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How International Women’s Day inspired a generation of photographers

First Women creator and photographer Anita Corbin, reflects on how IWD has inspired her work and the work of other young photographers for over 30 years.

“When I look at this picture taken on a very damp IWD 33 years ago in Brighton I can remember vividly the energy and sense of urgency in the hundreds of marching and chanting women. We were barely five years on from the new Sex Discrimination Act and there was plenty to shout about, we were flexing our political muscles, we were ready to go out and make the most of the new equal opportunities made possible by law. Whether we were striving to ‘reclaim the night’ or championing ‘women’s right to choose’ or ’embracing the base’ there was always a very real connection to the cause – our voices were to be heard.


ACRaissa-2I was a 3rd year photography student age 22 and I had just been given the biggest break any photographer could dream of; my first published pictures ever and they were in the Sunday Times Magazine, published on March 8th 1981. I also had an honourable mention in the ‘Nikon/Sunday Times Young Photojournalist of the Year Award’ – What a IWD I had that year and it was the beginning of my career as a photographer.

Marlise and Noelle, the young women in the double portrait were good friends and part of a large group of supportive women who were carving out an alternative lifestyle and actively breaking down all the stereotypes. I love the way they look like they are just taking a breather from singing at the tops of their voices, I remember the sense of freedom and independence; it was very satisfying.

Their portrait was part of my Visible Girls collection, a series of double portraits looking at girls in subcultures; mods, rockers, skins, rastas, new romantics, rockabillies, punks and women in the women’s movement. Intimate portraits of friends, sisters and lovers between the ages of 16-22, in and around London.

The entire ‘Visible Girls’ project entitled “ a study of girls in subcultures 1980-1981”, toured the UK with the Cockpit Gallery and then Camerawork until 2004. It is now housed at London South Bank University where the collection helps to inspire and shape the work of their Digital Photography students – 33 years on!

View the full Visible Girls collection here

With Visible Girls I was capturing the blossoming of young women’s identity and freedom to be who you wanted to be, 27 years later I launched my First Women project, capturing how far women have pushed the boundaries by becoming ‘firsts’ in their field, whilst retaining their own identities as women.

So IWD is still an important marker in the year for me, as I join in celebrations of womanhood, a time to show solidarity to our sisters all around the world, and reach out and link arms and give each other the strength to keep striving for equality.

Join the search for the Visible Girls…

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