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In an industry that sustains an overwhelmingly uneven ratio of male-to-female artworks, the Loud and Luminous project provides opportunities for women in photography to exercise creativity and celebrate each other’s creations.
The project – founded by Canberra’s Hilary Wardhaugh and Brisbane’s Melissa Anderson last year – is all about gender equality.
Kick-started by a conversation between the two award-winning photographers on the obstacles that are presented to many women working in the arts, Loud and Luminous (LAL) works proactively towards addressing these issues of inequity. Women, both in front of and behind the camera, are placed in the spotlight to generate a new cultural story in Australia.
“We created LAL so we could inspire and empower women and girls,” explains Hilary. “Photography has always, until recently, been a male-dominated profession, but many more women have become involved, whether in the commercial realm or arts. Women have been under-represented and undervalued in many aspects of the industry.”
Hilary explains that for them, the cause if a personal one.
“Speaking personally and as someone who got into photography later, I feel I have had enough life experience to cope with issues when they arise,” she says. “I have been taken as the assistant on jobs when I have a male assistant working for me… and experienced other everyday sexism many times in my photography career.”
“I now, however, am experiencing agesim too. When will it end? There are many instances of gender-related issues within the professional body I have been a part of since I started 25 years ago; including lack of gender balance in events, speakers, administration, honours, competitions… I have peers in the arts and media who have suffered similar issues. It needs to change.”
Last year, 56 emerging women and female-identifying photographic artists were showcased in Loud and Luminous’ Melbourne exhibition. This year, the number of photographers has doubled; Loud and Luminous achieving its goal of accumulating 100 contributors for shows in 2019, including 16 women from the ACT.
Although the photographers are sourced nationally, Hilary and Melissa bring attention to the program’s widespread relevance.
“While this is an Australian initiative, the messages extend internationally on gender equality and empowerment,” explains Melissa.
Important social issues – often “silent stories”, and those that “many women are afraid to share” – are explored in the curated artworks. This year, photographers were provided with a creative prompt: POWER.
“Power is something that you do not necessarily associate with women,” explains Hilary. “Many assume power means physical strength, or money. But power can and is used by women quite differently, as we see in the vast range of images submitted. Here is the power of the sisterhood, the power of love, motherhood, empathy, grief, touch, intimacy, self-love…”
On International Women’s Day in March, Loud and Luminous hosted a successful symposium at the ANU in Canberra. The event comprised of multimedia projections, a book launch, and other presentations by artists.
Now Hilary and Melissa have followed this sold-out event with an exhibition at the Contact Sheet Gallery in Sydney. On show now and running until 4 May, the exhibition features art by photographers aged 10 to 90. This collective collaboration of diverse Australian women will show all 100 prints, alongside a projection room with multimedia from the artists, and Loud and Luminous’ book displays.
“The viewer should walk into the gallery and realise that having 100 large prints on the wall created by women as a moment of change in our community,” says Hilary.
“The viewer will be challenged, exhilarated, made to feel many emotions, the stories and images will provoke and we hope that the collective voice will be powerful, loud and luminous.”
What: Loud and Luminous Exhibition
When: Showing until 4 May
Where: Contact Sheet Gallery (60 Atchison Street, St Leonards NSW 2065)
Feature image: Lindi Heap. Image supplied.