Women tell stories through photos

A self-portrait of Egyptian photographer Heba Khalifa and her daughter from the series Homemade. She is a single mother and extremely close to her daughter, who is always with her. She works six days a week and describes herself as “all over the pl
A self-portrait of Egyptian photographer Heba Khalifa and her daughter from the series Homemade. She is a single mother and extremely close to her daughter, who is always with her. She works six days a week and describes herself as “all over the place doing acrobatics” to be able to provide shelter to her daughter. PHOTO: HEBA KHALIFA
The photographers whose works are featured in the second edition of Women In Photography include (from left) Heba Khalifa, Xyza Cruz Bacani, Sim Chi Yin and Natalie Naccache.
The photographers whose works are featured in the second edition of Women In Photography include (from left) Heba Khalifa, Xyza Cruz Bacani, Sim Chi Yin and Natalie Naccache. PHOTO: BERNICE WONG
Sim Chi Yin’s Dying To Breathe project documents Chinese miners with black lung disease, China’s leading occupational disease.
Sim Chi Yin’s Dying To Breathe project documents Chinese miners with black lung disease, China’s leading occupational disease.PHOTO: SIM CHI YIN – VII PHOTO

The Women In Photography exhibition showcases documentary works by 18 women photographers

In a series of emotive portraits, 12 pairs of eyes stare through their respective chest X-rays and CT scans. Sounds of laboured breathing and wheezing are heard faintly in the dim space.

Mounted on light boxes, the installation by home-grown documentary photographer Sim Chi Yin, is part of her Dying To Breathe project, on which she spent four years from research to product.

The project is essentially a portrait of China’s leading occupational disease – black lung disease or pneumoconiosis, the hardening of lungs caused by the prolonged breathing of coal mine dust.

Sim, 38, is a member of the New York-based VII Photo Agency, and her work is part of this year’s Women In Film And Photography showcase, which celebrates the achievements of women who work in photography and film.

In this second edition of Women In Photography, co-presented by Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film and the Magnum Foundation, documentary works by 18 artists take centre stage.

Held at Objectifs, the works of the photographers from countries as diverse as Egypt, Mexico and the Philippines are showcased in an exhibition that addresses international issues ranging from young women’s struggles with HIV/Aids in Swaziland to perceptions of women in the Middle East.

  • VIEW IT / WOMEN IN PHOTOGRAPHY

  • WHERE: Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, 155 Middle Road

    WHEN: Till Nov 20, Tuesdays to Saturdays, noon to 7pm; Sundays, noon to 4pm; closed on Mondays

    ADMISSION: Free


    BOOK IT / WOMEN IN FILM

    WHERE: Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film

    WHEN: Till Nov 17

    ADMISSION: $5 from Peatix, full schedule at www.objectifs.com.sg/womeninfilm2016/

Some of the photographers featured in this edition include Tanya Habjouqa, 41, a Jordanian photojournalist and founding member of Rawiya, the first all-women photographic collective in the Middle East; Olivia Arthur, 36, a British photographer and a member of the renowned Magnum Photos agency; and Xyza Cruz Bacani, 29, a Filipino street photographer and Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellow 2015.

Bacani was a domestic worker in Hong Kong for 10 years and embarked on photography in 2009. She has drawn international attention for her black-and-white photographs of Hong Kong street life.

Her latest work is a collection of “love photos” that she has worked on since 2013.

“I’m always interested in the things I don’t understand. I don’t understand love and romance. I don’t understand politics and religion.

When you are doing public displays of affection, you are actually isolated from society, but with someone else,” she said during an artists’ talk last month.

Besides sharing more about their work, the photographers also discussed the role of gender in photography and funding good journalism and documentary work going forward, among other issues.

The works of Lebanese-British photojournalist Natalie Naccache, 27, who grew up with Lebanese parents in London, challenge preconceived ideas of the Middle East in modern day society.

Her work, Our Limbo, follows a group of young Syrian women who grew up together and left for Beirut before the outbreak of the civil war to study in Lebanese universities.

When the war started, their plans to return home faded and they ended up in different countries after graduation. The story focuses on the psychological effects of losing one’s homeland and the difficulty of adapting to a new country.

“I’ve never put a label on myself. I’ve never restricted myself to do certain stories because I’m a woman. For my story, there is no way I could get into the bedrooms of these girls if I’m a guy. I just do stories I care about,” she said.

While many of the freelance creative professionals do what they do because of their passion for the craft, they also run the risk that no magazine, publication or gallery is going to take their story. There is no guarantee.

Sim said: “Today we get our news for free, but someone still has to pay for the reportage. Someone has to be that conduit and quite often at great risk and sacrifice.

“I urge everyone to think what is the way forward and how are we going to pay for the stuff we continually want to see. How do we pay for the guy who put his life on the line to go to Syria?”

The photographers are associated with the Magnum Foundation, having been recipients of the foundation’s Emergency Fund, Human Rights Fellowship or Arab Documentary Photography Program.

Established by Magnum Photos, the foundation champions in- depth, independent documentary photography that fosters empathy, engagement and positive social change.

Ms Emmeline Yong, centre director for Objectifs and curator of the exhibition, said: “This edition of Women In Photography celebrates the growing and thriving presence of women in documentary photography, an arena that has been traditionally dominated by men.

“These photographers have distinguished themselves through their commitment to telling important, thoughtful stories of communities that often deserve wider attention.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2016, with the headline 'Women tell stories through photos'. Print Edition | Subscribe