Finding the magic in being a female photographer

behind the scenes photography
(Image credit: Liam Dunkley - Artefact Studios)

All too often I’m quick to complain about being a female photographer. When you’ve experienced inequality, misogyny, sexual harassment and a complete lack of respect from men (but by no means all men)  it’s easy to forget all the best bits about being a woman in photography – and there are lots of them. 

I regularly talk to my female friends and family about how much I love being a woman in general. Despite all the pain, expectations and challenges we face, I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

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There is something magical about being a woman, the way we move through life with an open heart and open mind, seeking out meaningful, loving connections, placing huge amounts of importance on platonic relationships, and allowing ourselves to feel the most extreme emotions. I think women are more independent, better at being on our own and, dare I say it, a little braver – it’s International Women’s Day, so I can get away with it. 

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

These qualities are reflected in my photographic practice and the reality of it is, being a woman in photography opens up creative possibilities not as available to men. 

Without meaning to generalize, people usually feel more comfortable around women – and for good reason. We are less intimidating, you don’t very often hear seedy stories about female photographers mistreating models or making them feel uncomfortable. Women understand what it's like to feel vulnerable, so we do anything in our power to alleviate that feeling in other people. 

One of the reasons I became a portrait photographer is to help people, women in particular, build on their self-confidence. As someone who has struggled a lot with my own self-image, I found photography provided a way of looking at myself in a different light. I know how hard it can be to stand in front of a camera and feel confident, but I also understand the power that a good photo with the right lighting can have on the way someone sees themself. 

Singer/songwriter Emily Magpie (Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

As a woman, I think it’s easier to connect with people on a deeper level. We love to raise each other up. You see it in toilet queues and bathroom cubicles when women compliment your dress, your lipstick color, or the way you way your hair. 

When I photograph women, I’m one of those toilet girls. I want to be their biggest fan and number one cheerleader, and with that support I watch people come out of their shells and own their bodies with unadulterated fierceness; that to me is truly remarkable. There is no greater feeling than showing someone images on the back of the camera, followed by a gasp or an "Is that really me!" Loving yourself is one of the hardest things to do; it takes patience, practice and a whole lot of saying "no" to comparison. 

I’ve worked in all sorts of environments, from ballet classes for children with disabilities to queer-friendly sex parties where consent is key. I didn’t get these jobs because they needed to fill some gender quota, I got them because I could be trusted. Because just by being a woman there is less concern about whether those photos are going to be treated and used correctly. 

Model - Minowa Norton (Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

No matter how many times I get belittled, talked down to, and insulted for my "lack of technical knowledge" I will still love being a woman in photography. If anything, those comments, that lack of respect fuels a fire in my belly that keeps any resentment at bay. It gives me a reason to inform and educate and more often than not, prove someone wrong – and who doesn’t enjoy being right? 

There is a reason that the female gaze is such an important aspect of photography, and one that I will continue to contribute to until I can’t hold a camera any more. Women in photography need to be honored, respected and supported. We don’t live in a man's world any more, but there is still a long way to go until we live in a world of equality. 

I am so proud of the woman who walked before me that made it possible for me to vote, to be creative, to post photos without an alias and write posts like this, free of persecution and fear. Being a woman in photography is magical. I just wish everyone could appreciate that. 

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

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Hannah Rooke
Staff Writer

Having studied Journalism and Public Relations at the University of the West of England Hannah developed a love for photography through a module on photojournalism. She specializes in Portrait, Fashion and lifestyle photography but has more recently branched out in the world of stylized product photography. For the last 3 years Hannah has worked at Wex Photo Video as a Senior Sales Assistant using her experience and knowledge of cameras to help people buy the equipment that is right for them. With 5 years experience working with studio lighting, Hannah has run many successful workshops teaching people how to use different lighting setups.