At once widely accessible and distinctly personal, street photography has the potential to bridge the divide between the idiosyncratic and universal, a possibility that’s long excited Gulnara Samoilova. A former Associated Press photojournalist and current fine art photographer, Samoilova realized that while the genre was affordable and convenient, the field remained largely dominated by men, an imbalance she sought to remedy when she founded Women Street Photographers in 2017.
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In its fourth year, the ongoing project began with an Instagram account designed to showcase work from women around the world. “I soon began to realize that with this platform, I could create everything I had always wanted to receive as a photographer: the kinds of support and opportunities that would have helped me grow during those formative and pivotal points on my journey,” Samoilova tells Colossal, noting that expansion felt like a natural reaction to the positive response the project received.
Now a community of hundreds of amateurs and professionals, Women Street Photographers has burgeoned into a website, artist residency, series of exhibitions, film series, and now a book published this month by Prestel. Collating the work of 100 women from 31 countries, the 224-page volume is just “a tiny sampling of all that is out there,” Samoilova says, one that’s bound by the photographers’ desire to share their points of view and document the world through lenses that span a variety of races, ethnicities, creeds, ages, abilities, and sexual and gender identities.
Depicting an eclectic array of candid expressions and moments of intimacy and chance—whether through the red updo spotted in B Jane Levine’s shot featured on the book’s cover or the childhood exuberance captured by Regula Tschumi—each photograph is paired with a statement by the artist about both the image and their background. The elucidating text contextualizes the subject matter and person behind the camera and grounds the broader vision for the project, which Samoilova explains:
Street photography is both a record of the world and a statement of the artist themselves: it is how they see the world, who they are, what captures their attention, and fascinates them. There’s a wonderful mixture of art and artifact, poetry and testimony that makes street photography so appealing. It’s both documentary and fine art at the same time, yet highly accessible to people outside the photography world.
It’s still too soon to tell how projects like Women Street Photographers are shaping the larger ecosystem, Samoiolva says, although the contributions have rippled across the field. In the coming months, though, she intends to implement more opportunities for women in the field that might take the shape of an exhibition or travel-based project, although she hasn’t announced what those are just yet. “I love to dream, but I don’t like to plan,” she writes. “I go with the flow and all the current to guide me to my next destination.”