Why I started SIFH+
As a photographer who is always interested in other people's stories I had always wanted to be a photojournalist. But after working in this field and learning from/watching other photojournalists, I felt a huge uncomfortability with this practice. Photojournalism (as all journalism) is important and necessary, but there are many dangers with how this tool is used. Storytelling through imagery is very powerful and can cause extreme harm if what we are showing is not honest.
Successful photographers and those in charge of big media platforms are usually men. Often white cis hetro middle-class men with a lot of privilege and very little understanding of the issues they are working with. The narratives they choose to write are taken at face value.
What we are seeing is the world according to them, through the male gaze and the privileged gaze.
This means we see misrepresentation of the people whose experiences are being shared and stereotyping through assumptions or judgements that have been made. We see a lot of poverty porn, victimisation and false narratives that perpetuate misunderstandings, discrimination and harmful attitudes (such as white supremacy, non-consensual sexualisation/objectification, victim blaming and a saviour complex).
There is an difficult power dynamic when you hold the tool to tell someone else's story, particularly if you have more privilege than them and don't share that person's experience. Many problems come from this.
I saw need for more female photographers and journalists in general, particularly those who have intersecting oppressions. I realised however that I didn’t want to be one - I still personally had a resistance to making work telling other people's stories. I felt that for me, it wasn't where I wanted to be.
I was working for an independent newspaper and media platform at the time (The Bristol Cable) who aimed to share stories from those who are most marginalised. Even though it was meant to be alternative media, when I was working there I still saw stories being written to fit a certain narrative that they wanted to present. Even when having people submit their own stories, they were rewritten, directed or edited (mostly by by men) in a way that I felt uncomfortable with. I had my own work rewritten and my artwork changed (and published) without my consent during my time here. It was just another male-led media platform where men would always have control over content because of the power imbalance.
Externally to this I had also personally experienced photographers and journalists taking photos or making work about my experience that is inaccurate and angled in a way that fits me into an identity or narrative that I didn't choose. For example victimised as a survivor of rape and sexual violence.
I realised there was a huge need for spaces where people are given the tools and support to tell their own stories and represent themselves; this is where See It From Her+ began.
It was always going to be led by women as there are far to few female-led platforms. Photography was going to be the main tool within this project as it is the medium that so often misrepresents women.
The absence of women recorded in history, lack of women in positions of power and the control over our identity all has huge impact on how we experience the world.
Having seen the severe damage that is done by the under-representation, misrepresentation and non-consensual sexualisation of women and girls in our society, and by the intersectional discrimination that women and oppressed genders experience on a daily basis, I wanted to start something that addressed this.
From lack of self-esteem and anxiety through to experiencing sexual violence and rape, women experience severe harm because of the way our word treats us for being female.
I wanted to build a space where not only are we supported and safe to represent ourselves but also a space that particularly highlights our experiences of sexism, misogyny and male violence.
Our stories are too often being questioned, distorted, ignored or rewritten by the society we live in. See It From Her+ was formed as a way of dismantling this and rebuilding platforms how we wanted to see them.