The Next Generation of Women Photographers is Already Here
PHmuseum 2019 Women Photographers Grant judge Ashleigh Kane discusses her role as Arts & Culture Editor at Dazed and offers useful advice on how the position of women can be strengthened in our industry.
Ashleigh's latest articles on Dazed
Ashleigh Kane is imposing herself as an eclectic professional whose experience ranges from art and photography writing to head hunting for new talent. Having invited her to join the 2019 Women Photographers Grant panel of judges, we went to speak with her to learn more about her fresh and modern approach and her thoughts on diversity and the gender balance in our world.
Hi Ashleigh! For the last five years, you've been working as the Arts & Culture Editor of Dazed & Confused, a magazine and online platform aimed at promoting fashion and contemporary visual culture. Can you share some insights into your day-to-day role?
Although I mostly work independently on the art and photography section of the digital magazine, we usually start discussing our ideas in a team meeting. Since we are a small team, we are always aware of each other’ interests and sections. So we feed each other with ideas, interesting things we have seen, and news, to create a certain balance on the whole editorial line. Then I’ll spend the day checking emails and pitches from writers and photographers as well as possible PR or partnerships. Then I’ll begin writing and commissioning stories for the upcoming week.
You have a very eclectic professional figure, working as an editor and curator plus producer and art buyer. How do the editorial and commercial natures of your practice coexist and influence each other?
Editor and commercial natures work well together because they exist in the same realm of interest. I don’t see them as drastically different in terms of subject matter or people I am communicating with. They are quite similar yet by playing different roles I am capable of providing different services. At Dazed, for example, I write about authors or exhibitions. As an independent curator I research and curate shows in physical spaces. For Thursday’s Child - a photography and video network - I am more inclined to help people to connect with brands and clients. So while I might be working with the same photographers or artists, my approach them changes according to the role I am interpreting on that day. It’s all very holistic. I like the way those roles merges and fortunately, or unfortunately, there is not much difference between my work and my personal life.
Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Thursday’s Child?
I began collaborating with them recently as a curator and an art buyer, and I’m also working on creating editorial content for their website and IG account. This includes being in close contact with photographers or filmmakers. For example, I interview them to help those who follow our projects to have a better understanding of where the photographers and filmmakers are coming from - to have a deeper background perspective. I do also interview clients who we work with us - like Netflix, Vans, 72andSunny, and Converse. We like to shine a light over the industry because there’s often very little transparency when it comes to what people do in their day-to-day roles in those big companies - with those big jobs titles who can directly impact the working life of several filmmakers and photographers.
Abstract from Thursday’s Child Instagram Feed.
In recent years there has been a growing number of initiatives - awards, exhibitions, talks, etc - aiming to promote gender equality in the industry. Why do you think it's still important to keep this conversation alive and which are the aspects that can help photographers discern positive opportunities from poor ones?
It’s important to keep the conversation going in terms of gender equality because, to me it’s an obvious one, it makes sense that we are equal. It’s unrealistic to say we will have full equality for everyone, which would be the ideal situation, but there are so many factors outside of representation which would need to happen for that to become a reality. But I think over the last few years there has been progress for certain groups. Definitely for women. Hopefully the LGBTQ+ community are experiencing more opportunities as well, and there will be more support for diversity within race, gender, and other groups. There is still a lot more to do and this is why it is definitely important to keep the conversation alive.
Also, why would anyone want just one perspective from image-makers? We definitely want to promote diversity to make every single work interesting, exciting, insightful, educational and beautiful. This is why it is important - to have perspectives from all people and to continue to feature new voices who can speak about their situations, their countries, and their direct experiences - ideally you don’t want have a man shooting a story on women's issues because where is the understanding? We should be giving these stories to those who live them.
For awards, it is always great when there are monetary prizes or other opportunities involved, yet it is also important to consider what benefits it can generate after the hype of the competition period. The judging panel, for example, is important in giving all applicants a potential opportunity to collaborate. It is clearly impossible to work with everyone yet all applicants should think: “Oh, if I apply, Ashleigh will see my work so maybe she could consider me for an article on Dazed, or a work opportunity for Thursday’s Child”. In my opinion, a weak opportunity will end as the competition is over, a good one could support the work and career of an artist also in a later stage.
© Ashleigh Beugre Joncourt for Dazed+Labs, a cross-continental initiative between Dazed & Confused and Red Hook Labs.
How do you envision the next generation of women photographers?
I truly believe the next generation of women photographers is already here. Looking ahead, we need to ensure we are paying it forward right now to make things a little bit easier - for the next generations to step in when it’s their turn. We should build a road map of information and access which might come through panel discussions, talks, and exhibitions. We should be transparent about the process and how we got where we are and we should stand as positive role models and try to offer your time or advice to those who need it most. It’s all about ensuring that we are currently helping the new generation as we may have wanted to be helped at the start of our career. If all of us in certain positions do, I am sure we can build a solid base for the next generation to be more powerful, paid better, more visible, and to push towards more equal rights.
What is your advice to an emerging photographers?
Just start shooting. If you don’t feel confident, you don’t have to share it with anyone yet. Just keep shooting and keep doing what you are doing. Never be ashamed or shy, be proud of your stuff. Don’t shoot just for likes on Instagram, and don’t make work just so you have things to post on Instagram. It’s important to have the time to find your style, your voice. Find a community of people where you feel confident sharing, communicating and exchanging advice. If you aim to approach people from the industry, always approach them in a very respectful way; respect boundaries, have a knowledge of their work and why you are contacting them and in turn, they’re likely to be respectful of your requests too.
The PHmuseum Women Photographers Grant aims to empower the work and careers of female and non-binary professionals of all ages and from all countries working in diverse areas of photography. Moving into its third edition, its mission is to support the growth of the new generations and promote stories narrated from a female perspective, while responding to the need to work for gender equality in the industry. To learn more and apply, visit phmuseum.com/grant. Early Bird Deadline: 19 September | Final Deadline: 10 October.