What do you photograph and why?
"For the past two years, I’ve been working on a project on women in conflict, 'A Woman’s War,' which explores (through oral histories and portraiture) the experiences of women who have actively served in recent conflicts, and the impact that war has had on them, both during and after conflict. Thus far I’ve completed the project in five countries – in Bangladesh, on women active in the 1971 Liberation War, in Vietnam, on female members of the North Vietnamese Army, in Egypt, on female revolutionaries active in the recent uprisings, in Bosnia, on women involved in the Bosnian War, and in Northern Ireland, on women on all sides of the decades-long conflict. The project has been wonderful to work on, for a number of reasons. Because it’s mainly about history and memory, it’s a slower story, which means that there’s room to observe and let it grow and evolve over time. The challenge has been to figure out how to visualize memory – a task that countless photographers have tried to take on – and one that I find just fascinating. I’ve been focusing on three different visual elements in each country – One: On the portraits of the women themselves; Two: On landscapes of locations where important events during the conflict took place; Three: On more environmental shots in and around the women’s current lives, which speak to the hopes and dreams they hold for themselves and for their children. The three, when woven together, provide this lovely little spectrum – from fairly literal to rather abstract – and in doing so allows for a lot of room to experiment and grow within the project. And, while the project has been wonderful to engage with as a woman, to see women who are defying gender norms – especially in the countries that they’re coming from – I’ve found that the project speaks to broader, more universal stories than that of just women’s role in conflict – the unwritten versions of history. Whose stories are not being heard, and why? And why are the ones that we do hear repeated so often, and so loudly?"
What inspires you?
"Collaboration. Having the opportunity to work with others, to bounce ideas and see projects grow while being passed back and forth between people is a huge motivator behind a lot of my work. That may be colleagues – other writers and photographers – or the people that the project is focusing on – the individuals that tell the story. Photography is wonderful in that it forces you out into the world, and I think that the conversations and relationships that arise from the work are invaluable.
Additionally, finding a way to contribute to the conversation. While it would be wonderful to think that it could, I don’t truly believe that my work will be able to affect significant change by itself. I do hope, however, that it adds another perspective to whatever conversation it’s looking to become a part of, and in doing so, prompt someone to see something in a new light, from a new perspective."
What is your relationship like with NYC?
"Moving here has opened up an entirely new world; going back to collaboration, New York is the center of so many different industries, and draws people with such disparate backgrounds and interests, which all means that the possibility of mingling – even seemingly disparate – ideas and people just skyrocket. The work that I’ve seen emerge out of this environment is some of the most interesting I’ve seen anywhere, and it can be wonderfully overwhelming to see how many new projects or ideas or startups there are to contribute to where you can find yourself."
Photo: Courtesy of Elizabeth Herman
What do you photograph and why?