A few months ago, with the aim of celebrating women photographers from around the world, we got in touch with Colectivo FAMA (Colectivo de Fotógrafas Artistas Malagueñas) of Malaga, in the south of Spain.
We invited FAMA's photographers to explore the mythological figure of the goddess Diana, protector of women and wild animals, also interpreted from a social point of view. Each photographer had one or more Diana Cameras and through the lens they unleashed their creativity and brought wonderful shots to life. We also asked about their experience as women photographers, if they had ever experienced any discrimination in the professional field and if they could give a piece of advice to all the other women photographers out there. Today we share the results. Check them out!
According to Elena Pedrosa, founder of FAMA initiative, the Collective of Female Artists Photographers from Málaga - in Spanish, Colectivo de Fotógrafas Artistas Malagueñas, FAMA - starts from a virtual curated work on the website colectivofama.com, with the intention of making contemporary and artistic photography projects visible. Based on this exhibition and its presentation in October 2020, the work is proposed as a related group of visual creators whose personal concept of photography supposes in some way a reflection or social repercussion, through a critical discourse, socio-community or cultural intervention, or in personal or collective emotional development, an intention that many of the FAMA participants also transmit as teachers or cultural managers. Colectivo FAMA
Bianca de Vilar
I’ve been a freelance photographer for over twenty years, specialising in music and event photography. Although since the pandemic, I’m focusing more on my personal and artistic work. Recently the daughter of a friend was sexually abused by a school pupil, and since then she was very depressed. So I thought that if I could convince her to be in front of the camera for this project it might give her some sense of power and self-assurance like Diana. I had forgotten what it was to work with such a light camera, and not be able to control any of the settings as I usually do. To be honest I didn’t expect much to come out, but the results and the texture of the black and white surprised me. I'm very pleased.
The best advice I received was given by my father who is also a professional photographer. He said, “Don´t be scared of approaching your subjects”. I would advise any women photographer to find their inner voice and style and to focus on that, to shoot as much as possible, and that “making it” as a photographer is not as important as getting your work seen by other people.
The image, in all its facets, is the medium that helps me express the inner world and the sensations that I perceive in connection with everything that surrounds me, building a rooted of visual concepts and the impulse to transmit a shimmering world. In my images I usually make introspection work where time, space and body are a common denominator that inevitably converge in Identity.
Diana was created as a divinity with a purpose. Her mimicry introduces us to her world environment, showing us the magic that exists in her. Osmosis that generates reciprocity in consciousness and thus nature becomes divine and vice versa, giving birth to an infinite vital circle. Technically, the Diana camera gave me the chance to play and maintain a poetic image that is usually present in my personal works. To return to the beginnings of photography, in this case through instant photography, is to connect with its aura, observation and pause; find a creative challenge leaving behind the current immediacy.
Women photographs of previous generations have gone through more difficulties, being decisive in opening the way. As we advance, barriers are lowered perhaps more slowly than they should. Fortunately, today, there is an increasing female presence in the sector, demonstrating that professionalism is not a determining factor based on gender.
I have always valued the authenticity with which you face what you want to express. Using the image entails the responsibility of being honest with what you believe. Follow your instinct.
Ilse van Gogh
I started taking photos when I was around 20 years old while studying to become an art teacher. I've never put down the camera since. The last eight years I've been shooting with a 6x6 twin lens Yashica and Rolleiflex, and I borrowed a Hasselblad this year in March, which I am getting to know and loving very much. I am working on different series at the moment, one is a project about my female friends, a portrait series. And another project I am working on is a contemporary still life series of compositions I find on the streets in my neighborhood. Also, I always look for big trees and bushes, they fascinate me very much.
Personally I didn't experience any discrimination as a woman photographer, I've always felt very supported by my teachers and certain people in the Málaga art scene.
My first thought for this project was to take portraits of my best friend. Her name is Diana so for me it was obvious, it had to be her. I had darkish fairytale portraits in mind, surrounded by green and leaves, to celebrate the goddess of the forest. I felt I wanted the photos to be mystical, and I think the Turquoise film really supported that idea. It was very strange to use this camera. I had to let go all the control I normally have when taking photos. But when I saw the results of the photos I was very happily surprised and really loved the photos. I was very curious to try the Turquoise film, I am a big fan of color photography and really want to work with this film again! The camera is very straightforward to use. It makes life easy!
The best advice I got I think was from a teacher I had, who once said, "go out and take photos as much as possible and have fun. Don't take photos with the goal of an exhibition or an Instagram post or anything." Photography for me is a way of relaxing, I work as a chef in a busy hotel. So when I am not cooking at work, or at home with my family I can go out and do something for myself and I enjoy that so much. I see it as some intimate and personal way of showing how you see the world. To those who want to pursue a career in photography, I go back to the things my teacher said: take photos, go out and shoot loads of pictures.
My experience as a photographer is relatively recent. I arrived through painting, out of pure passion. At first I was obsessed with technical perfection and beauty. Right now I aspire for photography to help me create in the most free way possible.
I think that in general the work of male photographers is much more valued than that of women. It is curious that in many training spaces, most of the students are women. However, the teachers are men. Books, exhibitions or other types of projection events are generally full of male references. Issues such as everyday life, heroism within the everyday, vindication, intimacy, are recurring themes in many female artists who are not given visibility. On the other hand, certain topics elevate men (whether they are photographers or portrayed) and make women invisible. It is the example of documentary photography, particularly war photography. Both the photographer and the photographed person are considered heroes. But what is more heroic than trying to survive on a day-to-day basis trying to guarantee our children safety, food, water, studies or games in a war zone? Once again, the everyday of women is made invisible.
The concrete ceiling is very clear in the artistic field. Women often feel that our work is not important enough, so we refrain from showing it because we don't believe it has the necessary quality. On the other hand, this quality control is normally defined by men based on criteria that are often foreign to our interests and our reality. The conciliation of care tasks and the work or artistic facet is a critical issue. As long as it is not resolved and progress is made towards real equality in care responsibilities, the gender gap in this or any sector will increase.
I was fascinated from the first moment by Diana's firm decision to remain a virgin so she wouldn't have to submit to a man. And to demand from her father the same privileges that his brother had. I am a feminist and it was very easy for me to connect with that dimension of Diana. At home we are my two children and me. I wanted this project to help me focus on the moments of the day in which I am especially aware of my freedom for having decided on this type of family and life. Normally it is the moments in the morning, early, and at night, when my children are asleep and I can, for example, observe them without interference. That's why my favorite photo is the one of my son sleeping. Actually, I think most women are Diana and they are heroic in their everyday lives.
I used two cameras, the Diana Mini and the Pinhole. I enjoyed the freedom that the comfort and lightness of the cameras give you. They allow you to take them with you and take photos wherever you want. I experimented with a black and white film with the Diana Mini (Lady Grey B&W 35 mm ISO 400 ). I loved the texture and the magical, unreal atmosphere of the photos. With the Pinhole I worked in color (Color Negative 800 ISO 120 ). I decided to enter without a specific topic, to work without any specific goal. I fell in love with this free experience. And to think that what I was capturing was practically light in its purest state, as in the first steps of photography.
My advice is: Take pictures. Often the fear of not getting the technically perfect photo, of not achieve quality work, stops us from playing, from experimenting, or just enjoying photography. Taking photos is the only way to learn, grow and free yourself from the pressure of having to achieve perfection.
My career began in 2003, when I was finishing my studies in Media at the college. Those days I started to participate in collective exhibitions and develop contemporary photography projects, while combining it with other jobs to survive. I tried for a while in cinema art departments, but it's a difficult way of living for a woman with a child. Anyway, I have never stopped generating art projects. Now I am currently dedicated to photography as an artist and I teach Photography Projects, Photography Theory and Art Projects at the Escuela de Arte Mateo Inurria in Cordoba (Andalusia).
I've definitely experienced some discrimination. Especially when you start young, there are times when you feel like you´re not being taken very seriously, and it seems you´re being valued as a female character, not for your work. Also, when you have a family to look after, it is often difficult to develop yourself as an artist, also as a researcher, or develop an intellectual career... In fact, it seems your work is something less important, almost a luxury you have when all sleeps.
The first thing I thought about was the relationship between the photographic act and the search for territory. In this case, as a photographer, I sometimes behave like a hunter. The simile with Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt and Protector of Nature, led me to make images about a searching look in the forest that creates a new and personal territory. There is a look, which is mine behind the Diana Baby camera, and a somewhat mysterious feminine presence, since we never see her face and her silhouette is sometimes lost in the undergrowth. I found it interesting that this presence, which alludes Diana, is in this case a mature woman. I wanted to introduce this change to claim other femininities that seem less present in the photographic universe; vindicate the strength and wisdom of maturity.
The Diana camera seemed to me a very appropriate tool on this mystery of searching, for its basic operation with unexpected results, and also for its small (really small!) size. Very “detective”. On the other hand, the use of the film reinforces the mystery that is intended. I personally love the 110 format, which I have used in the past with old cameras I own. I was very surprised by the aesthetics of “turquoise”. Now I want more.
Luckily I have received a lot of advice from great women. The ones I value the most are those of my mother and my grandmother. Those of my professor, back at the university, the great artist and great friend Isabel Garnelo, also were very important to me. Basically, she recommended first to start and then to resist. But the most important thing is that I have always been able to count on her to comment on a project. So my advice is to resist, but also to create networks with other artists, to share projects, knowledge, to support each other in moments of doubt or blockage. This is what we try to do at FAMA.
I use photography to discover what moves me. The gaze that interests me is the slow one that often looks at the sea, rocks and nature. I also look at real relationships: I often photograph family and friends. In that sense, I photograph to feel that I belong. However, I try to empty my photographic practice of intentions and do it in silence. I believe that absence is important in my work. Maybe that's why travelling is also important. When photographing, as when travelling, one constantly greets and says goodbye to things and it becomes very clear that life is fluid.
I have never felt discriminated against as a woman in the field of photography. I've had good mentors who have ensured women an equal place in the Malaga scene.
I took the photos in La Graciosa, a small island separated from Lanzarote by a strait; a wild and subaltern territory of the already subaltern Canary Islands until recently. A territory to be protected by the goddess Diana, and that is why one of the photos is a landscape of that island. I took it in a photography workshop I organised under my brand CaboAdentro (caboadentro.com). In the workshop, thirteen of us photographers got together and we photographers are hunters consistent with the love of nature that Diana stands for. So it was that I portrayed Romina Portela, who has been photographing another wild and subaltern island in Galicia for years. I tried to do it with an equally wild look. I really liked the camera used, the snapshot for the magic of the result and for its unpredictability. Also for the materiality of the photograph.
My best piece of advice would be this: "to take photographs you have to be connected to desire."
Thank you so much Colectivo FAMA for your precious contribution! You can follow them on Instagram.