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What I See: 9 photographers on what forward progress looks like

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Photo by Yagazie Emezi
“What I See” is a recurring feature that offers us a glimpse of the world as seen through others’ eyes. For this edition, we asked nine documentary and portrait photographers to share an image that captures the essence of the word forward as it relates to women around the world.


Magda Rakita
Magda Rakita is a documentary photographer who works with media and nonprofits worldwide, focusing on health and social issues.

A four-day old baby is examined by certified midwife Alice Sumo at the White Plains clinic in Montserrado, Liberia
Photo by Magda Rakita
 

“A four-day old baby is examined by certified midwife Alice Sumo at the White Plains clinic in Montserrado, Liberia in April 2014. Over a thousand babies have been named after Alice by mothers wanting to honor the care she provides.”
Claudia Agati
Claudia Agati is an Italian photographer living in London. Her work is research-based with a strong conceptual inclination informed by feminist theory, in effort to create a form of visual activism that fights for social justice and gender equality.

“Claire. Wrestling name: Muneca del Trapo. Signature move: the bull crasher. Claire fights not only with her opponent but against a standardized ladylike ideal of femininity, claiming the right for women to be represented as strong, loud, and fearless.”
Photo by Claudia Agati


Claire. Wrestling name: Muneca del Trapo. Signature move: the bull crasher. Claire fights not only with her opponent but against a standardized ladylike ideal of femininity, claiming the right for women to be represented as strong, loud, and fearless.”
Heba Khamis
Heba Khamis is an Egyptian freelance visual researcher/photographer who shines a light on social issues that are too often ignored. Her recent work has explored breast ironing in Cameroon, the experiences of gay refugees working as prostitutes in Germany, and the lives of transgender people in Egypt.

November 2016, Cameroon. Kamini Tontines, 12 years old, is hiding her breasts after having them ironed by her mother. Early marriage, teenage single motherhood, and rape are common in Cameroon. When a girl's breasts start to develop, her mother or grandmother will sometimes heat a stone and massage the breasts to make them disappear so that men will not be enticed by them.
Photo by Heba Khamis


“November 2016, Cameroon. Kamini Tontines, 12 years old, is hiding her breasts after having them ironed by her mother. Early marriage, teenage single motherhood, and rape are common in Cameroon. When a girl's breasts start to develop, her mother or grandmother will sometimes heat a stone and massage the breasts to make them disappear so that men will not be enticed by them.”
Courtney Garvin
Courtney Garvin is a visual artist currently living in New York City. Her work examines Blackness and its portrayal in various mediums. She also has a deep interest in family histories, memory, storytelling, sexuality, and challenging the boundaries between relationships.

“I’m often thinking about the things I want to unlearn as a Black woman in this country. Being in my mom’s slip in my grandma’s room forces me to acknowledge generational similarities and what I want to pass on to younger generations.”
Photo by Courtney Garvin


“I’m often thinking about the things I want to unlearn as a Black woman in this country. Being in my mom’s slip in my grandma’s room forces me to acknowledge generational similarities and what I want to pass on to younger generations.”
Andrew Esiebo
Andrew Esiebo is a Nigerian photographer who has gained international recognition for work focusing primarily on Nigeria and West Africa.

The Lady Labs Innovation Hub in Lagos Nigeria. Beneficiaries of the GirlsCoding project receive training on computer programming through the support of Pearls Africa Foundation, which was founded by Abisoye Ajayi Akinfolarin
Photo by Andrew Esiebo


“The Lady Labs Innovation Hub in Lagos Nigeria. Beneficiaries of the GirlsCoding project receive training on computer programming through the support of Pearls Africa Foundation, which was founded by Abisoye Ajayi Akinfolarin.

In 2013, a survey by the government found that less than 8 percent of Nigerian women held professional, managerial, and technology positions. This project aims to assist girls from underserved communities in Nigeria in gaining the tech skills and confidence to transform their lives.”
Jana Romanova
Based in Saint-Petersburg, Russia, Jana Romanova works with photography and video on topics of collective identity and hesitations that arise between a desire to keep our individuality and be accepted by society.

Ekaterina Panikar, Russian rescuer, at the back of the rescue car.
Photo by Jana Romanova


“Russia, Saint-Petersburg. Base of the Northwest Regional Search and Rescue Division of Russia. That’s Ekaterina Panikar, Russian rescuer, at the back of the rescue car. I had the privilege of working with Ekaterina for several years when I was a photographer at the Rescue Division.

I was inspired by the strength of her spirit in going beyond all prejudices and cliché about what women can or can't do. It is still very rare that women work as rescuers in Russia, and, for me, Ekaterina is a great example of women moving forward to equality in my country. Apart from her main job, Ekaterina has professional sports categories in figure skating, gymnastics, equestrianism and sky jumping, in which she also holds a world record.”
Katie Jett Walls
Katie Jett Walls is documentary photographer, creating visual stories for families in the Washington, D.C. area, as well shooting documentary projects that give voice to marginalized communities and witness to the human experience.

licensed school social worker Lourdes Bennett, of Jayuya, Puerto Rico, visits  a teacher from her school district who suffered multiple injuries—including loss of a leg—when a mudslide ripped her from her house during the hours that Hurricane Maria passed over central  Puerto Rico.
Photo by Katie Jett Walls


“In this photograph, licensed school social worker Lourdes Bennett, of Jayuya, Puerto Rico, visits a teacher from her school district who suffered multiple injuries—including loss of a leg—when a mudslide ripped her from her house during the hours that Hurricane Maria passed over central Puerto Rico.

I think that forward progress happens when women are resilient and tenacious. Sometimes that resilience takes big public form like women's marches and breaking glass ceilings. But often, resilience looks like a social worker, working herself to exhaustion to take care of her community after a natural disaster. The same grit and compassion that gets Lourdes through the impossible days following the hurricane is what gets each and every woman I know up and out, day after day, pushing the boundaries a little farther for herself and her sisters. On a very personal level, the photos I took in Puerto Rico in January of 2018 represent my own progress in realizing my ambitions and forging my path into documentary photography.”
Kyle Johnson
Kyle Johnson is an editorial/commercial photographer from the Pacific Northwest.

A woman looks into the camera with a veil around her head.
Photo by Kyle Johnson


“I aimed to express the unmatched sense of love, power, and strength that is carried through the female experience. A world cannot move forward and progress without the acknowledgment and disassembling of a toxic system that has unfairly left women undervalued. Everyone is better off when women are empowered.”
Yagazie Emezi
Yagazie Emezi is an artist and self-taught documentary photographer from Aba, Nigeria focused predominately on stories surrounding African women and their health, sexuality, education and beauty standards.

A girl looks into the camera during a parade for International Day of the Girl Child in Monrovia,  Liberia.
Photo by Yagazie Emezi


“This image was taken during the parade for International Day of the Girl Child in Monrovia, Liberia. Her gaze is open to interpretation—but I think, for many, it very likely symbolizes only positives. Although we know the incredible odds girls face in their fight for equal opportunities, we look at her and see hope.”

Posted: March 5, 2019
Edition: Forward


The ideas and views reflected in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Evoke or Melinda Gates.