art.

the empathetic badass: Women in Photography

In the competitive industry of photography, what makes an artist stand out particularly if you’re a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field?

Rena Siddall / 8 March 2019

Portrait Dani Cyr by Jay Wallace

Photo by Jordie Hennigar

Step one, be a badass. Step two, ignore any notion of glass ceilings.

Why is it that when we’re trying to describe a woman who does cool shit the most accessible adjective seems to be badass? In August 2018, InStyle Magazine’s cover feature was titled “The Badass Women Issue,” with Serena Williams looking especially fierce- despite being adorned in a sun hat. When did badass become both an admirable term and somehow related to women? Regardless, “badass” female photographers are paving the way for younger up & comers to find their niche across the field of photography. 

Photo by Dani Cyr

For portrait photographer, Dani Cyr, of Victoria, B.C. she hasn’t necessarily observed a glass ceiling within the field but she does see certain genres like her preferred concert photography as being male-dominated. Cyr is young, eager and works hard at her craft. She’s shot artists with impressive credentials like Lights and the Arkells. That said, she has experienced the condescending result of working in a field that is predominately filled by men. “Someone told me to I needed to ‘hustle harder’ because I didn’t want to do studio photography and rent out his home-studio monthly. I think we know who needs to hustle harder here though, if he’s begging people to rent out his studio,” she laughs.

A little further West in Tofino B.C., fashion photographer, Jordie Hennigar, shoots beautiful women in well, beautiful settings. Hennigar has an ongoing thread for #womenattheendoftheroad capturing the resilient females that find their way in a town that’s, quite physically, at the end of the road. She migrated towards fashion photography over the last five years because that’s where she felt most comfortable. Her models are, for lack of a more eloquent phrase, damn good-looking. Curious, I asked her whether she discovers them or they find her and how much impact she thinks she has on rousing sex appeal out of her subjects. According to Hennigar, it’s a combination of finding each other, often through mutual connections, “they find me, I find them. Most of them have never been in front of a camera before!”

Photo by Jordie Hennigar

Step three, build communities of strong, creative, likeminded women.

In a year touted for diversity in fashion mags, only 30% of Vogue’s covers were shot by women (less than 10% of Vogue Italia’s, widely considered the top fashion magazine in the world). While racial diversity and gender-inclusivity got more of a spotlight even on fashion covers this year, behind the lens, parity seemed to echo years past. Despite that, Hennigar feels the glass ceiling is breaking away for women. She says that when she first started, most models said she was the first female photographer they had worked with. Now, Hennigar says she sees plenty of women all supporting each other within the field. In her community, the local female photographers all meet- having built an incredible support network.

“There were some advantages to being a woman photographer. I think women have more empathy with the subject.” - Annie Leibovitz

Back in Victoria, Cyr also happens to firmly believe in empowering women and sees a way to do that using her photography. Her passion is concert photography but she co-founded the Women for Women event last June, with musician Lo Waight, hosted with Victoria’s 91.3 the Zone FM. It’s an event and ongoing project celebrating women in music in Canada and their stories. This project is being rebranded with a new website launching soon as Cyr believes it deserves its own platform, “I have been inspired daily by so many women. Literally daiIy. I think this project and collaboration has also taught me to be more patient… There are some people throughout the project and its debut that made nasty comments [about] it not supporting men- …as many times as I make it clear the project isn’t a stab at men, but a shine towards women; in an industry that is highly dominated by men, it doesn’t necessarily matter.”

Photo by Dani Cyr

Step four. Don’t be afraid of that which is uneasy and emotional.

Another thing both Cyr and Hennigar have in common- dramatic female role models for inspiration. Hennigar credits the day-dreamy, young, Canadian photographer Petra Collins and the erotic, Ellen von Unwerth. Cyr’s taken the iconic Annie Leibovitz’s master class, who she quotes, “there is this idea that in portraiture it is the photographers job to set the subject at ease, I don’t believe that.”

The line meets reality in both our young photographers. Cyr wants to capture honest emotion with candid shots. She has a goal to start more projects that make a statement, “do things that are unusual.” Hennigar naturally captures authenticity, in her ability to adjust to her subjects, “I allow the shoot to become what it is meant to be, patience, kindness and making a real connection with the people I work with– most who become my friends after.”

Both Cyr and Hennigar note how essential it is to them to seize emotion within their photography. And that’s where female photographers shine. Women, by nature, are more intimate and inherently relate to others. So it should come as no surprise that female photographers shape these networks, and work these angles to spotlight women- as Leibovitz points out, we’re straight up empathetic.

Step five. Refer to steps one through four.

Away from the lens, Cyr and Hennigar choose to support other female photographers and creatives. In a traditionally male-dominated industry the prevalence of women who step up and aren’t afraid to build these communities gives hope to narrow the gender gap.

And in case you were wondering, that InStyle “badass” cover with Serena Williams? It was shot by a man. Who may or not be badass- I didn’t bother to investigate. But neither Cyr nor Hennigar feel held back by any proverbial glass ceiling. If photography truly is making way for women, then these two badass up and coming photographers are undoubtedly a part of that change.

More of Jordie’s dreamy editorials can be found on www.jordiehennigar.com or follow her on Instagram, @jordiehennigar.

Read the full interview with Jordie Hennigar here

See Dani’s contemplative portraiture in her gallery on www.danicyrcreative.com or follow her on Instagram @danycyrcreative.

Read the full interview with Dani Cyr here.

Rena Siddall / ohsnapcreative@gmail.com

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