Kelly Merchant's collaborative effort to photograph women, hear their stories, and share their perspectives manifests itself in Photography for Girls. Flipping through the photos in the smallish paper book, looking each woman in the eye, is mesmerizing; voices echo through the pages, discussing the unwanted male gaze, insecurities, motherhood, constricting gender roles, and what it is like to see yourself through someone else's eyes.
The minimal poses, settings, and dress allow viewers to see each woman's essence. The usual cloud of makeup is nowhere to be found. These women are accessible, people you see at the grocery store or on the street. "In my experience women photographers are generally more interested in creating an intimate, real moment that is not just about physical beauty and not just capturing sexuality, anger, sadness, happiness," says Merchant. Each of her subjects open up about what empowers them and what makes them vulnerable, and it is unsurprising that many of the women have much in common with one another.
"I hope that men view this project as a window into a woman’s world, the women they love, to glimpse the complexities, the balancing acts women perform," says Merchant.
In a world where meninism exists, where women are seen as objects, projects like Photography for Girls are especially important. It is invigorating to behold this bonding over experiences, both positive and negative, and know that change is in the wings. Women will only become equal if they stand together and make it so.