Photography and film are among the best tools for understanding our collective human condition. They allow us to experience narratives other than our own, which is why Hollywood and the media's persistent erasure of marginalized communities from their own stories is so damaging. Amanda de Cadenet, the British photographer, television presenter, and author of the new essay collection, "It's Messy," is fighting the monopoly of the male gaze in creative industries with its antidote: Girlgaze.
"Girlgaze is really my focus," de Cadenet told VICE Impact at the Ludlow Hotel in Manhattan; the level of commitment expressed here is pretty impressive when you consider that "It's Messy" launched that same day. "It's a company that's really dedicated to closing the gender gap through paid opportunities for girl photographers and directors."
De Cadenet's activism spans a number of subjects and projects, but she focuses often on feminism and the wage gap in the workforce. Girlgaze advocates for emerging female-identifying photographers and directors, operating on the very sensible premise that the first step in closing the gender gap in those fields is just getting more girls behind the camera.
The organization has coordinated exhibitions to promote the work of young, female-identifying creators -- photojournalists, fashion photographers, documentary filmmakers -- of diverse ethnicities and abilities. And it goes beyond signal-boosting to help actively close the wage gap by connecting emerging female artists to actual jobs. De Cadenet uses her own platform to land of-the-moment brand collaborators like Teen Vogue and Gap.
"It's a company that's really dedicated to closing the gender gap through paid opportunities for girl photographers and directors."
More than two dozen young members of the Girlgaze community found paid work at the organization itself (which is hiring), photographing its collaboration with Warby Parker. Glamour joined the movement over the summer to cosponsor a film competition for young female directors, #NewView, whose jury included such Hollywood brass as Gia Coppola, Geena Davis, Rashida Jones, Shonda Rhimes, and Zendaya.
Before the dust has even settled from her book launch, de Cadenet is turning to a series of new steps for expanding Girlgaze. On October 3, Girlgaze released a book featuring work by Lynsey Addario, Sam Taylor Johnson, and Inez van Lamsweerde. Girlgaze comprises both a non-profit and a for-profit arm, which means it can spearhead a grant fund for female-led creative projects with the former while coordinating talent management, original video content, and eCommerce with the latter. Going forward, de Cadenet plans to award annual grants for emerging female-identifying directors and photographers through The Girlgaze Foundation.
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De Cadenet began her own photography career as a teenager, eventually becoming the youngest woman to shoot a cover for Vogue. She still pursues her own photography when she has the time, but her aim now is to connect young female creators with the kinds of opportunities she's been able to have, without the higher barriers of entry surfaced as a young photographer compared to male peers breaking into the industry at the same time.
She founded Girlgaze in 2016. The movement has its origins in an actual hashtag, an Instagram aggregation of work by and for women. Volume of submissions soon exploded, #girlgaze officially expanded into Girlgaze, an IRL Los Angeles-based company (run entirely by women) working to achieve gender parity in photography and film, with large communities not just in the United States but in the UK, Australia, and across South America. It's doing this by focusing, quite literally, on the future -- namely, on Generation Z. As our youngest generation comes of age in an environment of increasing social consciousness, topics like sexism, harassment, human rights, body image, sexuality, addiction -- all topics examined by Girlgaze artists -- are finally gaining mainstream traction.
Her aim now is to connect young female creators with the kinds of opportunities she's been able to have, without the higher barriers of entry surfaced as a young photographer compared to male peers breaking into the industry at the same time.
"Definitely [there's] a shift, there's more opportunity for discussions about women's issues … in the political landscape, or in inclusion, diversity, different body types, mental health issues, there's absolutely a bigger space for that," de Cadenet said. "I think there's also a lot of it being sort of the topic of the moment, and I'm mindful of those conversations, but I think that it's a good thing that it's a bigger space. It's a positive thing."
If you're a female-identifying, Generation Z photographer or director looking to join the GirlGaze community, upload your work on Instagram with the hashtag #girlgaze. You can also donate to The Girlgaze Foundation and help fund the organization's annual grants.