WE ARE; The RPS Women in Photography Magazine, February 2024

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February 2024 Complicity © Angela Crosti
WE ARE The RPS Women in Photography Magazine


Sue Wright

WE ARE Editor

Rachel Nixon

WE ARE Assistant Editor

Alice Chapman

WE ARE Production Assistant

Poppy French


Louise Knaresborough

Events/Online Talks

Emma Le Blanc

Socal Media - Instagram

Victoria Stokes ARPS

WIP Book Editor

Dr Eli Pimentel ARPS

Member without Portfolio

Frankie MacEachen

Member without Portfolio

Julia Derbyshire ARPS

The RPS Women in Photography (WIP) Group’s objective is to facilitate the celebration, education and collaboration of female and female-identifying photographers.

We are not a genre. These are our stories. We are the discussion that drives a greater awareness of the importance of women photographers past, present and future.

Membership to the WIP group is available exclusively to RPS members.

Visit our website for more information about who we are, what we do and how to join.

https://rps.org/groups/women-in-photography/ ©

2024 All rights reserved on behalf of the article contributors. No part of this publication may be reproduced or copied in any form without the express written permission of the RPS Women in Photography Group Editor and the copyright holder.
3 In
4 From the Editor
Rachel Nixon 5 February Cover Competition Runners-up, Part 1 6 In the Name of Light, I Imagine By Mina Boromand 16 Kaleidoscope By Kate Carpenter 22 Masculinity By Antonia Penia 34 The Garden of Maggie Victoria By Rachel Nixon 42 Capturing Creative Visions An interview with Stephanie Gibson by Frankie MacEachen 50 I Am (Not) Who I Used to Be
ARPS 59 February Cover Competition Runners-up, Part 2 60 Zones of Possibility By Helen Rosemier 66 ‘Archiometry’ By Linda Wride ARPS DPAGB AFIAP 76 Boyhood Summers in the Outer Hebrides By Jane Murray 82 Towards a Meaningful Life By Mary Thompson 87 In the Footsteps of Florence Henri By Valerie Huggins 96 The Thread: Revealing Women’s Power By Yota Samioti 102 Contemplating the Coronation Women in Photography Members
This Issue

From the Editor


I’ve recently returned from the Exposure Festival in Calgary, where I was pleased to be exhibiting my photography. What I most enjoyed was talking with other artists and finding out about their projects. In creating this, my first issue as editor of WE ARE Magazine, I’m grateful for the many conversations I’ve had with photographers who’ve generously shared their work and stories in these pages.

In this issue we uncover the personal, the social, and the cultural, and plenty in between. It was especially fulfilling to learn about how RPS Women in Photography bursary recipient Mina Boromand brought her project to life. Through a series of experiments with light, Mina shares her discoveries around aphantasia, a condition which makes visualization impossible, and along the way revisits her memories of Iran and Afghanistan.

You’ll also encounter beautiful fragments of life captured during Covid; a focus on departed, sometimes forgotten, relatives; and women living with difficult diagnoses. Within all these stories, you will find enduring love, connection and resilience amidst loss and grief. This is life, well lived.

Through powerful portraits we explore the many meanings of masculinity, and, elsewhere, meet women traversing the experiences of mid-life. There is much more besides; I’ve learned, been surprised, and moved by every contribution.

Thanks to all WIP members who entered the cover competition. Congratulations to Angela Crosti and Trish Crawford ARPS for securing the front and back covers respectively. You’ll find a selection of runners-up, too. Thanks also to those who captured Coronation weekend, shown here… better late than never!

This magazine is a collaboration. Alongside our talented community, it simply would not have happened without the layout and design skills of Chair Sue Wright, and the insights and proofreading abilities of Alice Chapman and Poppy French. Like other committee members, we each volunteer our time, energy and experience to bring the publication to life.

It has been a delight to receive so many contributions – a sign that our community is strong and willing to be seen. When we tell our stories, we can expand potential narratives for others and challenge the status quo in photography and the wider world.

Please keep sending your ideas, comments and questions to wipmagazine@rps.org – and let’s continue these conversations.



February Cover Runners-up

Bhutanese Dancer © Tejas Earp More © Gabriella Muttone An Turas © Michaela Simpson
Part 1
Inception 1c © Yas Crawford

In the Name of Light, I Imagine

The recipient of the RPS Women in Photography Bursary explains how she used her award to explore her inability to visualise, while making layered work connecting light and memories of Iran and Afghanistan.

“I will become that which cannot come into the imagination, Then I will become non-existent.”

Rumi, 13th century Persian poet

My journey of being awarded the Royal Photographic Society Women in Photography Bursary enabled me to focus on my project with enthusiasm. The financial and mentorship support had a massive effect on the outcome of my creation.

Throughout this project, I took steps to learn more about the function and behaviour of my brain in the absence of mental images – aphantasia.

Adam Zeman, a professor of cognitive and behavioural neurology, led research called The Eye’s Mind in 2015, a neurological study of visual imagination. In one of his experiments, he used the vividness of the visual imagery questionnaire (VVIQ) as a research tool which helped the research team to closely comprehend the participants’ performance. The result confirmed that some people lack the ability to visualise in their mind’s eye. They named this condition “aphantasia”. In a BBC interview, Zeman described it as “a fascinating variation in human experience rather than a medical disorder.”

© Mina Boromand

In my quest to understand why and how I have this condition, I delved into my family photo archive and explored objects that connect me to specific times in my life. It was as if I time travelled, experiencing the same emotions of excitement, sadness, loss, anger, and hope – I remembered the story through those feelings.

I wondered if my brain sealed off mental imagery to protect me from traumatic events. By asking my siblings to participate in the VVIQ – developed by British psychologist David Marks in 1973 – I discovered that out of the five of us, two have

aphantasia, and the rest are at the end of the spectrum, meaning they can imagine very vividly.

This led me to conclude that I had had aphantasia since childhood. I used lights in my project intending to draw public attention to the desire for further exploration of aphantasia. My inspiration for using lights came from Bill Viola’s contemporary video installations, which explore themes of spirituality and existential reflections. Through the lighting experiment, I entered a new world of visual storytelling and connecting to past events.


My project coincided with the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in Iran, which completely captivated my mind and heart and deeply influenced the project. I recall my experiences during the 1979 revolution – the powerful sense of unity, the strong will for change, and the sacrifices for justice and a better future.

When I took part in the fight for regime change in 1979 I experienced the incredible energy and knowledge of unity – the unity of people who forgot their power and the devastation of being defeated when the Islamic government took

over. The days of resistance and encouragement to continue the fight for justice and freedom. The time that we were arrested for secretly distributing the leaflets and newsletter of the leftwing party. The time when the regime destroyed the central committee of the left-wing parties, then came for the rest of us – the time that we had to run – escape – hide. The time of execution of thousands of prisoners – comrades.

The time I escaped through the River Hirmand to Afghanistan and joined the resistance group facing not only the attack from Mujahidin but also

© Mina Boromand All images © Mina Boromand © Mina Boromand

the fear of being kidnapped by the Islamic regime. The time when me and my daughter (20 months old) were attacked by the Mujahidin’s rocket – we experienced death and back.

This prompted me to let my heart lead in this project to tell the story – a woman’s story – a human story – a story of the journey of displacement, injustice, oppression, aspiration, and optimism. By arranging the printed images made for my 2021 Aphantasia series in the corner of my sofa, I connected and layered memories with what was happening in Iran during the uprising, using the power of light to convey the message.

Moving the lights in front of the printed images stirred strangely incredible emotional feelings as if I were riding the light through time and space. I couldn’t stop myself; I continued using different light colours to

observe the emotional effect. In the stage of editing and selecting, I looked for contrast, colour temperature, and storyline.

A five-minute HD video of selected images embedded with Iranian music was the outcome and it was created after several trials and resolving copyright issues with the music.

I also worked on an installation, in which I recreated one of the images of the Aphantasia series, making three attempts. Firstly, on a small scale, I learned about dos and don’ts as I crafted a small papier mâché balloon covered with wool. The second time I worked on a bigger papier mâché balloon structure. However, the additional layers of paper for a stronger structure didn’t work, as the extra weight changed the shape of the balloon. For the last attempt, I decided not to use paper. Instead, I kept the wool in the glue

© Mina Boromand

and directly stuck it around the balloon.

The last experiment was very meditative, as I was doing it while listening to the Iranian podcast Bandar e Tehran – Tehran Port – which read the unfinished stories of men and women writers of Iran. To my surprise, those stories became part of the woven 3D creation.

After discussing titles for the project with friends, I chose In the Name of Light, I Imagine because of the relationship between light and memories and the absence of visualising, also being poetic.

Once again, I realised the importance of having a safe space, plenty of time, financial support, mentorship, and people to discuss the work with. The excitement and challenges of experimentation helped me learn more about myself and the

way my brain works. I make my artwork through letting my subconscious take over, which leads me into the unknown. Aphantasia is a reason why my learning process is different from that of normal people. I cannot memorise what I read or study, only some information is retained in my brain, the rest disappears and that’s why I need always to revisit and repeat the knowledge that I gathered. I apply my other senses in the process of learning and remembering. As a result, daydreaming has always been a critical part of my brain activity.

Through this project, I challenged my skills in video editing, report writing, and time management. This project would open a new dialogue and new ways of communication about aphantasia, allowing us to become more open to the experience of neurodiversity.

Aphantasia: In the Name of Light, I Imagine Video

Since the beginning of the wonderful RPS bursary award, I received fantastic news from the Silk Road Gallery about including my work in the book Breathing Space – Espace Vital in French – published by Thames & Hudson and Editions Textuel. The book is a body of works by 23 Iranian women photographers. Moreover, I had another wonderful experience of showing my work at the Rencontres d’Arles festival in a group exhibition by Carte Blanche Students at

the beginning of July 2023 in France.

I’ve also joined the academic Foundation team at London Metropolitan University School of Art, Architecture and Design as an associate lecturer teaching Critical Creative Practices. The Blindness of the Mind’s Eye is my recent exhibition with Espace Contact in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and with Exhibit Here at Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf in London.

The woven story © Mina Boromand © Mina Boromand

About Mina Boromand

My work draws on the rich history of revolution, displacement, idealism, and pain to inform my work which, mirroring my own life, crosses the boundaries of mediums, styles, tone, and composition.

I offer the viewer an insight into my memories which are concealed to me behind the veil of aphantasia, a condition which renders visualisation impossible – imagine not being able to imagine.

I use my art to piece together my memory – motivation – story – a journey of discovery and re–discovery.



The RPS Women in Photography Bursary

This bursary was made possible through the generous support of Karen Knorr HonFRPS. It was to be awarded to a female or female-identifying graduate to assist in the development of a photo project. Projects could include photo essays, exhibitions, documentaries, etc. We received 149 applications from graduate students taking courses in photography or undertaking research in photography.

In addition to the £3,000 award, bursary recipient Mina Boromand received one-to-one mentoring from leading photography expert Zelda Cheatle.



The jumble of a lifetime of memories – and of enduring life and love – in the face of dementia.

The old red family album is falling to pieces – pages empty, gaps and glue marks on the thick black paper. Prints are dispersed around the house, the museum of our lives randomly curated and re-curated on the mantelpiece like the shuffling and muddling of memories. Objects, photographs, articles and other mementos appear, sit together for a while, and then disappear as we shake the kaleidoscope and the story’s emphasis shifts. The clock stopped some time ago at five past two, but mantelpiece-time does not stand still. It’s all snapshots and vignettes and fragments from up and down the decades.

Something about middle age, something about the shock of sudden losses and the slow creep of anticipatory grief, something about the thread of dementia that winds its way down the generations – something about all this compels me to set a narrative down, to fix the past, and the present too, before it all slips from my grasp forever, before I too forget.

But each time I shake the kaleidoscope, a different picture forms.

This is one of those pictures.


Caroline left the Ashmolean when I was born, and later changed career completely. But photography remained central to her life for a long time. My earliest memories are of the darkroom at home, all red lights, chemical smells, and magic. While my father taught me semiotics, my mother taught me how to light a face. It seemed to me that photography was not only embedded in the family identity, but also forever associated with that cold, damp, wonderful house on the edge of the woods.

Photography has threaded its way down the family line, and so too has Alzheimer’s disease. My maternal grandmother Ruby was diagnosed in the mid-80s. She came to live with us, and there were good, if sometimes difficult and chaotic times. Joy in her last years came from singing old songs to my new brother, and from walking.

One afternoon in 1990, apparently by accident, Ruby wandered on to the railway line. She was hit by an oncoming coal train and died in the John Radcliffe Hospital later that evening.

My mother’s photographic life began in the mid1960s, when, as a teenager, she started work as a museum photographer at the Ashmolean in Oxford. The experience has remained very much part of her identity; she still tells stories of those days.

In 1968 she married David Carpenter. David (himself from a family of photographers) was a photography student at the London College of Printing: he stayed onto teach there for the whole of his working life. Through Oxford University they rented a cold, damp, thatched cottage a couple of miles off the road at Nuneham Courtenay. They had a studio on Oxford High Street, but the tumbledown outbuildings at home made for great photography, and the two were granted permission to carry out freelance photographic work from the house. An afternoon in that archive is like a shake of that kaleidoscope.

Fast-forward three decades, and both photography and dementia have continued their paths down the generations. Caroline’s older sister Pat was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about six years ago. Caroline, too young by far, got her own diagnosis a little while later: Posterior Cortical Atrophy variant Alzheimer’s. Before it comes for the memory, it attacks the visual processing centres in the brain; the world becomes contorted, distorted, unrecognisable. My mother can no longer use a camera.

March 2020, and in the space of two short weeks, the following happens. My father, 14 days after routine surgery, drops dead in the street of a pulmonary embolism. A week later, my mother’s beloved, creaky old cat joins him. And not a week after that, on the first day of the Covid lockdown, my aunt’s dog goes too.

A portrait of my mother, Caroline, by my father, David © David Carpenter, 1968
Sisters © Kate Carpenter Caroline in her garden © Kate Carpenter

Pat moves in with Caroline, each sister battling her own losses and form of dementia. The law permits us to visit and take care of them together. They escape Covid – for now – but the isolation is pernicious.

Here they remain. It is not easy, but they are brilliant, resilient. Old songs bring joy, and so does the garden. Dave’s ashes are there, under the standard box tree that my mother tends, scattered together with the cat’s. Next to the shed, the dog’s grave that my brother dug by torchlight. In the house, the old objects, prints, snaps and articles that convene and reconvene on the mantelpiece. Shakes of the kaleidoscope.

And here I am, still reeling from the shock of the loss and the relentless anticipatory grief. I am glad of the consolations of photography as

Contact prints of me, my brother and my father, by my mother, Caroline © Caroline Carpenter, 1975

I muddle my way through and reflect on what it all means for me. The very act of photography is an act of nostalgia; it has threaded its way down the generations of my family and is a homecoming of sorts. As for the other thread – of course, I wonder whether that is coming for me too. In response, I think, I’m drawn to the woods, to the uncanny, tangled fractals of the trees, where I can at once play with my fears and simultaneously keep them at bay.

Anticipating the losses and the forgetting to come, I photograph life in that house, in that home that we seek to keep happy for as long as we humanly can. Aunty P is gone now too, and the contorting rooms grow ever more uncanny; there are strangers in the mirrors and crowds behind the walls. Lightbulbs flicker as we sing the favourite old songs. The standard box has got a case of blight.


With my mother’s blessing and companionship, I set out to tell a version of her story, and with it, a part of my own.

I wasn’t sure I had the strength to go through the jumbled boxes that make up the family archive – the grief was still too raw, the nostalgia still too bitter. But there was comfort in the process too. I wanted above all for the story to avoid pity. I didn’t want the trajectory to be defined by loss alone. So I scanned, I re-photographed, and I printed, and I stuck the lot up on a big blank wall along with my pictures from these last dark years. And when I looked at the prints, what I saw on the wall was not so much loss, but love and connection.

I end at the very beginning, at the place the story began, with a party at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. A rather grand old place to launch my quiet book, but the only choice I could have made. Peeling back time and layers of memory, somehow Caroline knew where she was, and why. She sparkled. The party felt like a celebration of my mother’s life, and an expression of all the love and connection I had seen when I stuck those photographs up on my blank wall.

There are dark days ahead, I know. But with my camera for a kaleidoscope, I can keep turning the view to look at all the joy that, despite everything, still remains.

This piece is an edited version of the text in Kate Carpenter’s photobook, Kaleidoscope.

Nerve Centre © Kate Carpenter

About Kate Carpenter

Kate’s photographer parents brought her up with a love of photography; her childhood memories of darkrooms, red lights, and chemical smells have not faded. She studied English and Modern Languages and has taught in schools and colleges in the UK, Germany and Belgium. Kate later undertook an MA in Education and a Law degree, after which she spent several years as an advice centre volunteer, and running private and pro bono photography workshops.

Wishing to bring all her interests together under a photographic umbrella, Kate recently completed a Master of Arts in Photography at Falmouth University. Her work touches on themes of family history, memory and forgetting; it combines archival, documentary and landscape imagery. Kate is also interested in the power of photography as a therapeutic tool.

Kate’s photographic work has been exhibited in the UK and the USA and has featured in various print and online publications.

Kate’s book, Kaleidoscope, is available from: www.katecarpenter.com


Above: To make these images, I print woodland images on textured paper, reflect them in distorting mirrored material and photograph the reflections with a macro lens. With this process, I’m trying both to understand and to express the uncanny visual disturbances that my mother describes. © Kate Carpenter © Kate Carpenter

From Lancashire, UK, based in London.

What is masculinity for you?

Masculinity is a perceived point on a spectrum, which is different for everybody. I strive to find balance on that scale, blending my so-called “masculine” and “feminine” aspects, like yin and yang.

Nige He/him


A photographer’s exploration of the infinite ideas that people see in themselves.

I was born into a strongly Catholic family in a small fishing town in the northwest of Spain. Sexism was the default setting. My personal revolution reached a tremendous turning point when my mother came to a photographic exhibition of my work in Madrid in 2004, when I was 24, and witnessed the large self-portrait prints; her daughter naked, in intimate and erotic poses. My mother could not believe these images of me until my sister convinced her. She was deeply shocked, yet this heralded a moment of change, not just for me but, wonderfully, for her too. Some of these intimate photographs (up to three metres in size!) are now proudly and permanently displayed in her living room.

So, how did this all come about? I love my family despite the dominant masculinity that ran in the blood, nerves and bones of the human beings I happened to grow up with. I was told that the road to success and power was only travelled by men. As a female child, I was expected to wash the dishes and make my brothers’ beds. The sting here was that this rule was mostly enforced by my first female role model, my mother; a powerful contradiction where the “masculine” stereotypes emanated from a fellow female. This was confusing and painful. Indeed, even at the age of nine, I remember wanting to be a man. The logic of this made perfect sense, but only to me.


Fast-forward to me being one of only three women photographers to shoot covers for Playboy in Spain. The irony of this is not lost on me. Here I was photographing women, telling women what to do, objectifying them from a masculine point of view. So far, so inevitable, yet I don’t regret it, as the experience strongly influenced my development both as a photographer and as an artist. But, at the same time, I was beginning to intuit what was truly feminine. I started to feel that the women I was photographing were really like me – “feminine”. These women accepted their femininity as a natural way of being, along with the power that accompanied it. I found this very attractive, yet it led to a degree of confusion over my sexuality. But I treasure these moments of confusion, as they’ve led me to see that sexuality isn’t about labels at all. For years I lived in a label-driven society: being “Catholic”; being “right-wing”; being a “woman”; being a “man”. Even in childhood, I could sense there was something wrong in this, that society wasn’t truly like this, that its components were far more grey, far less defined than I had been taught.

And now, as an artist, and after many years of being a photographer, seeing these definitions of sexuality, especially of masculinity, I’m enjoying being a woman who has no fear of tearing off the labels and exploring the infinite ideas that people see in themselves. My project, Masculinity, does not promote an opinion or particular viewpoint; it’s about discovering who people are regardless of their labels, those imposed externally, as well as those we’ve given ourselves.

Continued on page 30



From the US, based in London. www.instagram.com/virgin_x/

What is masculinity for you?

Masculinity is a construct of maleness. Much like femininity is a construct of femaleness. It is a performative aspect of gender that can be bent, played with, redefined, and constructed to fit the needs of someone wishing to perform it.

Virgin X, performance artist © Antonia Penia


Ghanaian, based in London.


What is masculinity for you?

Masculinity is an energy we all possess, and it would be remiss of us to limit this conversation only to those who are cis-het males.

Darkwah Kyei-Darkwah, artist, performer, creator © Antonia Penia


They/them, he/his

From Malaga, Spain, based in London. www.instagram.com/prinxsilver/

What is masculinity for you?

Masculinity is the freedom to be who I am and how I want to be. It’s caring, it’s soft, it’s strong, it’s sexy, it’s vulnerable. It’s something we queer and trans people can rewrite.

© Antonia Penia

Cesar Álvarez


From Toledo, Spain, based in London. www.instagram.com/cesar.caesar7/

What is masculinity for you?

I consider that masculinity is mainly related to physical and mental strength. It’s very masculine being able to give a good economical base to your family and being very muscled, two things that don’t need to be related to each other.

When I think about masculinity some other words pop up in my mind like being respectful and polite, taking care about your image, etc.

© Antonia Penia

Kadie K

They/them, she/her

British-born Sierra Leonean, based in London. www.instagram.com/ksk_iv/

What is masculinity for you?

It is hard to define what masculinity is for me; I think it is an energy more than anything. I feel like I have both feminine and masculine energies within me but my image is mainly masculine. My body is very feminine, so I feel very balanced in that way. A big part of my personality is about balance and harmony (I’m a Libra).

My masculinity is centred around feeling beautiful in my strength. I do not subscribe to the belief that strength means being tough and hard; I think to feel complete in softness and to keep an open heart requires a lot of strength.

© Antonia Penia

A privilege

I decided to shoot the stills for this project on medium format film. I have a strong historical connection to film because, when I started working professionally, that’s all I shot on for eight years. Even by 2004, I had no idea you could shoot digitally. Since the project is linked to my development as an artist, shooting on film has a sensory directness and focus of energy that I don’t get with digital.

I found all my subjects through word of mouth. I wanted to have a variety of cultures, religions, genders, and races. I believe that we all possess both energies – masculine and feminine – and we all have the same human rights that matter: sex, gender, race, and religion. So that was very important for me.

My process with the subjects was very specific. I asked each person to think about the subject of “masculinity”, whatever that word means to them. Before each shoot I provided a questionnaire asking specific questions to encourage them to think about what they wanted to express, and how they viewed the subject of masculinity. This allowed them better to define what they wanted to present of themselves and what they wanted to say. I left it up to them as to how to be photographed, how to be dressed, what to emphasise, what to hide. If they wanted to give themselves a label, that was also fine. I made it clear that we had only ten shots on each roll of 120 negative film; no more, no less. This helped them focus on what they wanted to show, making the sessions more productive.

I conducted video interviews with them in a similar fashion. What they wanted to say was entirely their call; I set up the camera and left them alone to talk to it (briefly chatting with them beforehand if that’s what they needed). They could do as many takes as they wanted. I believe this put them at ease, removing any pressure to perform “correctly”. I wanted them to know that I had no expectations of them. And what they expressed was a privilege to witness.


Marco Venturini

They/them, she/her, he/him

From Genova, Italy, based in London. www.instagram.com/marco.r.venturini/

What is masculinity for you?

Masculinity to me is any way of self-expression by someone who identifies as male. I very much believe masculine and feminine are social constructs and there is nothing real about them.

© Antonia Penia

Glen Burrows


From Watford, Hertfordshire, UK. Based in London. www.instagram.com/theworkshopn16/

What is masculinity for you?

That’s a tough question really, it’s not something I really think about much but I’m not particularly interested in defining myself – I just do what I do and try to do the things I like/want to do. I suppose, in a way, you could say that’s what masculinity is to me: trying to do whatever it is you’re passionate about and trying not to care about what other people/media/ society or whatever says you should be doing. But then I don’t think that should be an exclusively male trait either, and I know lots of women (and men really) who you wouldn’t identify as “masculine” who also do that. I guess beyond the obvious physical differences (height, build, etc), I would say to be masculine is to be self-reliant.

© Antonia Penia

About Antonia Penia


Antonia Penia is an award-winning artist, photographer and filmmaker born in Galicia, Spain, and based in London since 2010. Antonia’s project, The Warrior of My Life, is a finalist at the AOP Awards 2023. Her work From War to the Wardrobe won her the prestigious Portrait of Britain Award in 2022. A retrospective celebrating 20 years of her work focusing on her hometown of Cambados in Galicia, was recently held at the Cervantes Institute in Prague.

Antonia is a visual artist who expresses her creative vision using photography, video, and performance art. Through exploring and insinuating her self-image, she creates intimate, sensual and provocative images that explore identity, gender, and social and cultural status and some of the narratives that question human behaviour like issues of power, religion, race, gender, and the relationship between the past and present.

Feelings of longing, loss, mental health, censorship, and connection to the natural and spiritual world have shaped her work. She is challenging the history of patriarchy and the abuse of power through gender across her life. She believes in equality, and she fights for her rights.



Masculinity video: antoniapenia.com/p918969514


The Garden of Maggie Victoria

Combining old family photos with new work to revive the story of a longforgotten great-grandmother and her ordinary, extraordinary life.

It started with three scanned old photos. One was a formal engagement picture. In another, a young mother played with two small children. In the third, an older woman was doing the ironing.

My mother had emailed these scans to me from the UK when I began to focus full-time on photography. These analogue images were part

of a chaotic trove of family photos made over decades by Frank Sellers, my great-grandfather and a keen amateur photographer in Chorley, Lancashire.

The scans languished in my inbox for four years until a quiet pandemic day in January 2022. The woman in the pictures was my great-

Just Married, featuring Maggie Victoria and Frank’s engagement photos © Rachel Nixon

grandmother, Maggie Victoria Sellers. Other than that, I knew nothing about her. In contrast, myths and legends abounded about her husband Frank, who lived to a ripe old age.

Maggie Victoria died after a fast-moving illness in May 1943. She was just 56. Frank remarried within the year, and no one spoke about her after that, not even her three children.

This explained why my relatives and I knew little about Maggie Victoria. I was shocked that someone could inadvertently be erased from our family history, yet without her, I would not be here. I felt a strange kind of grief for someone I had never met.

Two years on, I have created a series to revive my great-grandmother’s story and honour her legacy. The Garden of Maggie Victoria integrates archive images, documents and letters with my own nature-oriented photos made in Vancouver, Canada, where I now live.

The process of creating and exhibiting these works has been challenging and interesting in more ways than I could have imagined. One of the most satisfying outcomes is the conversations it has sparked with strangers. Many families harbour mysterious ancestors, and bringing Maggie Victoria’s story to life has been a catalyst for others to share their experiences with me. They have a wealth of questions about the people in their own families who have disappeared, or who had undeserved reputations, who never talk about their early life, or, indeed, who died unexpectedly.

Piecing together a life

It took some time to learn more about Maggie Victoria. Nobody who had known her was still alive. Two of her grandchildren – my mother Anne and my uncle Tony – turned out to have piles of photos and documents bequeathed by my great-aunt Gladys, Maggie Victoria’s eldest child. Thus began a months-long process of

The archives revealed a wealth of photos to sort through © Rachel Nixon

Anne and Tony sorting through the piles. We all tried to work out when the images featuring Maggie Victoria were made, and what they told us. There were more photos than I could have hoped for, but few details beyond the birthmarriage-death bureaucracy. They tried to fill in the gaps with piecemeal information dredged up from decades-old memories of what little their parents and others had shared.

I created a timeline to make sense of the material and determine important moments in her life. There were no images of Maggie Victoria before her 18th birthday – not particularly surprising for someone born in 1887 to a poor family in Liverpool. A tailoress by profession, she was first engaged to “WF” – so says an engagement ring that she bequeathed. We can sadly assume the worst for WF in the conflict-ridden early 20th century.

In 1915, she became engaged to Frank Sellers, a widower who spent his life working in, and then owning, a cotton mill in Lancashire. Short in stature, Frank had a larger-than-life personality. He was a champion gymnast and locally renowned for saving people from drowning. There were no photos of their wartime wedding that October. The couple set up home in Chorley, where they had three children – two girls and a boy. There were plenty of images of Maggie Victoria as a young wife and mother in the 1920s and early 30s. The photos dwindled as she aged, with children more prominently featured. Later, a significantly older looking woman is pictured, working in her beloved garden, or doing the housework. Ill health came for Maggie Victoria in her fifties. A spell in hospital in 1941 prompted her to write her will. Then, in the midst of a stormy spring in 1943, the end quickly arrived.

The last letters

It was hard to get to know Maggie Victoria through the photos and documents. Inspiration and a tragic realization came in a set of eight undated

letters to her eldest daughter Gladys, who had begun working and living away from home.

Reading them casually, and out of order, offers a picture of household goings-on amidst World War II, while Maggie Victoria is battling health niggles. I looked for clues to put dates to the letters and put them in order. The clues are too numerous to detail. However, Maggie Victoria routinely transcribed listings for the radio programmes she thought Gladys would be interested in –days of the week only, no dates or months. Using the BBC’s impressive online archives, I was able to find corresponding programme listings for the exact date and put the letters in order.

That’s when the realization hit.

Reading the letters in order, Maggie Victoria becomes progressively weaker. She is reluctant to give up household work until she is forced to


stay in bed, even though it is “most annoying”. Her heart is “wobbly”. She has fluid on the lungs. The doctor gives her antibiotics that make her violently nauseous and avoids giving a prognosis on his increasingly ailing patient.

The last letter, on 16th May 1943, is written to Gladys by husband Frank and younger daughter Doris (my grandmother), with amplified concern for Maggie Victoria’s health. Still, Doris says there is no need for Gladys to come home. Maggie Victoria died the next day, 17th May 1943.

Gladys did not get to see her mother before she died. This is why the letters matter. They are her mother’s last contact with her daughter before her demise. Knowing what is coming, it is hard to read the letters in order. They give an insight into the last weeks of a woman dedicated to her family and determined to put on a brave face.

Around her, everyone is doing the best they can during wartime.

‘We take too much from mothers’

Knowing the speed and shock of Maggie Victoria’s decline made me more determined to make the series. As a fellow photographer, and not wanting to erase her a second time, I thought it important to keep Frank’s original images largely intact. I decided upon collage as a means of putting myself in the work. I integrated nature-based images to connect with Maggie Victoria’s prowess as a gardener, and to reflect the natural world that surrounds me in western Canada. Where available, I included objects she had left, such as a tablecloth embroidered with the names of her friends and family, and a christening dress.

37 New Life ©

While I used digital colour images alongside the analogue monochrome images, I worked to ensure that the colour complemented the monochrome rather than jarring with it. I wanted to make coherent collages rather than noisy contrasts.

From the letters I extracted phrases that may have once seemed inconsequential but now point to important truths. Chief among them was an extract from a letter to my grandmother

by Maggie Victoria’s brother Lionel who had emigrated to Australia. On learning of her early death, he wrote: “I am afraid my Dear that we take too much from mothers, take too much for granted and allow them to work too hard.”

For me, this sentiment summed up a life of selflessness, overwork, and lack of recognition. Was it the whole story, though?

I was sometimes annoyed on Maggie Victoria’s

Fondest Love From Mother. This was how Maggie Victoria signed her letters © Rachel Nixon

behalf about her visual portrayal as a mother, housekeeper, and dutiful wife. There were very few images of her enjoying herself, or being free to do what she wanted. This seemed to be her life, and how Frank saw her. At the same time, I had to hold my 21st century opinions in check. As my mother commented, this was a “morally upright, temperance household in Lancashire in the 1920s”. Domestic chores, she noted, “were a respectable thing for a married woman to be doing – and what was expected of her.”

It has been interesting to observe the variation in papers on which Frank used to print in his self-built darkroom. Even on images made the same day, the paper changes, as seen in the two photos in my piece Changing Tides. Elsewhere in the archive, Maggie Victoria is pictured skinning a rabbit, in more of a Polaroid format. It seemed hard for Frank to get hold of photo paper – especially in wartime. On 12th May 1943, he wrote: “Perhaps… I shall turn again to the old hobby provided material can be got.”

A Capable Woman © Rachel Nixon Changing Tides © Rachel Nixon

Whose truth?

The question of “truth” troubled me. As a former journalist, I was painfully aware of the gaps in Maggie Victoria’s story, and the lack of any firsthand witnesses who could confirm or deny my account. I had to satisfy myself that the gaps were a part of the story and that my role was to bring the essence of Maggie Victoria to the fore.

Was this even my story to tell? If I were to talk with Maggie Victoria today, what would she think about this project? Would she have allowed me to move forward with it? Would she have been embarrassed by the fuss? Or would she be proud that one of her descendants was carrying on her legacy as well as the family photographic tradition? It’s something I wonder when I observe

others’ projects made with archive material, sometimes involving relatives, other times using found images of strangers. What right do we have to intervene in their stories? Does “art” make it alright?

My photo series is nearing completion. More people know Maggie Victoria and her ordinary, extraordinary life. It doesn’t feel quite finished, and I would like to create a book, adding artefacts, stories and more of my own images along with the full letters.

We can learn so much from our own ordinary histories. Better understanding our origins and those of the people related to us can help us understand ourselves. That’s one of the many lessons my great-grandmother Maggie Victoria has taught me.

Take Too Much From Mothers” © Rachel Nixon

About Rachel Nixon

Rachel Nixon is a British-Canadian fine art photographer – and former journalist – based in Vancouver.

Having lived and worked across continents and cultures, Rachel explores issues such as a desire for connection with one’s heritage, and the wider world, as well as secrecy, and memory.

In 2019, Rachel graduated with honours from the VanArts photography program. Her work is exhibited internationally and has received accolades including four Julia Margaret Cameron Awards. In 2023, her series The Garden of Maggie Victoria was selected for the Pacific Northwest Drawers, and designated a finalist in Critical Mass and the Royal Photographic Society’s IPE 165.

Before committing full-time to visual art, Rachel had a 20-year career as a journalist in the UK, US and Canada for the BBC, CBC and Microsoft where she developed and ran digital news services.

Rachel holds a first-class degree from the University of Oxford in Modern Languages and Literature, and is fluent in French and German. Her international experience offers a unique perspective on identity, place and belonging, and connections we share despite polarized times.



for exhibition © Alfred Hermida
Checking the finished prints

Capturing Creative Visions

An interview with Stephanie Gibson by Frankie MacEachen.

Stephanie Gibson is a Glasgow-based photographer who specialises in portraits of musicians and others working in the creative industries. Her images have been used on album covers and her archive images used in the full-length music documentary Lost In France, the BBC Scotland TV series Rip It Up, and also in broadcaster Vic Galloway’s book Songs in the Key of Fife

During the Covid lockdown of 2020, Stephanie was commissioned by the record label Last Night From Glasgow to work with writer Craig McAllister and designer Chris Dooley to create a fanzine celebrating the re-release of Scottish band Trashcan Sinatras’ seminal 1993 album, I’ve Seen Everything This developed into a 300-page hardback book titled The Perfect Reminder featuring over 40 of Stephanie’s images, some of which were shot on her beloved medium format Pentax 67 camera during lockdown. Stephanie and Craig were interviewed about their experiences working on the book by broadcaster Gideon Coe of BBC Radio 6 Music at Glasgow’s Aye Write book festival in 2022.

Jill Lorean © Stephanie Gibson

Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in photography.

I am a Glasgow-based freelance photographer and I specialise in portraits and collaborations with musicians and artists. I also work on various assignments including film stills, travel and tourism, and shoot around three to four weddings a year.

My interest in photography began in secondary school when I borrowed an old Olympus OM10 camera from my art teacher. Seeing that first black and white image float up from the developing tray had me hooked, so that year I borrowed as many books on photography from the local library as I could. I then spent a year doing a photography portfolio class at the now long-gone Glasgow Arts Centre before applying to study photography at college.

You studied Photography at the Glasgow College of Building and Printing (now City of Glasgow College) in the 1990s on the cusp of the change from film to digital. What was that like?

My first year of study was a foundation-level course that only had around 20 students, which meant we had a lot of time to experiment with equipment and darkrooms. Film and paper were expensive, so I think it made me more careful about composition and exposure, and I didn’t actually own a DSLR camera until the mid-2000s.

I think it’s interesting that 30 years after that foundation year, several of us still work as photographers, filmmakers or camera operators. Glasgow was such an exciting and creative place to be then and it still draws people from all over the world who want to work or study where their favourite bands and artists grew up.

The late musician and producer Ray Shulman © Stephanie Gibson

Who were your earlier influences and how have they shaped your work?

I was inspired by the work and approach of Imogen Cunningham, who shot the most beautiful and delicate portraits, nudes and botanical images. She was so ahead of her time and wrote a groundbreaking article in 1913 called “Photography as a Profession for Women,” but sadly in many ways her story shows how many women artists were treated in her lifetime and beyond. I also pored over the images in every music paper and magazine of the ’90s and early 2000s and particularly loved the work of Pennie

Smith, Jill Furmanovsky and Kevin Cummins.

What would you say is the “purpose” of your work in professional and personal terms for you?

I think it’s a privilege to be given the opportunity to photograph someone and that applies to everyone from a musician or public figure to a couple on their wedding day. As a photographer you are a storyteller, so you are thinking about posing, backgrounds, etc., but I also try to show an aspect of my subject they might not always see in themselves.

Orange Fell, from The Perfect Reminder © Stephanie Gibson

What inspires you when choosing a subject?

Do you start with a concept and develop that? Or do you respond to circumstances and situations presented to you?

I can be inspired by anything from an image in an exhibition to a building I walk past and am always taking photographs and making notes on my phone. When I work with musicians, I try to get them to build mood boards from songs and send me reference images so when we go to a studio or location there’s a plan of how we’ll approach the shoot and what props I might bring. I’ve worked with some of the same artists for several years now and love that we have developed an artistic language between us, so we might just send a couple of words or images and that is enough of a starting point.

You collaborated on a book about the Scottish band Trashcan Sinatras, called The Perfect Reminder. Tell us about that and how the project happened.

A local label, Last Night From Glasgow, was going to be re-releasing the band’s classic 1993 album, I’ve Seen Everything. Label boss (and like myself, long-time fan of the band), Ian Smith, got in touch to say he was thinking of putting a fanzine together to accompany the release, and somehow after several coffees the fanzine grew into a book to be written by music writer and friend of the band, Craig McAllister. We also got the very talented NYC-based designer and creative director Chris Dooley involved and realised we had enough material and ideas to produce a 300-page hardback book!

My original idea was to photograph portraits of people involved in making the album plus some of the long-term fans, at a location that was significant to their connection to the album or band. Within a few weeks however, it became clear that the Covid lockdown, and more specifically the area of Glasgow I lived in, was going to be under strict travel measures for another few months so I had to completely rethink that plan.

I began taking photographs on my medium format Pentax 67 film camera (often creeping out in the middle of the night or the snow) so that I could potentially illustrate the lyrics of the 14 album tracks, and what started as something to keep me busy ended up a key part of the book. It feels quite surreal thinking about it now, but when travel restrictions relaxed I still managed to cram in about 20 socially distanced portraits in Ayrshire, Glasgow and London in a 10-week period. One of my favourite subjects, producer Ray Shulman from the legendary band Gentle Giant, sadly passed away last year so that photograph has taken on an even greater meaning to me.

As a professional photographer, what kind of projects do you work on?

One week I might be doing stills photography for a short film, the next some image bank photographs featuring food and drink to promote Scottish tourism, and the next week photographing a workshop at a library. I love how varied my job can be.

It is difficult for women photographers in this industry — have you had to overcome any challenges to reach this stage in your career?

For me the main challenges have been financial ones. I have at times been working other parttime jobs in between juggling assignments and family commitments, though sadly these are challenges that women face in every workplace and not just in creative ones.

Who inspires you today?

Creative friends, live music, architecture. I love the multimedia artist Rachel Maclean’s work, and the brilliant Glasgow-based portrait photographer Simon Murphy, who is inspiring a whole new generation of photographers as a lecturer at Glasgow Kelvin College.

Iain Wilson, long-term driver and friend of the Trashcan Sinatras, at the Barony A-Frame, Ayrshire © Stephanie Gibson


What advice would you give to up-and-coming female photographers?

Try to set aside time to develop your own ideas and practice and don’t worry if it takes a bit longer than you think to find your style and get your name out there. I also believe you are still an artist if you are taking photographs as a full- or part-time photographer or as a keen amateur if you have a thought process about why you pressed that shutter.

Do you have any current projects that you would like to share with us?

I’ll be working with one of my favourite subjects, the musician Jill O’Sullivan (aka Jill Lorean), to create some new images to promote her next album, and I’m also working on a personal project creating images to illustrate a classic album.


From The Perfect Reminder © Stephanie Gibson Not Your First © Stephanie Gibson
Singer-songwriter Xan Tyler © Stephanie Gibson

I Am (Not) Who I Used to Be

Women in mid-life are often overlooked, yet their lives are rich with experience, creativity, capacity, and accomplishment. This portraiture project finds a group of women in Canada becoming more and more themselves with time.

The world’s population is aging. It’s happening in almost every country in the world, and where I live in Southern Ontario, Canada, is no exception. The Canadian population now has more people aged 55 to 64 than 15 to 24. Women make up a slim majority of this population, increasing over time due to our longer life expectancy. I belong to this large cohort of aging women. At age 55, I incorporated women and aging into my final major project for my recent Photography MA at Falmouth University.

For this collaborative project, I interviewed and made portraits of 16 women in my life who are my age peers (45 to 65). The women in the photographs are my family, friends, friendsof-friends, neighbours, colleagues and fellow parents whom I met at my children’s schools years ago when our children were small. Most I have known for many years. They are not generally representative of older women but are a small sample drawn from women I know. I wanted to know how they felt about aging and being in this stage of their lives. I wanted to hear about their accomplishments and regrets. I also wanted to know what they had learned on their journeys thus far and how they approached moving forward. I also wanted to provide a sounding board for a group often overlooked in contemporary culture.

In my photographic work, I have produced a limited amount of portraiture. This lack of experience with portraiture was one of the reasons I chose to work on a collaborative portrait project with people I already knew. As a relative introvert, I wanted to take up the extra personal challenge that photographing women

one-on-one presented. During the six months that I worked on the project, I sometimes wished I was working on something else! In the end, however, I learned how to work with available light more effectively, how to quickly put people at ease while asking personal questions, how to encourage more input from someone reluctant to speak, and how to work collaboratively with a subject to create comfortable poses in a home environment. I also learned that finding the most salient bits of a lengthy interview is not simple or straightforward. The most important thing I learned was to have a plan going into a shoot and to be prepared to change that plan on the fly. I take all this learning forward as I begin work on two new projects: Lake People – a look at Lake Ontario and the people who live around it on both sides of the Canada-US border and No Family Doctor – portraits of people living without family physicians (one in five of those in the province of Ontario).

We have persevered

Returning to I Am (Not) Who I Used to Be, the sample of seven portraits shown here includes excerpts from the individual, in-person interviews I conducted with each woman. The interviews revealed things that were unique to each individual as well as those that were common among the group. I learned that while starting to feel less visible at this age is familiar, lives rich with experience, creativity, capacity, and accomplishment are also common. We have all faced some hardship over the years – careers have not turned out as expected, relationships have failed,


children have struggled, and health problems have occurred. We have all experienced loss. We have learned to live with the physical and psychological impacts of menopause with varying degrees of satisfaction.

Through it all, however, we have persevered. As a result, how we see ourselves is refined over time. While we are (not) who we used to be, we are becoming more and more ourselves with time.

Barbara, 63

My dad died at 49, and my mom died at 31. I was 18 when my dad passed away. As an 18-year-old, I thought he was old, and this is what happens. To me, that was old. When I hit 49, I thought: “Oh, this is young.” So, as a younger person, my late forties was old to me. When I got to that point, I realized how young my dad was when he died. When my mom died, I was only eight, so I didn’t have any benchmark for age. I didn’t even know how old she was when she died because I was so young. I didn’t know her age when she passed away until my late twenties. It was terrible, she left behind seven children.

Aging is a blessing to me because my mom never had a chance to age. So, anytime I get older, I get another wrinkle or grey hair, I think of my mother and how she never got those things. Every extra day that I live is one more day that I have that my mom did not. I see my face now and how it has changed, and I wonder what she would have looked like had she been able to grow older than 31. I feel blessed that I have this time that she did not get.

© Trish Crawford

Cindy, 62

As I have gotten older, I have become more patient. I am smarter in some ways. In my career, I have gotten way more settled and confident. My social life has gotten so much smaller, maybe it’s Covid-related, or maybe it’s age-related. Both of my kids were really into sports, so there was a lot of socializing that way. There were more parties when I was younger. When I get together with other people now, I am more comfortable than ever. I am more comfortable in my skin.

Women may lose their power sooner as they age compared to men. Men are afforded a certain respect longer. Why? I think it’s culturally ingrained. It’s still the power imbalance between men and women. Women are seen as less competent, weaker, and less intelligent. Out in the world, I come across as more verbal, stronger, and more competent.

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to use sunscreen and take better care of my skin. I would say: “Do NOT fret about being fat. Do NOT do ridiculous fad diets. Just be active, try to eat healthily, and don’t compromise. Do what you want to do.”

© Trish Crawford

Heather, 54

I think society has been extremely unkind to the idea of aging; it’s something that is natural and happens to all of us. I feel women have had more of this pressure to appear younger. I know men have these feelings also, but in society, I feel women are targeted more. The old saying is that grey hair makes a woman look older but a man more distinguished. Also, when it comes to dating, it appears acceptable for an older man to date a much younger woman, but I feel that when an older woman dates a younger man, there is more judgment.

I am discouraged by the lack of understanding the younger generation has about the value of life with respect to older people. I have learned some incredible things from my parents. My patients, when they are able to tell me a little bit about themselves, are incredibly interesting.

© Trish Crawford

If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to stop caring what others think about me. Now I would say: “Absolutely give zero fucks.” It’s just so damaging. I would try to be much more my own person as I was growing up. My parents told me that, but they were old, so I didn’t listen to them.

I think the next generation of women will have a better experience with aging. Every generation advocates for the one coming after them. Although, the day that the laws changed in the US about abortion, I called my mom and said: “I am so sorry.” My mom was not overly political, but it feels like we let them down. It didn’t change in Canada, but it could. It seems like the first time it’s ever happened. It’s always been progressing, but now it’s going backwards. I hope this isn’t the first generation where things will go backwards. It’s terrifying, and I worry about it.

For this generation, I hope we keep moving forward and expanding things. Take menopause, for example; my mom never talked about it really at all. Hopefully, we will keep advocating for the generation coming after us to improve things for them.

© Trish Crawford

How old do I feel in my head? In some situations, I feel 54. I have some experience and perspective and have figured out a few things. In other situations, I feel like I am 28. Not in a naive way, but in that I feel excited about what could happen, what life could bring. I feel 54 most of the time.

I didn’t expect to be in this position – not in a marriage – at this point in my life. Putting myself in certain situations where I am doing something alone for the first time or having new experiences interacting in the world – intentionally. It’s also exciting - I don’t know that I feel young doing it – but I feel excited doing it. I don’t know why I am equating youth with excitement. New experiences – that spark of new experiences, novelty, challenge.

I think people sometimes don’t notice or consider the vitality of older women. Women are often considered to know nothing or should have their shit together. I don’t think people see women as nuanced. I don’t think we are considered complex, especially by younger people. Women aren’t seen through that lens, particularly by younger people.

© Trish Crawford

Manisha, 48

People misinterpret women as not being with it – integrated into society as much. There is also a misconception that women this age are “bitchy” rather than what we would call “knowing what we want” – assertive versus aggressive, or assertive versus angry. Older women are perceived as “bitchy” because we won’t put up with how men think we should behave or what men think we should do.

The other thing is that people may not think that women in this age group are still finding themselves. As I have gotten older I realize that I need to anchor myself in my brownness more. It has become much more important as I get older.

Women and men are treated differently regarding aging – the silver fox vs the frumpy woman. People say: “He keeps himself in shape,” and “She is letting herself go.” That dad bod is sexy, but a grandma pouch is not. The market says to increase the shapewear industry because women can’t just age gracefully. Every other post on Instagram is about anti-aging products! Gravity happens; what is wrong with it? Days go by, and time goes by, and should we be expected to be the same over time?

© Trish Crawford

When I was young, I thought 50 was old. I remember my father’s friend turning 50 and my parents having a birthday party at our house for him. I remember someone asking me if I thought he was old, and I said: “Yes, he is half a century – he’s old.” He was grey; he had grey hair; he was old to me. I was probably 13 years old. Now I think old is 80, 85.

My experience of being 49 is different than my mom’s because I have a supportive partner to help me through. Having some girlfriends who can help you with what you are going through is important, too. I don’t know if my mom had that. Having a good doctor is important. I think the blame on menopause used in relationships isn’t fair. I don’t know if there was as much information back then. I believe educated women would understand, and maybe educated men as well. You have to understand what your body is going through.

Melanie, 49 © Trish Crawford

About Trish Crawford MA ARPS

Trish is a photographer living in Southern Ontario, Canada. A recent graduate of the online MA Photography program at Falmouth University (UK), Trish also holds a BA in Political Science from Brock University (Canada). She is primarily interested in social documentary photography.

In 2023, she was selected as an exhibitor in the RPS Summer Open, the To The Sea group exhibit (St Gilles Croix de Vie, France), the Shutter Hub Open (Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK) and the Niagara Falls Night of Art (Niagara Falls, ON). She is working on the Visual Storytelling Intensive through the International Centre of Photography (USA) to develop her skills further. When not making photographs, she enjoys walking with her 10-yearold Goldendoodle, watching movies, reading and being out of doors. Trish is the mother of two young adults.




February Cover Runners-up

Sea Sheep © Shannon Moran The Germ of an Idea © Jan Beesley Ramen © Debbie Todd
Part 2
Sal, Gateshead, Newcastle upon Tyne © Roman Manfredi

Zones of Possibility

In this new photobook, the past is in flux, futures may be lost, and fragments of reality meet with old memories to blur fact and fiction.

Zones of Possibility is a body of work which emerged under the stress conditions of the pandemic. My creative practice had long been concerned with temporality and the traces we leave on the world, with my usual subject matter being people and place, particularly urban environments. March 2020 triggered a profound shift, marked by the start of a prolonged period of confinement in our small flat and garden in London, when my husband was declared clinically vulnerable. The self-isolation was to continue for 429 days, with us only leaving the flat three times, twice to get vaccinated against Covid and once to vote.

My world shrank so suddenly that I lost my footing and wasn’t sure I could keep going with my photography. However, looking harder and closer at my limited surroundings, I soon became attuned to the tiny changes in the garden and the micro details around me. I began creating

abstract images and constructed still life, often of domestic objects, trying to find a spark of magic in the mundane. A heightened sense of flux and impermanence resonated with anxiety over the pandemic and this featured increasingly in my images.

The pandemic brought with it a deluge of anticipatory grief. I was convinced that my husband and elderly parents would not survive and that time was collapsing. I found myself thinking of home as a sanctuary but also a site of trauma and haunting. It has been said that lockdown was a time of the backward glance and I, like many others, started to sift through my belongings, and particularly the family archive, to help me get my bearings.

As I rifled through our personal cabinet of curiosities, while making still life and abstract photographs, I could see a project beginning

© Helen Rosemier

to crystallise. It took over two years for me to fully resolve the work. My approach was heavily influenced by research around hauntology as part of my Photography Bachelor of Arts degree, for which I have been studying part-time with the Open College of The Arts. Hauntology emphasises temporal disjunction, reflecting on the presence and agency of what no longer exists, and is centred on mourning – not just for the past – but for lost futures.

During this time I also experimented with various forms of intervention to draw attention to the materiality of the photograph and the uncanniness of the medium. One of the archive images already had a face scratched out, by persons unknown and with no plausible explanation in the family folklore. This intrigued me and I experimented with the alteration of some other photographs to highlight the prevalence of myths and contested narratives within families. Some of the images

feature people, long dead, from my husband’s family in California, whom I have never met but still have a haunting role in my life – parents, siblings, best friends. The powerful presence of absence is a key theme in this body of work.

This was my first time producing a photobook and the learning curve was extremely steep and daunting at times. There are a staggering number of creative and practical decisions needed to construct the right physical product, with the apposite mood and pacing. The design and layout needed plenty of negative space, movement and stillness, and a mixture of scale and texture and tone. I wanted the colour palette to be muted and to have many variations of grey to echo the idea of “zones of possibility”. The process has been a hugely collaborative effort, working very closely with a designer and with inputs from a number of trusted reviewers to gather different perspectives on the edit and

© Helen Rosemier
© Helen Rosemier © Helen Rosemier

sequencing. All my creative decisions have been underpinned by the concept of “zones of possibility” so I’ve had to be very clear in my intention and follow my instincts, in the face of conflicting advice and opinions.

Producing the book has helped me make sense of the work, providing coherence and new

About Helen Rosemier

layers of meaning. Through metaphor and the juxtaposition of the photographs, I have tried to convey the notion that the past is not a fixed and dormant landscape. There is no certainty or truth. Fragments of reality meet with old memories to blur fact and fiction. I hope that viewers can connect with the work on an emotional level and find some resonance within the imagery.

Helen Rosemier is an artist, writer and photographer based in London, UK. She is completing a photography degree via the Open College of the Arts, now part of The Open University. Helen’s practice is research based and concerned with temporality and flux. Her work tends to be dark and often features uncanny elements. Helen enjoys partnerships with a number of other artists and is always open to new collaborations. She also runs creative workshops and supports arts-based outreach work for marginalised youth groups.



© Helen Rosemier


Architecture and Geometry: Celebrating shapes, pattern and form in the built environment.


If you’re a wildlife, landscape or people photographer, you may wonder why anyone would want to photograph buildings and the wider built environment. Let me take you on a short photographic journey to explain why it appeals to me. In doing so, I hope to inspire you to try something different if this genre of photography is new to you.

But first of all, a spoiler alert! I’m not aiming for architectural verisimilitude or “record” shots of buildings in my photography. Many of my images have a graphic quality, or lean towards the abstract. What fascinates me are the shapes, patterns and three-dimensional forms we see in the real world, and how to interpret these in the two-dimensional world of photography so as to create visually interesting and stimulating images. As I live in a city, travel by public transport and have a professional background in urbanism, for me photographing buildings and the built environment is a natural vehicle for exploring shapes, pattern and form. You may find it an interesting way to explore other subjects such as the natural landscape or the human body.

Let’s start this photographic journey with a wide angle lens. Many cities have a distinctive skyline, created by the shape, height, massing and form of its buildings and the spaces between them. This can best be appreciated from a distance, without distractions in the fore or middle ground, such as when viewed across a body of water or from a high place. This skyline is so distinctive, I’m sure you’ll recognise it as Manhattan, even if you’ve never visited New York City! No tripod? No problem. I put the camera on a wall and used an in-camera, multiple exposure to blur the water so that it didn’t distract from the architecture.

Although we often think of skyscrapers as tall, rectangular buildings, look at the different shapes and forms in this urban landscape, the range of proportions and different ways buildings terminate at the top, as well as the variations in building height and spacing which all combine to create a distinctive skyline. You can’t appreciate this when you’re down in amongst the buildings – stand well back and enjoy!

Manhattan Skyline, Dusk © Linda Wride

If you zoom in a bit closer and focus on structures designed as a group, this can offer photo opportunities you won’t find in a wider view or in an individual building. The famous Cube Houses of Rotterdam designed by architect Piet Blom are a prime example. Each house represents a tree, and the group complex built around a series of open courtyards represents a forest. The houses themselves with their bright yellow geometric cladding offer terrific scope for architectural abstracts, but the spaces created below and around each group of houses provide even more opportunities. Take your time to walk

around such developments and find interesting angles… and don’t forget to look up – you may find a star.

Zoom in even closer and seek out interesting individual buildings which can be photographed in isolation from their surroundings. When I plan to visit a location, I do my photography homework first by searching online for interesting buildings –contemporary or historic – and try to incorporate at least one visit, preferably more, to see the structure at different times of day and in different lighting and weather conditions.

Cube House Star © Linda Wride

Spend time walking around the complex to find a viewpoint from which you can appreciate the building’s distinctive shape and form. For example, La Salve bridge over the Nervion River in Bilbao gives you a bird’s-eye view of

the Guggenheim Museum.

The resulting images make a change from most photos of this architectural gem which are usually taken at riverside level.

Guggenheim Undulation © Linda Wride

You don’t have to search out well-known work by famous architects. Even functional, everyday buildings can offer photographic opportunities if you focus on interesting elements, such as this bright red external stair tower on the

Energy Centre in Queen Elizabeth Park, London (formerly known as the Olympic Park), or the patterns made by “brises soleil” (sun shades) on the façade of this unassuming apartment building in Marseille.

Red Route © Linda Wride
Brises Soleil © Linda Wride

If I’ve whetted your appetite for “archiometry” you might like to see three of my favourite buildings to photograph. First up, Muralla Roja, a residential development designed by Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill, which is located in Calpe,

Spain. Individual elements such as stairs, walls and walkways are painted in different vibrant colours, which means that photography at this complex lends itself to graphic architectural abstracts.

Muralla Roja Steps © Linda Wride

Next up, and still in Spain, is the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia, a complex of individual, distinctive buildings and other architectural

features designed by another Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. Calatrava is a master of curves. Check him out!

The White Queen © Linda Wride

Last but not least, a building in the UK –the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, where the original plain white exterior has been transformed by Dance Diagonal , an artwork

by German artist Lothar Götz. The colourful pattern seems to change as you walk by the façade, get closer or move further away. Perfect for a series...

Colourways © Linda Wride

Still looking for inspiration or somewhere to start?

Set yourself a simple shape theme – for example circles, curves, lines, squares, or a grid – then walk around with your eyes open for your chosen shape. Once your eyes get attuned, you’ll be surprised how quickly you notice similar shapes in the built environment.

Alternatively, choose a different viewpoint. Find a high place and look directly down on your subject area. You don’t need a drone if you can find the right viewpoint with your feet on the floor – for example, at the top of a spiral staircase. Lie on the ground (or flip your back screen if you have one) to look straight up for interesting sky shapes between buildings, or ceiling patterns inside buildings. Ignore people giving you funny looks! Find a structure with a strong vertical emphasis, for example in the pattern of cladding or fenestration, and choose a viewpoint which emphasises the converging verticals for a dynamic feel, or adjust verticals and horizontals in post-processing to create a straight-on façade, like an architect’s drawing. You don’t need a fancy tilt shift lens; most of the time you can make such adjustments in Photoshop, Lightroom or your chosen processing program.

Research your favourite buildings to photograph, try to find out who designed them and search for other developments by the same architect. If you have a passion for travel as I do, this can lead you on a wonderful “archiometry” trail around your own country or further afield. Don’t know where to start? Search images for works by Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, Zaha Hadid, Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Herzog & de Meuron, and Rem Koolhaas, to name but a few contemporary architects. You never know where it might lead you.

It’s not just about architecture. Explore the wider built environment for photographic inspiration. Use reflections in windows and shadows of street furniture as your main subject, or as part and parcel of your composition. Look for textures, patterns and shapes in hard surfaces

and paving. Don’t ignore the humble building site – hoardings, particularly those decorated with artwork, or those which offer tantalising glimpses to the construction going on behind –can produce surprising photo opportunities. Find interesting public art or eye-catching adverts on shop windows and wait for the “right” person to pass in order to create a visual pun. But I’m straying away from “archiometry” now and into street photography… time to stop. Above all, have fun!

About Linda Wride ARPS

Linda is a self-taught freelance photographer based in Oxford, UK. She often combines her passion for photography with a love of travel at home and abroad. Although her portfolio is diverse, it’s underpinned by an appreciation of shape, pattern and form, often displaying a strong graphic quality.

Linda’s photos have been shown widely in joint and solo exhibitions at home and abroad, and featured in national and international press, photography magazines and books. Her work has also been recognised in a wide range of photography competitions. Linda is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society (ARPS) and holds distinctions from the Photographic Alliance of Great Britain (DPAGB) and International Federation of Photographic Art (AFIAP).



www.shotbywomen.com/ contributor/201/linda-wride


Boyhood Summers in the Outer Hebrides

Created over several years, a mother’s testament to the importance of preserving the essence of childhood, and the simple pleasures of island life off the north-west coast of Scotland.

Growing up on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides was an enchanting chapter of my life, marked by boundless freedom and unforgettable adventures. Unlike the bustling amenities of Glasgow, my childhood playground did not have Laser Quest stations, soft play zones, trampolines, or roller-skating venues. It was an era of unstructured, imaginative play, set against the backdrop of some of the world’s most stunning beaches, expansive open spaces, rivers, lochs, and Castle Grounds.

In 1995, I left the Outer Hebrides to explore mainland life and the vibrant city of Glasgow during my university studies. With its multicultural energy, Glasgow became my new home, and I embraced the city’s dynamism.

As the years passed and I became a mother to Daniel (12) and Alexander (10), captured in these photographs, I yearned to share with them the magical moments I had experienced in the Outer Hebrides. Despite Glasgow’s bustling schedules

Dancing for Joy – Luskentyre Beach, Isle of Harris © Jane Murray

and back-to-back appointments, our annual summer retreat to the Outer Hebrides became a cherished tradition. The islands offered a serene escape, a chance for the boys to simply be.

With a camera in hand, I embarked on documenting their Outer Hebridean experiences, freezing in time the quiet moments, the joys of island life, and the simple pleasures that often go unnoticed in our busy lives. These photographs became our visual treasures, transporting a piece of the Outer Hebrides back to Glasgow, allowing us to relive and savour those tranquil moments.

The project is a testament to the importance of preserving the essence of childhood, the freedom of unstructured play, and the beauty of quiet moments amid the natural wonders of the Outer Hebrides. Through this visual journey, I hope to convey the timeless magic of growing up in a place where every day brought new adventures and where the joy of simplicity remains eternally cherished.

As I began photographing my boys at the ages of five and six, their unbridled enthusiasm and ability to engage in a myriad of activities became the canvas for my visual storytelling. With Daniel now at the tender age of 12, I sense the approaching self-conscious teenage years, marked by subtle shifts in his awareness of image and style. Uncertain of the project’s trajectory, I believe that involving the boys in decisionmaking will foster their continued participation.

Daniel and Alexander enjoy angling whilst on the Isle of Lewis and they regularly go out to try to catch trout, at the Keose Glebe on the east side of the Island. When they succeed, there is always an immense sense of pride, as they joyfully tell me: “Mama, we caught tonight’s dinner.”

They love dancing and singing on hills, falling into bogs, getting soaked in mud and all sorts. Afterwards, they laugh until they roll down the hill. They can dance and sing like no one is watching, as there is usually no one about at all. They have complete freedom of expression.

One of the highlights of our time is a road trip to the Isle of Harris. Luskentyre Beach in particular, with its white sand and turquoise sea. It is vast and stunning. It would not look out of place on a Bahamian island. On arrival, Daniel and Alexander get so excited, they leap and jump about as the sea comes in, imagining they are being chased by the waves. The joy of being at one with nature.

Young Angler – Keose Glebe Lochs, Isle of Lewis © Jane Murray

On the west side of the Isle of Lewis at Uig, there is a secret beach, known mostly by the locals. It is usually very secluded. When we visit, the boys have the whole beach to themselves. This is where they started learning to swim. The salt in the water offers a bit of flotation support.

Island weather can be quite temperamental. On many occasions, we have set off to the beach to enjoy the warm sunshine, only to get there in time for the heavens to open. Rather than pack up and go home, the boys decided to embrace the experience and do a rain dance. The fresh sea air was invigorating and brought them to life. They danced until they were soaked to the skin. It was a wonderfully wild and natural experience.

MerBoy – Uig, Isle of Lewis © Jane Murray Rain Dancer – Tolsta, Isle of Lewis © Jane Murray

We were lucky enough to get stranded on the Isle of Lewis during the recent lockdown. We flew up to Stornoway from Glasgow International Airport, the day before the country went into lockdown. In this picture my son Daniel seemed unfazed at the time, as he sat reading his book in his face mask.

During the lockdown a normally busy, highly populated Glasgow felt abandoned, whereas an Isle of Lewis landscape without people is absolute peace, solitary and serene.

Behind the Mask – Glasgow Airport en route to Stornoway © Jane Murray Where Has Everyone Gone? – Kelvin Way, Glasgow © Jane Murray

When the boys are on the Isle of Lewis, they like to get involved in life on the croft. Helping out wherever they can – planting trees, chopping wood, clearing paths and gutters. They like to feel part of something bigger than themselves. They learn the importance of getting things done whilst you can, and how much you are at the mercy of the weather.

In the Outer Hebrides we often say the Devil makes work for idle hands, so what better way is there to keep them out of mischief, than making music? Not having a very structured schedule, and without activities being lined up, gives the boys the freedom to get creative, use their imaginations, whilst mastering some good tunes.

The most northerly part of the Isle of Lewis is the Butt of Lewis in Ness. When you walk around the lighthouse and surrounding area, it feels like you are on the edge of the world. The landscape is rugged and severe. The boys were fascinated

by tales of the lighthouse and its former keepers.

Embarking on this project over the past few years has held profound significance for me. Observing the children’s responses to a life lived at a deliberately slower pace has been a truly enriching experience, witnessing their remarkable adaptability and wholehearted embrace of this change. It’s a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of modern city life.

Reflecting on this, I’m reminded that a much slower pace was the norm during the first 18 years of my life. Travelling between Glasgow and the Outer Hebrides has become a poignant journey of appreciating and valuing these differences. Each transition between the two places imparts a renewed sense of gratitude and appreciation for the unique charms of both environments. It’s a delicate balance that blesses us with the beauty of life in its varied forms.

Rocked Out – Leurbost, Isle of Lewis © Jane Murray The Worker – Leurbost, Isle of Lewis © Jane Murray

About Jane Murray

Jane Murray’s passion for photography has been a lifelong journey, deeply rooted in the captivating landscapes of the Outer Hebrides, where she spent her formative years. Upon relocating to Glasgow, she found a new avenue for her artistic expression through portraiture.

Jane has since been involved in: National Portrait Gallery Scotland You Are Here Exhibition, 2020; Scottish Portrait Awards, 2021-2023 Finalist; British Portrait Award ShortlistBritish Journal of Photography Portrait of Britain 1854, Volume 5; the John Byrne Award Shortlist Exhibition, 2023; Shambellie House Women in Photography Exhibition, 2023. In 2022, Jane achieved recognition as an Artist member of the esteemed Glasgow Art Club:


While Jane primarily specialises in portraiture, capturing the essence and personality of her subjects has become a cornerstone of her approach. Notably, she recently embarked on a photography venture titled Stop the World. This street photography project involved using a WISTA 45DX large format field camera, presenting a departure from her usual digital preference. The project, which successfully pushed the boundaries of her comfort zone, yielded laudable reactions. One of her initial photographs, titled Don, earned a long listing in the Scottish Portrait Awards, 2023. The project received substantial support from the Siobhán and Richard Coward Foundation.

Edge of the World – Butt of Lewis, Ness, Isle of Lewis © Jane Murray

Towards A Meaningful Life

A sister’s determination to lift the cloak of invisibility around the challenges of osteoporosis and show the courage and resilience it takes to keep going in the face of often unbearable pain.

Inside The Hive at Kew © Mary Thompson

I am a self-taught photographer and see myself as a social and political documentary photographer. I tell the stories that matter to me by making a series of images over time, that together build a picture of the issues I want to throw a spotlight on or add to existing conversations like the climate crisis or ending male violence against women.

I had taken early retirement in the autumn of 2017 in order to have more time to devote to photography. I have by and large been successful in that ambition, building bodies of work on a variety of subjects, to tell stories but also to improve and widen my photographic skills and practice.

Based in London, I mostly show my work in the open studios where I have a space, on Instagram and in exhibitions where it’s possible to show a series, however small, that will help to tell a story.

I love and have been heavily influenced by the work of photographers like Susan Meiselas and other UK women photographers like Tish Murtha, Laura Pannack and Margaret Mitchell. What has inspired me about these women is the immersive approach they take to their photography projects. The immersive focus of their work excites me and I aspire to it myself. So I began to look for photographic projects which matter to me and which I could immerse myself in.

Little did I know that my first immersive project would focus on my sister and her health battles.

My first close encounters with osteoporosis were in early 2018. My sister, Cath, was diagnosed with osteoporosis in the summer of that year. This is her story. It is also a story shared by many, many women and now by me. It is predominantly a woman’s condition.

In my sister’s case, it’s the story of facing the hard news of diagnosis, dealing with the impact of a changing and limiting physical condition on her work life, her health, her independence and her wish, like all of us, to have meaning in her life

and not just to settle for living with and surviving her condition.

Osteoporosis is not in itself painful. However, fractures caused by osteoporosis are, and they rarely heal. This is my sister’s version of the condition. She has spinal compression fractures, making walking any distance painful as well as some upper body movement.

The battles that my sister has had to face, like many others, are largely invisible. My intention in putting together this story is to show the courage it takes to keep going in the face of often unbearable pain and lift the cloak of invisibility that shrouds this condition.

Her diagnosis followed several months of acute immobilising pain in 2018. It involved numerous GP and hospital appointments, various tests and body scans as medical professionals learned how best to diagnose and treat her condition. During that time my sister spent a few months living with me, and it was during that period I decided to document her journey.

Cath on her phone © Mary Thompson

Cath has been a keen photographer, accompanying me on several photographic adventures. She often had a better eye than I did. Over time carrying a camera has become more and more physically challenging. She still takes photographs, but now with her phone.

Birdwatching has also been one of her interests, and whilst she does occasionally have small expeditions, a bench to rest on and take her medication is now a needed respite requirement. Not always easy to find, although recently she has discovered that a nearby cemetery with a lot of tall trees has a number of benches where she can have a few moments’ rest whilst enjoying the sound of birdsong.

My sister has had a number of dogs throughout her life. These past few years have been no exception. She has a strong belief that dogs are companions who deserve companionship in return. Despite her condition she found ways of enriching their lives through the games they loved to play. One such game was “stick chase”, a favourite with her chocolate labrador, Whiz. Though both would be absolutely shattered afterwards they would also be so happy, and my sister would not let her pain prevent her from this shared pleasure.

When her beloved Whiz came to the end of her life, Cath decided to rehome a smaller dog made homeless in Gran Canaria. A challenge at the best of times. But my sister wanted to try. They were companions for a couple of years and had some adventures together before Splinter sadly came to the end of his life. They became adept at travelling on trams and trains.

Stick throwing with Whiz © Mary Thompson Binoculars and meds side by side © Mary Thompson Cath with Splinter at Finsbury Park Station © Mary Thompson

My sister is nothing but resilient. Like many people she gets knocked down by the blows that life has dealt her. But she does eventually get back up again. She may never be as strong and as independent as previously, but she continues to look for things that can add meaning to her life. Determined not to live without dogs in her life, she has recruited the support of her dog-friendly neighbours and enjoys many hours dog sitting.

Her resilience is an inspiration to me. For some time she had an ambition to see The Hive at Kew Gardens. Having read about it, she really wanted to experience it. She got there and loved it. Even though she knew she would be wiped out the following few days, to her the experience was worth it.

However, the pain can be so great that for every several steps and physical actions there is a painful reaction. She lives on strong painkillers. Her pill box and some water are never far away.

Cath had a rewarding job as a team leader supporting young people with learning disabilities to gain work experience –work she loved and cared passionately about.

Since her diagnosis she has battled to remain employed. A battle that she lost in 2019 when first her place of work and then the Department for Work and Pensions decided she was medically unfit for work. These were huge blows to her sense of herself and to her confidence.

She still looks for opportunities to use her life and work experiences to support others on their journeys to have a meaningful life and in so doing enjoy a meaningful life herself.

Orthopaedic chair and Whiz’s toys © Mary Thompson Glass of water at the ready © Mary Thompson

I made all these images as Cath negotiated her life. I was mindful of the pain and exhaustion she was experiencing and was also inspired by her determination.

Whilst her journey is challenging and physically painful, I have intentionally chosen not to depict her as a victim of her condition, although her life is indeed surrounded by the trappings of her condition.

I prefer instead to show her as a strong and determined female moving forward despite her condition, telling the story of a woman not beaten into submission by her condition, whilst being severely limited by it.

This visual story is a work in progress, as is Cath’s journey. The challenge in telling Cath’s story is to balance two wishes. My sister’s wish to bring to light the challenges of a condition rarely visible as it impacts mostly ageing women who are already often made invisible through the combination of ageing and being female. And my ambition to show her resilience, courage and determination, and her ability to bounce back from each of the many setbacks. Osteoporosis is not a condition that can be conventionally recovered from. Any recovering is hardwon, should be celebrated and used as an inspiration for others.

It can sometimes be hard to document the battles and successes of someone as close to you as a sister. Most of the time that I was with her I would have my camera with me, looking to make images that show her strength and resilience, and also her passions.

I used a fixed lens camera, so I didn’t get distracted with changing lenses, but also not to distract her from the enjoyment of whatever activities or adventures she was engaged in. It is a practice I have continued with in my other documentary projects.

Recently I was hospitalised for a couple of weeks following a fall and a couple of broken bones. I didn’t have my camera with me so I had to use my phone to show some of my experience of spending two weeks in a hospital bed.

As part of my own rehabilitation and encouraged by my sister’s determination, I have begun a photo project not far from where I live. Again, using my fixed lens camera, I have started a project that will hopefully last about a year in which I am able to build a story of the staff, the volunteers and the users of a community centre and the work they do to empower and enable those who live nearby.



Portrait of Cath © Mary Thompson

In the Footsteps of Florence Henri

Inspired by the pioneering photographer, the author experiments with portraiture and still life and learns lessons about reality and creativity.

A relative newcomer to “serious photography”, I have been struck by two things. Firstly, most of the creative photography workshops that I have been to have overwhelmingly been led and attended by women. Secondly, both historically and currently, many spaces and places where photography and photographic equipment are discussed, displayed, demonstrated and sold are dominated by men. Why is this? This question was reinforced as I became interested in Abstract Expressionism and its links with photography.

During two recent talks on Expressionism, both speakers drew mainly on the work of male photographers, referencing only a handful of women. Where was the work of female image creators over the past century? Was their work considered too trivial or unimportant? Were they simply underrepresented? Or was their work deliberately excluded?

All this fuelled my interest in Abstract Expressionist photography. My initial research revealed that there had been a significant

Lemons and Tulips © Valerie Huggins

number of female pioneers, lesser known but often very influential. In wanting to highlight their contribution, I started with the fascinating life and work of Florence Henri, intrigued by her innovative use of light and reflections.

A visionary

Born in the USA in 1893, Henri spent her childhood in Europe. An orphan by age 14, she had inherited a small income which gave her the means to pursue an artistic career and quite possibly fostered her independent and individual approach. In the 1920s she studied painting at the Bauhaus in Germany, mixing with the emerging avant garde community there before settling in Paris and studying under the Cubists Lhote and Léger whom Henri credited with having the most influence on her work. Her paintings and collages became more abstract and incorporated Constructivist geometric forms. I was amazed to discover that in 1925 this “unknown” artist had had her paintings exhibited alongside work by Klee, Mondrian and Picasso.

Clearly Henri was very talented and became recognised within the avant garde circle as a visionary artist whose work was making an impact on the evolution of modern art. It was only in 1927 that she turned her attention to photography, enrolling again at the Bauhaus. One of the key influencers there was the Hungarian Constructivist artist and New Vision photographer László Moholy-Nagy, and his wife Lucia. Henri embraced the emerging new technologies in photography, using multiple exposures and photomontage. Her self-portraits challenged conventional notions of identity and representation, and she was fascinated with the visual possibilities of everyday objects reflected in mirrors.

After only two years studying photography, Henri opened her own studio in Paris, focusing on portraiture and later on advertising. In the 1920s and ’30s, she was clearly renowned for her photography and also influenced other female photographers such as Lisette Model and Ilse

Bing. And yet Carole Naggar, writing about Henri in 2015, called her one of photography’s unsung influencers. Why has her contribution faded into obscurity, when the names and work of her male contemporaries are still well-remembered? It is difficult to understand.

Subverting convention

In an attempt both to explore the nature of her influence and unpick what makes Henri’s work inspiring to me, I set myself the task of analysing what is distinctive about her photography and to try some of her approaches.

When one examines her work closely, it shows that she deliberately looked to subvert conventional photography. She played around with notions of identity and captured vulnerabilities with her portraiture. The most famous example is this self-portrait, with two silver balls.

I find particularly interesting and stimulating her exploration of perspective and lines through the use of mirrors in portraits and still life compositions to isolate, frame, double or triple the subject, leading the viewer to wonder what is reality and what is reflection. Whenever Henri has direct control of the composition, she incorporates circles and orbs, lines and rectangles, sharp angles, reflections and shadows. When she is out of the studio, she continues to seek out these elements. In her street photography, she often uses shop windows as the mirrors, dividing what is inside and outside, with creative reflections. Her industrial architecture images also centre on grids, lines and circles. Thus there are continuous threads of interest to follow through her body of work, which I focused on as a stimulus for my own photographic experimentation.

I decided to experiment with some of Henri’s approaches. I started with portraiture, making some key decisions before I took any images. Henri had used a Leica camera with a 50mm lens so I opted for my Canon EOS R in order to use the same lens. This immediately introduced a challenge for me as I am so used to being able


to compose images through zooming in and out. With the 50mm lens I had to move my feet instead! I chose monochrome and a 4x3 crop, to fit with Henri’s work. Lacking my own studio, I chose to take the photos in the room in the house that has plenty of natural light and mirrors – the bathroom! And I found my model there – great timing!

Next I turned to still life. I identified the elements that made Henri’s work distinctive and set about recreating some images. I confined myself to just using objects that I already had in my home, in the way that I envisaged she did with her experiments in her home and studio.

Portrait with Mirrors v1 © Valerie Huggins Portrait with Mirrors v2 © Valerie Huggins

My first attempts with a mix of fruit and mirrors showed me how difficult it was to set up the composition precisely to get the range of reflections I was aiming for:

Fruit and Mirrors © Valerie Huggins

But I continued to experiment, introducing more elements and reflective surfaces:

Lemons and Lines © Valerie Huggins

I realised, though, that I also needed to think about introducing spheres and lines, and all I could find was a Newton’s Cradle. It had to do; at least the spheres were reflective:

Spheres and Lines © Valerie Huggins

Henri was also known for experimenting with double exposure and photomontage. I wonder what she would have made of Photoshop! Here I use Photoshop to combine images, applying different blend modes to preserve the shapes of the fruit, while retaining an abstract feel overall:

Fruit and Spheres © Valerie Huggins

And in this image the raindrops on the petals are topped with silver spheres and lines, representing many of Henri’s motifs:

This image takes the abstraction much further, with several layers and a darker blend mode, to emphasise the lines and shapes of the dying petals of the tulips:

Tulips and Rain © Valerie Huggins Tulips and Spheres v2 © Valerie Huggins

Undertaking this research is challenging me to go out of my comfort zone, into portraits and still life, homing in on composition.

I am learning that using monochrome focuses my attention on contrasts such as light and dark in an image because there is no colour to distract the eye.

Working on this project based around Florence Henri’s work has hugely enhanced my respect for her creativity, her innovative approaches and her imagination. She continues to shape what I turn my attention to, and to enable me, however imperfectly, to challenge and question perceptions of reality, just as she did almost 100 years ago.

About Valerie Huggins

Valerie Huggins is an amateur photographer, based in the South West of England. Since stepping back from a high pressure career in education, Valerie has enjoyed developing her photography, taking an increasingly experimental approach and seeking out new challenges. She uses creative techniques such as ICM and multiple exposure to create alternative realities and to generate visual narratives.

Mindful of the lack of attention given to women photographers historically, Valerie is currently researching the female gaze through abstract photography from the 1920s onwards for an RPS Research Licentiate.



The Thread: Revealing Women’s Power

It was in 2022 when Despina’s entrepreneurial spirit inspired me to start a photographic project about her small weaving business in a village in Greece. From the beginning, I saw how committed she was to her craft, passed down from her mother back to the mid-20th century.

While talking with her, I realized that the loom meant more than a mere tool for weaving threads; it stood as a milestone of her independence, freedom, and personal fulfillment. Despite challenges imposed by

her parents, who attempted to divert her from the weaving profession since she got married, Despina passionately claimed the life she had envisioned. So I decided that her story was more about resilience and determination than entrepreneurship, with the photobook being the most appropriate medium to present it.

The Thread shows the strength of a woman who weaves her path against societal norms. Each photograph is a chapter and, together, they narrate a story about the essence of a woman’s soul.

© Yota Samioti

Where fire meets the truth

There is a breadth of freedom

And with determination and deep love

She unravels the knots that suffocate her

From a young age among the looms

She discovers the gift of art weaving her mother’s legacy

© Yota Samioti © Yota Samioti

Her life is woven on the loom

Where she finds her true essence

And with threads and weavings

She brings her world to life

After marriage, dreaming as a weaver is forbidden

As she must constantly give care to the parents

And mother’s looms are intentionally set on fire…

© Yota Samioti © Yota Samioti

Her soul is condemned in the ashes

For 30 years, she weaves only in her dreams

But she finds the strength And once again takes hold of the loom of her soul

© Yota Samioti © Yota Samioti

Now, she paints with threads And dances to the rhythm of the loom

The threads take shape

Like musical notes in a melody

Her fabrics travel to distant places

And the world fills with her art Strong and free Passionately weaving the loom of her life.

© Yota Samioti © Yota Samioti

About Yota Samioti

My photographic journey formally started in 2021 when I studied at post-secondary education in Greece. Since then, photography has transformed from a mere interest into one of the most significant means of my artistic expression.

Working in academia, I draw inspiration for my photographic projects from theoretical knowledge, such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, and literature, being particularly interested in societal issues. I also believe in the transformative power of photography. To me, it is not merely a medium for freezing moments in time, but it can also contribute to positive change, either personal or societal, and to a better world with understanding and empathy.

The Thread (video):



Tamsyn Warde Top: Surprise! Left: Oxford Lads Right: Hanging Out

Contemplating the Coronation

When King Charles III’s coronation took place in May 2023, members of the RPS Women in Photography group captured the celebrations, protests, and traditions around the UK. Here are some of the highlights.

All images copyright of the photographers.

Alice Chapman The Order of the Garter Fudge Kitchen, King’s Parade Wild Crown
Man in Hat Sits on
Not My King
Michaela Simpson Chair Big Screen, Times Square, Newcastle

Clare Park

The Royal Forest of Dean, May 2023
Julie Bellmore Bunting in the Breeze
© 2024 The Royal Photographic Society Registered charity number: 1107831
She Wore Blue Velvet © Trish Crawford
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