Seven years, over 100,000 miles and a cornucopia of locations from a Team GB boxing ring to the House of Lords: the one hundred portraits that comprise the First Women project are finally complete!
In this blog, Anita reflects on her experiences of creating this extraordinary collection…
‘From the moment I conceived of First Women, it was as if it took on a life of it’s own. Almost as if it had a ‘will’ to be completed and I was just facilitating that,’ says Anita.
‘I was apprehensive at the beginning. The project was hugely out of my comfort zone – despite having spent 35 years travelling all over the world to photograph incredible human interest stories and A-Listers on movie sets – because this was personal.
‘The perpetual question was, ‘how will I capture the unique essence of this woman and what drives her – but at the same time speak to the world about what she has achieved?’ My job was to nurture the shoot environment so that the ‘firsts’ could be themselves as women, as well as embody their achievements.
‘I wanted to offer every single one of the one hundred women the freedom to be shown as she wished to be seen and still fulfil the project’s universal vision.
Many of the women wanted nothing more than the image; no commentary, no interview – and I am humbled that they trusted the image I took to speak for itself about their journey.’
‘Now that the 100 are complete, I’m relieved it was done in time, first of all! Some of the women were easier to gain access to than others and some have been a labour of love since day one!
‘I remember talking back in 2009 about how much I wanted to include Nicola Adams…and recalling that conversation when I was finally standing in a Team GB boxing ring with Adams in front of my lens, 6 years later!
‘Some of the women only had one day available over the space of 8 months, others had about 6 agents, PR assistants and diary organisers that had to be co-ordinated before we could even get a date in!
‘First Women as a whole certainly gathered it’s own momentum over 7 years and everything I needed just started showing up so after a while I trusted it was meant to be created.’
So what now?
‘Well, the photography was the easy bit! Next, it’s about getting the images and their messages out into the wider world; finding collaborators and supporters to help publicise and expose the work to the greater public. My wish is that the finished project has a broad enough appeal that it will freely inspire the future generations and keep society evolving.
‘The air is also celebratory! This was a huge undertaking and I stuck with it! I never felt like giving up, but sometimes I wondered would it be intriguing enough? Will it be of interest? Because it’s personal – but public too.
‘Ultimately, I feel like I can die happy now! First Women was about creating an inspirational legacy that would continue to shift attitudes and inspire endeavour, change and pioneering spirit in women and men.
‘I like to imagine my great-great grandchildren Googling it and being inspired! Most of all however, I want to express my heart-felt gratitude to these utterly incredible women who simply said yes, who took the plunge and enabled me to turn my dream into a reality.’
The First Women team are currently organising the touring exhibition, opening show and exploring First Women book publication opportunities for 2018.
If you are interested in collaborating, sponsoring, hosting or supporting the project please contact Deborah at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.
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