This article was written for “We See”, the first women-only documentary photography magazine produced by femLENS and published this year on International Women’s Day.
by Bogdan-Sorin Popescu, femLENS Director of Communications
Documentary photography tends to be associated with the image painted by glossy-format magazines like National Geographic or Time, which contain outsiders’ accounts of costly ventures to distant locations. But the problem with this image is that it’s a gross misrepresentation, a myth we should stop believing.
This is the great challenge so discreetly taken on by femLENS, yet so important. In the time of selfies and tourists mindlessly taking hundreds of snapshots, femLENS aims at further democratising documentary photography, by enabling groups of ordinary and often underrepresented women to learn to take photos using raw tools.
The pictures you are about to see are raw fruit of work done by women who had very little, if any, experience taking photos. And yet, once our participants were immersed in the basics of the visual alphabet and provided with simple tools, rather than state-of-the-art cameras, they started displaying amazing photographic skills, proving the point already recognised by many: what gives rise to quality photography goes way beyond advanced equipment or a limitless budget. And it wasn’t easy. Faced with various social and cultural conditions, some of us may never be able to understand, these are the simple yet surprising stories of women from Ireland, Poland and Lebanon, women who dared to take more than just snapshots.
They decided to be brave and confront their fears, inhibitions and limitations, in order to lend to others their eyes, by documenting intimately their life, themselves and the stories they share.
To us, professional photographers and photo editors, photography is already at the core of our work, but to our participants, it is a delicate flower still in bloom that needs cultivating. And so our mission at femLENS is to keep these newly acquired skills, passion and courage alive, and to raise awareness of the often untold stories.
Most importantly, however, it is to help our fellow colleagues spread our love for documentary photography in its purest and complete form. By undertaking this mission, femLENS has the privilege of being part of and witnessing history in the making.