What We See is the inaugural book by Women Photograph, a community of more than 1,6000 women and nonbinary photographers. Divided into four sections—Identity, Place, Conflict, and Reclamation—the book features 100 photographs by women and nonbinary photojournalists, each paired with a firsthand account from the photographers themselves.
The book spans every continent: In Minnesota, Camille Seaman chases storms and tornados in photographs that pay homage to the natural world. A world away, Sarah Pabst covers the effect of climate change on Adélie penguins in the Wendell Sea, Antarctica. In China, Ami Vitale finds hope as giant pandas are released back into the wild as conservationists and scientists work to save the species.
One thing uniting many of these nonbinary and women photographers is the care put into documenting these stories. Danielle Villasana has devoted a decade to capturing the threats facing transgender women across Latin America—and their resilience in the face of those threats. Terra Fondriest, meanwhile, has spent roughly the same amount of time photographing everyday life in the Ozarks.
In revealing the unseen moments behind historic events, What We See feels revelatory, proving that quiet images are often the most powerful. In Kabul, Afghanistan, Kiana Hayeri captures the aftermath of a bombing at a school. In her photograph, a mother reunites with her child; upon reading her words, we learn that the mother lost another child in the bombing. They would bury her at the mosque that day.
Elsewhere, we can find moments of joy, resilience, and connection, even amid uncertainty. In Israel, Malin Fezehai captures a wedding celebrating the marriage of two refugees hoping to build a life together. In Nairobi, Sarah Waiswa photographs children learning ballet in Kibera.
Another detail to note is the fact that many of these nonbinary and women photographers pursued projects that no one else could tell. On the book’s cover is a photograph by Nada Harib, picturing her cousin Mira. In the portrait, Mira wears their grandmother’s tlaba, a traditional garment that speaks to their family’s roots in the Nefussa Mountains of Libya.
Bethany Mollenkof‘s portrait of Brianne Moore in Alabama, bearing the title Mother, represents her commitment to documenting reproductive rights and healthcare in the American South, where women, particularly Black women, are facing a maternity care crisis. Mollenkof herself was born in Tennessee, making this work hit close to home.
There are self-portraits too, among them Haruka Sakaguchi’s reflection on the early days of lockdowns in New York City in 2020. Non-traditional approaches to documentary photography and photojournalism are present throughout the book, culminating in the work of Koyoltzintli, who collaborated with the artist Julio Toaquiza to create a singular portrait of springtime in the Andes.
Women Photograph was created in 2017 to address inequality in photojournalism amid industry reports from 2016 that estimated that just ten to 15 percent of working news photographers were women. What We See is a testament to what we lose when we only see the world through the lens of a select few, at the exclusion of the many.
It’s hard to imagine that such a vast, multilayered book could represent only the tip of the iceberg, but that’s exactly what it is. More than anything, What We See represents a point of departure. Years from now, it will continue to serve as an ongoing invitation to look beyond the status quo to discover the vital, beautiful, heartbreaking, and complicated stories we miss when we look at things from just one perspective.
All images reprinted with permission from Women Photograph: What We See (White Lion Publishing, an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2023). Women Photograph is available wherever fine books are sold.
Further reading on women photographers and photojournalists: