In celebration of Women's History Month, we are interviewing inspiring women from around the globe who work in the photography industry or have set up organizations to encourage and advise women photographers. We talked to Margaret Drysdale, founder of Women In Focus In Edinburgh (WIFIE), a UK based group which acts as a platform to help female photographers kick-start their career.
Hello Margaret, tell us a bit about WIFIE and the reasons behind setting up an organization specifically for women?
In 2002 following many years engaging with women from different economic and cultural backgrounds I researched the possibility of working across these divisions, to create a space where we could collectively explore photography and express ourselves through the images that we create. During an educational placement with the Adult Learning Project, who adopt the philosophy and practice of the educationalist and activist Paulo Freire, I set up and ran a social documentary project for women in Edinburgh. This community based participatory research project explored the lives and experiences of the women through the camera’s lens.
The work that emerged went on to be exhibited under the collective name, WIFIE. From these early days of social activism, WIFIE has continued to provide a space for women to come together to explore issues and ideas that are important to them. This has included taking part in the 16 Days Campaign, the International Campaign of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, International Women’s Day and World Environment Day amongst many. Members come from all kinds of backgrounds and ages, some still at school or college and others already in their later years or retired. Some of our members have studied photography whilst others are still new to the creative practice of photography. Each and every member of WIFIE has their own unique experience and therefore creative response that they bring to the group. I think that spaces that are for women only provide an environment that nurtures and supports women to be fearless and true to themselves. Where individually and collectively we all benefit from sharing our knowledge and ideas.
Tell us a bit about these photographs you chose to share with us.
These black & white images are part of a series that I have been creating using an approach that I have enjoyed over a number of years. This non-lens-based work was exhibited alongside the work of other WIFIE members, exploring the theme, ‘A Sense of Self’. This work illustrates my fascination with creating images without using a camera and it involves a lot of time experimenting in darkroom processes to achieve the effect I am looking for. All of these images have started out as a photogram, which I then play with in the darkroom using solarization techniques and shifting from the negative to positive images, sometimes several times!
My colour images are another example of having fun and being creative without a camera. This time the images were produced using a flat-bed scanner. These images, ‘Flowers don’t Cut It’ were done for International Women’s Day 2018 and were also exhibited at the 8M Festival in Santa Fe in 2019, again for International Women’s Day.
What’s coming up for you and your team in 2020
In 2020 WIFIE are going to be presenting a paper at the Second Morton Photography Symposium at the Women’s Library in Glasgow exploring the theme ‘Ways of Seeing’: Women and Photography in Scotland. We are currently working on an installation piece as part of the Passion 2020 Project in Edinburgh and plan to have an exhibition later in the year as we continue to attract many new members. Also, with WIFIE reaching eighteen this year, I think some big birthday celebration will be on the cards!
To find out more about this fantastic organisation visit the WIFIE website.