Photography as a Tool for Women’s Empowerment

A picture, it’s often said, is worth a thousand words. So it’s no surprise that, since its invention by Joseph Niépce in 1816, the modern camera has been used to uplift and highlight voices that need to be heard. And with Forbes reporting that over a trillion photos are taken each year, more and more people are telling their stories.

This medium has endlessly influenced modern history. But why not add you story? Here’s how you can use the art of photography as a form of self-expression to empower yourself and other women.

Shaping the narrative

While many argue that pictures can’t tell stories because they capture only a single moment in time, literary professor W. Scott Olsen counters by saying: By portraying one moment in a larger story, photography reminds viewers of what they already know about it. And because photographs overcome language barriers, these photos tend to encapsulate that story in the minds of millions.

That’s why photovoice is used to elevate the stories of marginalized persons and communities; it allows them to control their image outside of how they are portrayed in the mainstream. For women of all races and creeds, photovoice has helped emphasize that there is no one universal type of woman — there are many, and they have a multitude of stories to tell.

In 2014, for example, an initiative by Singapore’s Organization for Migration Economics encouraged local domestic workers to record their lives throughout the week, unearthing deeper issues that they may be facing and ultimately giving them the opportunity to tell their stories to others. Similarly, a 2019 photo exhibit titled from a wom*n’s point of view portrayed the experiences of migrant women as documented through mobile phones. And, inspired by her own immigrant grandmother, Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur Bonnie Chiu co-founded Lensational, a social enterprise that helps women and girls across 15 countries tell their stories through photography.

Photovoice isn’t limited to the present day, however — they can also be used to uplift stories forgotten by time. The book Pictures with Purpose, for instance, contains photographs portraying African Americans at the turn of the 20th century, when the community was fighting for acceptance in American society. Many of the book’s subjects are unidentified, highlighting the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on millions of African lives while honoring the memory of those who were documented.

Get your tools

While you might not always feel in control of your life, photography can help you regain that feeling. By deciding what to capture, you create your own visual narrative.

The mobile phone is a great way to begin this journey of self-expression. And the range of accessories featured by Conde Nast Traveler shows how you can turn any mobile phone into a great camera for capturing your travels, moods, and everyday experiences. Some of these accessories, such as the cube lighting kit and the waterproof phone case, lets you take your photos in almost any environment. Meanwhile, the portable charger ensures you’ve always got enough juice to snap your shots on the go!

But if you’re serious about photography, consider getting yourself a dedicated camera. The collection of cameras to buy on Adorama shows just how wide your options are when it comes to starting your photography journey — from digital point-and-shoot cameras to more professional DSLRs or even mirrorless models that are lightweight and easy to carry. Many are also pretty affordable, like the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H300 and the Canon EOS Rebel T7 24.1MP DSLR.

Capture your story

Once you’re all set, get comfortable with your camera of choice. Take photos of what interests you, heightens your emotions, or simply of what you find beautiful. You can expand your skills by checking out our Follow The Women photography tips which will help you start to tell your story.

Finally, go experiment and have fun! All that matters is that you’re satisfied with your own photos. Eventually, your own voice will carry through all your photographs, telling the story you want to tell.

Mary J. Payne
Mary has over 10 years of experience as a journalist. She loves to travel and write about her experiences, but she also covers topics such as education, career advice and finances.