did even twenty years ago, it’s still an uphill climb. As a mother, the challenge is amplified. I now understand acutely how the voices of mothers are unavoidably muffled by the consuming responsibilities of motherhood and childbearing. Being a photographer involves having a very active relationship to the history of our medium and gender play an important role, both overtly and indirectly. By working in this medium we are shaping the future voice of women in art and in life.

Who inspires you as a woman?

Female writers and artists, my friends, my teachers, my mother, my husband, my daughter. As a mother and artist, reading and looking at the work of other women and mothers has been essential to maintaining a creative practice and my sense of self. I look more and more to my friends and fellow mothers for inspiration. I’ve always looked to teachers as inspiration, like those people in my life who give me tools to grow and deepen my understanding of life, work, and art. This is why I am a teacher. My mother has always been my number one inspiration, in the best and worst ways. I am lucky to have a husband who is supportive of my creative practice and whose interests intersect with mine in a way where we can share ideas and thoughts about our work and our dreams. My daughter inspires me to do my best for both of us, and for all women.

Winona Ballentine lives in Brooklyn. Her fashion photographs have appeared in the Lomography Feature Fashion in Film. Visit her website and Flickr for updates.

This article is part of the series “Inspiring and Daring Women in Contemporary Photography”. Read Part I here.

2016-03-08 #people #lifestyle #international-women-s-day #winona-barton-ballentine #sharon-heit #klara-johanna-michel #eugenia-loli #womensday #international-women-s-day-2016 #katherine-april-caddy


  1. clownshoes
    clownshoes ·

    Good Q(s) and nice A(s)

  2. b2377
    b2377 ·

    "Men who hardly show emotions because they are scared to appeal unmanly, or women who act weak and cute, bore me out." - Klara Johanna Michel

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