The word "empowerment" has recently come under fire
for its overuse in the media, to the point that some believe it has lost its meaning. What do we really mean when we call something empowering
? What does a woman who is empowered
actually look like? The problem is that there isn't one answer to these questions. As a word and an idea, "empowerment" carries as much promise as it does ambiguity. Photographer Vix Walker
recognized that tension and, with an online exhibition
launched last March, sought to explore how she and her peers could depict "empowerment" in their work.
Walker curated the exhibition with fellow artists Victoria Rickson
and Halliejane Turner
. In an exchange over email, she told Refinery29 that they encouraged the participating photographers to define "empowerment" for themselves.
"Each artist’s work came from their individual experiences and influences ranging from survival of sexual assault to living with racism," Walker said. "
I wanted to show how empowerment can look different but still intersect in various ways."
As much as the photos differ in tone (from dramatic to intimate to satirical), they achieve the goal that Walker set for the exhibition: "to lift women up, rather than focus on the hardships we face." They serve as a reminder that empowerment doesn't have one, staid meaning. It's what occurs when we feel uplifted, confident, and independent — and that looks different for every woman.
Ahead, eight emerging female photographers (includeing Walker, Rickson, and Turner) define "empowerment"
in 19 diverse photos.