While describing the problem with women's representation behind the camera in photography, photographer Amanda de Cadenet invoked an old adage: "You can't be it if you can't see it."
It was this, the lack of successful female photographers, that inspired her to create GirlGaze, a multimedia project that helps women break into the industry. "It started from a desire to highlight more female perspectives, to get those perspectives seen — and ultimately, hired," de Cadenet told Refinery29.
GirlGaze is twofold: There's the curated Instagram account and a physical exhibition at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, both populated by the work of talented, up-and-coming female artists. De Cadenet explains that the diversity of the work within GirlGaze is thanks to its open call for submissions. The project has received 750,000 submissions to date. (And yes, the use of the word "girl" is purposeful — according to the site, the project aims to "[take] back the word" and use it to "[push] back against the cultural projections and traditional gender roles imposed upon girls.")
"We have created a place that gives girls permission to tell their stories through their images and that’s powerful," de Cadenet said. "There are so many talented, creative girls in the world that just have not been encouraged to share their point of view."
Here, we've assembled a selection of GirlGaze-submitted works that show how women really see the world. Whether the photographers are documenting the grief of others or using photography as a means to heal from their own personal struggles, their stories, according to de Cadenet, often go unseen in mainstream representations of women's lives.
"If you don’t see your challenges being written about, photographed, filmed, you just feel isolated," she said. "Unless you are female, you do not know what it’s like live as a female identifying person navigating the world."