As one of this year’s jurors for World Press Photo, I was stunned to learn that over the last ten years, the number of female entrants to the World Press Photo Contest has hovered around 15% (it remained at 15.5% in 2017).
March is Women’s History Month and in the current political and social climate, it’s never been more critical for us to have a woman’s visual perspective.
TIME reached out globally to the most acclaimed female photojournalists, curators and directors of photography in the industry, asking them to select one female photojournalist that they believe is worthy of recognition. The result is an astonishing collection of brilliant work from around the world. For me, this list includes many photojournalists I have never known, was delighted to learn about and excited to get to know more.
Here's their list of 34 women photographers to follow right now.
– Kira Pollack, Director of Photography
Meridith Kohut (Venezuela)
Meridith's work this year has shown remarkable depth. She has spent most of it chronicling the Venezuelan economic and social crisis. Her persistence and courage have brought her into some very tough situations, and yet she produced remarkable images – and in some cases her own reporting brought us stories, like this tragic picture from a mental hospital.
– Michele McNally, Assistant Managing Editor and Director of Photography of The New York Times, U.S.
Émilie Régnier (Canada/Haiti, based in Paris)
I first came across Émilie's work at the Joop Swart Masterclass where she was a participant in 2014. Her project "Hair" explores perceptions of beauty in West Africa, mostly shot in Cote d'Ivoire. In spite of the women posing for the camera wearing unnaturally colored wigs, the photographs are honest depictions of the women's obsession with a certain style of beauty. I love it because it is daring and playful at the same time. – Rena Effendi, Photographer, Azerbaijan
Meeri Koutaniemi (Finland)
I was first introduced to Meeri’s work while on a jury in Germany in 2014 for the Lumix Photo Festival. She was awarded first prize for her work on female genital mutilation. Her approach is direct, full of integrity and discretion. Her work in color is also strong and effective, as she uses it cautiously and in a sublime way. I think she has a potent visual language and I’m very curious to see what she will come up with in the future.
– Ruth Eichhorn, Photo Editor and Curator, Germany
Nichole Sobecki (U.S., based in Kenya)
When I met Nichole I was struck by her gentle but fearless determination. She showed me an on-going project she was working on about climate change and conflict and I hope she succeeds in her efforts to raise awareness about this increasingly critical matter. She certainly doesn’t seem to flinch from challenging situations that convey great human difficulties. Yet, in her photos there are moments of beauty despite it all… and isn’t that what life is often like?
– Susan White, Photography Director of Vanity Fair, U.S.
Johanna Maria Fritz (Germany)
Johanna Maria Fritz is curious about people and their ambivalent relationships with reality. Although she has only just finished school and is barely in her 20s, she has already created a long-term documentary series that is full of personality. Fritz travelled to several different countries to document circus artists. She describes the photos as “a mixture of staged and documentary photography." She is a powerful young female photographer who is determined to go her own way.
– Barbara Stauss, Photography Director of Mare, Switzerland/Germany
Cate Dingley (U.S.)
Cate is the classic people photographer (in the spirit of Dorothea Lange); she executes thought-provoking juxtapositions combining form and content into a square frame so that the viewer cannot overlook the pure poetry in her aim.
– Donna Ferrato, Photographer, U.S.
Cécile Baudier (Denmark)
I fell in love with Cécile's work when I was a judge for the Danish Picture of the Year Award in January. Unfortunately we were not able to award her beautiful work Diaspora. The project is a poetic and melancholy work about citizens of African descent in Mexico. I'm happy that I can highlight her work now instead. She is very talented and has a sensitive and artistic approach to the people in her photographs. Watch out for her! – Åsa Sjöström, Photographer, Sweden
Tshepiso Mazibuko (South Africa)
Tshepiso is a photographer whose work shines whether exhibited or on the pages of a magazine. She has her own unique style which probably comes from not being a stranger in the community she photographs. I chose her because believe in work that has something to say but also has its own personal vision and aesthetic. It is not merely a record of an event, place or issue. – Jodi Bieber, Photographer, South Africa
Kirsty Mackay (U.K.)
While I've never met her, I was first introduced to Kirsty’s work by a photojournalism professor in Cambridge, and later saw a project of hers while judging for Unicef in Germany. Her work is so fresh and quite simple. She tends not to examine the enormous conflicts and problems we face, but instead focuses on smaller perspectives – like her project on little girls and the imposition of the color pink. Yes I know, I deal with world news, but this enchanted me.
– Maria Mann, European Pressphoto Agency Consultant, Portugal
Luisa Dörr (Brazil)
Luisa Dorr’s work is pure poetry. I serendipitously discovered her on my Instagram feed, and the picture lept off the screen. Luisa’s photographs are soulful and thoughtful and she works with a quiet grace. We have been honored to work with her for the past few months. Stay tuned for her terrific project coming up in TIME. – Kira Pollack, Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise at TIME, U.S.
Adriana Loureiro Fernandez (Venezuela, based in the U.S.)
Adriana's pictures are all heart. She's so fully and deeply present in what she's seeing and experiencing. She has a beautifully poetic understanding of color, light and shadow which is unusual in such a young photographer. Beyond that, she's extremely courageous but also cognizant of her own fears and vulnerabilities which is an unusual combination. – Nina Berman, Photographer, U.S.
Nazik Armenakyan (Armenia)
In 2013, I traveled to Yerevan where I had the privilege of curating the first ever exhibit of women photographers in Armenia. Nazik’s work struck me with its powerful message and quiet, elegant approach. In Armenia, a former Soviet country with a non-democratic heritage, human rights issues are her focus. For her first long-term project, Survivors, about the Armenian genocide, she traveled around Armenia racing with death as her subjects aged. She found 45 of them.
– Svetlana Bachevanova, Publisher of FotoEvidence, U.S./Bulgaria
Vittoria Mentasti (Italy)
There is a certain poetic, artistic quality in Vittoria’s documentary work. She has the ability to find stories beyond sensational news.
– Alessia Glaviano, Senior Photo Editor of Vogue Italia, Italy
Mahin Mohammadzadeh (Iran)
Mahin is not only a talented photographer, but she is also very determined, something you really need to be when you live in Iran's poorest province. She fought to become a photographer. Her father initially didn't approve, but now Mahin is the only female photographer in the entire province of Sistan and Baluchestan. She is documenting lives in a part of the country that we rarely get a chance to see. I admire her for being a quiet bulldozer, always inching forward, ignoring the drama. Her work is honest and real. – Newsha Tavakolian, Photographer, Iran
Ashima Narain (India)
Ashima is a poetic photographer and storyteller. She always finds unique stories and her images make sense of our commonalities in the world we share. She also happens to be one of the hardest working photographers/filmmakers I've ever had the pleasure of working with. – Ami Vitale, Photographer, U.S.
Charlotte Schmitz (Germany, based in Turkey)
Charlotte has developed very consistent and original work about the issues that affect her as a young contemporary woman. She is building a very interesting narrative using compelling images to convey a deliberately personal approach. She has given proof of her courage in experimenting with new languages that challenge the traditional documentary perspective. Her work brings a breath of fresh air to the classic way of exposing contemporary issues.
–Cristina De Middel Puch, Photographer, Spain (based in Mexico)
Justyna Mielnikiewicz (Georgia/Poland)
Justyna is one of the most important women photographers of her generation. Justyna stands out not only because of the high quality of her work but also for her ability to bring us closer to a variety of human experiences. Her need to go further and look for in-depth details in each of her stories is just remarkable. She spent 10 years creating a body of work on the Caucasus, which is one of the most important bodies of work ever done on this very complicated and "restless” region. For me Justyna keeps alive the best traditions of photojournalism and documentary photography.
– Nestan Nijaradze, Artistic Director of the Tbilisi Photo Festival, Georgia
Melissa Spitz (U.S.)
I was immediately struck when I saw Melissa's work for the first time. The images alone with no context were arresting enough, but then I learned the person appearing in her photographs was her mother who struggles with mental illness. Her work is brave, brutal, tragic and beautiful. – Gillian Laub, Photographer, U.S. (Melissa currently works as Gillian's assistant)
Nadia Bseiso (Jordan)
Nadia is that rare mix of poet, artist, anthropologist, and documentarian. There is an intellectual component to her work, but most importantly there is a loving tender touch to the way she photographs people. She photographs like a short story writer. Her own background, as half Jordanian and half Russian renders her both an insider and outsider in the Middle East, and I think this feeds into her work. She is capturing work that tackles environmental degradation, the volatility of geo-politics and gender in surprising fresh ways. She draws from extensive reading (in Arabic, Russian, and English) of mythology, religion and even political peace accords. Her new work Infertile Crescent is gonna drop like a bomb. But a quiet one. Like T.S. Eliot's "This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper." – Tanya Habjouqa, Photographer, Jordan
Monique Jaques (U.S./Brazil, based in Turkey)
I've watched Monique's eye develop over the years. She started working with me as a photo assistant when she was only 23 years old, and since then, she has gone on to establish a successful career across the Middle East and Africa, honing her eye and her story-telling in difficult places like the DRC, Gaza, and Sierra Leone. Her pictures are quirky, layered and rich in content. Her coverage of Islamic fashion, Virunga's first female rangers, and growing up in the Gaza strip are all smart and compelling series.
– Lynsey Addario, Photographer, U.S.
Marta Iwanek (Canada)
When I look at Marta’s work, I feel as though I am peering into her soul. Her photographs are so intimate, so personal and so honest. They are poetic. Her visual approach organically creates a safe space for whom she photographs. I believe this comes from her sincere and selfless motivation to tell important journalistic stories with a strong artistic sensibility. – Barbara Davidson, Photographer, U.S.
Tatiana Plotnikova (Russia)
I picked Tatiana because she has her own style, her pictures are always recognizable - and this is something that you don't come across very often. I picked her pictures for the poetry they bring to the world, for their surreal truth. I like her pictures because they help reveal the inner life of strangers. – Victoria Ivleva, Photographer, Russia
Danielle Villasana (U.S., based in Turkey)
Danielle is a very honest, sensitive, compassionate and committed story-teller. She travels the world focusing on stories that deal with gender and major social issues. She is highly motivated, talented and determined. She has a really impressive body of work. – Ana Cecilia Gonzales Vigil, Independent Picture Editor and Consultant, Peru
Lara Aburamadan (Palestinian Territories, based in the U.S.)
I gave a workshop for young photographers in Gaza last year and Lara was among the participants. On the first day, we went through the photographers’ portfolios and Lara's work immediately stood out. She has a natural artistic eye and pays attention to light, but what is most evident in her images is the sensibility she has towards her subjects.
– Laura Boushnak, Photographer, Palestinian Territories (based in Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Maja Hitij (Slovenia, based in Germany)
When I first met Maja she was working as an intern at the Associated Press in Israel. She did not even have a mattress in her apartment and yet she never complained. I bought her one. She would walk barefoot if she had to, in order to give a voice to the people she is photographing. On the border of Slovenia and Austria, Maja not only documented the plight of the Syrian refugees but also helped to collect food and clothing. Over the years that I have known Maja, she has never waited for an assignment, instead she just goes on her own to Gaza or to follow the journey of refugees as they make their way to Europe. She is a photojournalist with a mission to make a difference and uses the power of photography as her language. Her image of Syrian refugees along the border of Slovenia and Austria reminds me in many ways of Sebastião Salgado's photographs. Her pictures make a viewer look closer – not turn away.
– Heidi Levine, Photographer, U.S. (based in Israel)
Fatemeh Behboudi (Iran)
In 2014, I curated the Asian Women Photographers' Showcase, where I selected Fatemeh’s work, featuring her series Mothers of Patience. I later met Fatemeh in person in Malaysia and she was like a little girl, curious about everything around her. She found a piano and began playing it beautifully – she was a totally different person than the female photographer I had envisioned working in Iran. Her innocence allows her to focus sincerely on her subjects. I am personally interested in photographers who focus on subjects that are somehow related to their own lives. She's the one of the most important photographers I have ever met. – Yumi Goto, Independent curator, Japan
Alice Martins (Brazil, based in Iraq)
Alice is one of the few Latin American female photographers – if not the only one – working in the Middle East, with a heavy focus on Syria. I love how she isolates islands of apparent calm and strange beauty in the middle of chaos.
– Adriana Zehbrauskas, Photographer, Brazil
Tamara Abdul Hadi (Iraq, based in Lebanon)
I find Tamara’s work fascinating. For her series Picture an Arab Man she photographed roughly 85 men and she is creating video portraits as well. What I like about this work is that she challenges the image of the Arab man as it is collectively represented in the Western media. The work is gentle and shows a vulnerable side to the men. – Maggie Steber, Photographer, U.S.
Isabella Lanave (Brazil)
Isabella is from a generation of young Brazilian women who know their responsibility to other women, whether or not she has her camera in hand. She's open to listening and learning but is aware of her duty - to go out in the field right now and be a witness of history, as a part of the story. She does not avoid photographing difficult subjects such as her own working-class family. Isabella shows intimacy with people she photographs - she is close, but remains respectful. – Marizilda Cruppe, Photographer, Brazil
Farzana Wahidy (Afghanistan)
I have crossed paths with Farzana several times in Afghanistan and have always been impressed by the strength she emanates from her small frame. She is a very gifted photographer. She manages to capture the most intimate aspects of daily life in Afghanistan, often focusing on the contemporary issues facing women.
– Veronique de Viguerie, Photographer, France
Marina Мakovetskaya (Russia)
Marina has been photographing in Tajikistan since 2009 and the project emits a certain warmth, it is apparent that she empathizes with her subjects. Her image of a woman in yellow dancing is full of genuine happiness and deep sincerity. There is a real harmony in the composition and color. I was charmed by it at once.
— Lialia Kuznetsova, Photographer, Russia
Mónica González (Mexico)
Mónica's work focuses on the debris, both physical and emotional, within homes fractured by violence. Her incredible project Geography of Pain exposes the suffering of those who have been affected by violent crimes throughout Mexico through the memories and footprints of victims. – Eunice Adorno, Photographer, Mexico
Maria Turchenkova (Russia)
Maria Turchenkova was in Moscow when the annexation of Crimea happened. Upset by the political turmoil, she called me and thus triggered our first collaboration. Maria and I share a strong belief in the power of storytelling. Maria believes that nothing is more powerful than a story. Maria is now documenting her own country, "the new Russia," by revisiting the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Road of Revolution is a project she’s working on with photographer Stanley Greene which started in February, with the 100-year commemoration of the fall of the Russian empire. Maria's personal point of view and her intimate concerns make her a clever observer and strong journalist on the ground. – Marie Sumalla, Deputy Photo Editor of Le Monde, France
Violeta Santos-Moura (Portugal)
I think Violeta's work manages to capture the silent winds of change in Israeli society. Her in-depth look at these much-covered issues reveals a new feminine gaze. Her unique point of view helps to elaborate a variety of issues which lead the viewer to the visual climax of her images.
– Tali Mayer, Photographer, Israel
Post produced by Katherine Pomerantz