The best photos of 2021: ten powerful projects from female photographers



From the awkward sincerity of female adolescence to searing depictions of women protesting against patriarchy: look back at the best female series published on in 2021

Does the feminine gaze really exist? Of course, if we speak in the broad sense, women tend to see the world differently from men, both in life and in art. But after compiling a list of the top ten photo series published on over the past year, I can attest that no woman in programming has a similar perspective on the world, or photography, to the next. Themes of intrigue, joy, anger and empathy come up frequently in their work, but they are expressed in multiple ways.

The plot is surely the preliminary emotion that prompts photographers to take their cameras and go out into the world. This is what led Czech photographer Marie Tomanova to move to the Big Apple to become an artist, Jet Swan to invite strangers to temporary studios around Yorkshire so she could photograph them, and Hoda Afshar to take pictures. travel to the Persian Gulf. Joy is the driving force behind the work of Nadine Ijewere, who believes positivity is an important part of her portrayals of black women. Likewise, joy and transcendence are found in the work of Vinca Petersen, who sees raves and riots as “autonomous zones”, or in Tara St Hill’s photozine, where she makes the transition from muse to designer. Deanna Templeton treats childhood with charm and empathy, while Annie Lai seeks belonging with her portraits of Chinese women making themselves a home in London. Finally, Donna Ferrato’s sharp photojournalism shows women protesting patriarchy, while Bostonian photographer Jackie Nickerson worries about what we’re doing to the planet – her Rescue series encourages us to rethink our relationship with consumption.

Ourselves through Nadine Ijewere

In 2019, London-based photographer Nadine Ijewere made history by becoming the first black female photographer to photograph a Briton. Vogue blanket – plus she was only 26 years old. Two years later, she made history once again – this time in the United States – photographing Selena Gomez for the cover of American. Vogue. Following these historic feats, Ijewere released his first book Ourselves, which featured fashion editorials and campaign imagery alongside cheerful portraits of residents of Jamaica and Lagos. “It’s exciting that there are more black creatives now using their culture and heritage to create amazing images that can be used for research or reference, as that wasn’t necessarily available to me,” she says.

New York, New York through Marie Tomanova

Like many before her, Czech-born photographer Marie Tomanova moved to New York to become an artist. “There is a dream here in New York and young people are not afraid to follow it, to be themselves, to find each other and to be open,” she says. Recalling the gritty and free vibe of Ryan McGinley’s early photographs of downtown New York, Tomanova’s second monograph New York, New York captures the frenetic energy of the city through uncompromising portraits of young Americans hanging out at parties, openings, parks and in their apartments. In addition, New York’s first it girl Kim Gordon wrote the foreword.

Equipment through Jet swan

“Often the most ordinary people are the most fascinating,” says Yorkshire-born photographer Jet Swan, whose first book Equipment features ineffable and dreamlike portraits of Britons shot over three years in studios in small towns of Scarborough, Yorkshire and Ramsgate. His subjects are probed by the camera, irises, pubic hair and skin textures of people being treated with an almost microscopic level of examination.

Speak the wind through Hoodan Afshar

On the islands of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, there is a pervasive belief that the wind is able to possess people and make them sick. Intrigued by this myth and its links with the Arab slave trade, Iranian photographer Hoda Afshar set out to capture the inhabitants, their rituals and the amazing landscapes of the island. “Half the impact of the image comes from the story behind it,” she says of her MACK-published book. Speak the wind.

Raves and riots through Vinca petersen

British photographer Vinca Petersen thinks raves and riots have more in common than you might first think. “There is something going on in these two environments… People think they may behave differently than anywhere else. This is the autonomous zone, ”she said. His personal exhibition Raves and riots in Edel Assanti posted footage captured between 1990 and 2004 of rows of riot police, blazing hells and, of course, sweaty crowds at warehouse raves. Transcendence, his images seem to say, is found in both spaces.

What she said through Deanna templeton

Adolescence is treated honestly in What she said, a MACK monograph by Los Angeles photographer Deanna Templeton. Concert flyers and Templeton’s 80s diary entries are interspersed with affectionate and empathetic photographic portraits of teenage girls across the United States, Europe, Australia and Russia. “I’m only 15, what’s wrong with me, why am I so miserable?” This world is so fucked up! writes Templeton. Childhood is a notoriously painful time – as Cecilia puts it in The suicide virgins following her failed suicide attempt, “Obviously, Doctor, you were never a thirteen year old girl. “

Between through Annie lai

Despite moving to London in 2014, Chinese fashion photographer Annie Lai struggled to feel a real sense of belonging to the UK. “Ever since I left where I grew up I feel like a stranger,” she says. “Even though you get along well with others, I feel like there is still an invisible barrier there.” This identity crisis led her to create Between, a very personal series featuring six Chinese women lounging in their homes in London. Most of the series’ subjects have since returned to China due to the pandemic, but Between still comes across as a collective diasporic portrait of Chinese women moving away from home – and Lai stays in the UK.

HOLY through Donna Ferrato

After the election of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016, the American photojournalist Donna Ferrato was outraged. “I knew we were going into a very dark time, and I realized that in order to survive the next four years with him, women were going to have to be bold, out there and angry.” she compiled HOLY in response, a book of black and white photographs spanning five decades of his steadfast and fiercely fiery portraits of activists, artists, migrants and survivors of domestic violence. Despite most of the footage taken decades ago, Ferrato HOLY is a responsive tale of women struggling against sexism in its many forms.

Tara by Tara St Hill through Tara St Hill

What happens when a muse creates her own work? Stylist Tara St Hill was the best friend, muse and stylist of famous’ 90s image designer Corinne Day. “Many children have been emotionally affected by Logbook (Day’s cult 2000 photo book), so I have this kind of little community of young people that I talk to. During the lockdown, St Hill partnered with photographer Zoë Law and writer Shonagh Marshall to create Tara by Tara St Hill, a charming zine of black and white portraits of Tara in various states of undress. “I just felt safe to be myself,” she says.

Rescue through Jackie nickerson

Bostonian photographer Jackie Nickerson has photographed celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Young Thug and Travis Scott, but her most striking portraits are of people whose faces are obscured by garbage. Plastic dinosaurs, fake flowers and egg cartons are humorously attached to the faces of his subjects in Rescue, a photo book that encourages us to rethink our relationship with consumption. The paintings of old masters provided the genesis of the ironic series, with their depictions of “adornments, emblems and assets. [that]are used to create an identity or communicate a status. Nickerson’s portraits prove that, especially in today’s world, one person’s garbage is another’s treasure.



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