Leica Women Foto Project – The Leica camera Blog

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Leica Camera USA announced the winners of the Leica Women Foto Project Award. The recipients are Anna Filipova (UK), Eli Farinango (Canada), Greta Rico (Mexico) and Mary F. Calvert (USA). The award aims to strengthen the position of and give voice to women in the photography industry. A glimpse of the winning projects, as well as answers by three of the winners to three questions.


Eli Farinango’s Wilkay project deals with her story and her origins.

You are a winner of the Leica Women Foto Project Award. What meaning does the LWFPA have for you?
I’m really grateful and honoured to receive this award, especially on a project that’s really personal to me. It feels really validating that the work spoke to the judges and I get the opportunity to share it with a wider audience.

Could you explain in a few sentences what your winning series is about and why you chose this topic?
Wilkay is my personal narrative, and speaks about the resiliency of the heart and spirit. I share my story of transformation and healing from the abuse I’ve experienced at different times in my life, and the realities of being an indigenous woman in a patriarchal colonial society. In Kichwa, Wilkay means altar, and the process of creating this body of work is a ceremonial experience that weaves in my own spiritual practice, ancestral memory and my search for empowerment outside of the limitations placed on my body. As I continue further into the next chapter of my story, it is important to me that I share Wilkay as a nuanced indigenous feminist testimony of love, healing, resilience and empowerment.

Why are there still so few women photographers? Or are they just not as visible as their male counterparts?
I think that the opportunities that female photographers get to have their work seen are less, especially for women of colour. While white males still dominate the industry, important work is being done to change this. Databases like Women Photograph, Indigenous Photograph and Black Women Photographers can be great resources to start looking for uplifting and hiring female-identifying folks.


Mary F. Calvert deals with the alarming number of suicides among victims of sexual abuse in the military.

What meaning does the LWFPA have for you?
The Leica Women Foto Project Award is a very prestigious honour from a company that makes some of the finest storytelling tools on the market. Leica’s generous recognition of my work means that I will be able to continue my ongoing project on sexual assault in the military. I look forward to being part of the Leica family of photographers.

Could you explain in a few sentences what your winning series is about and why you chose this topic?
I will continue my long-term project on Military Sexual Trauma. For the past ten years, I have reported on the sexual abuse of women and men in the U.S. Armed Forces and the military’s pattern of blaming, harassing and discharging victims. For this current chapter, I will draw a causality link between the sexual assault of active-duty military personnel and veterans with a history of military sexual assault, and an increased rate of suicide among their number. I continue to address this issue because the story of the disregard and institutional abuse of people victimized by these crimes must be pursued with ongoing tenacity, to illuminate not only its continued existence but analyze its cause and effect.

Why are there still so few women photographers? Or are they just not as visible as their male counterparts?
This is a very good question to ask the people who actually hire photographers. In the United States there is almost an equal number of working male and female photographers. But the equity ends there, as women earn 40% less than their male peers, have less employment opportunities and enjoy far less professional visibility and recognition.
I have worked on more than one all-male photography staff in my career, and there are times when I have experienced gender bias. Sometimes overt and other times implied. None of that ever slowed me down, and I kept working hard to prove myself as competent a photographer as any of the men I worked with. Fortunately, I have also worked with far more wonderful, supportive and respectful male colleagues during my career.


Greta Rico’s Substitute Mother project looks at the consequences of femicide in Mexico.

What meaning does the LWFPA have for you?
I feel very lucky to receive this important recognition for a documentary work that has been deeply important to me and my family. I am sure that, thanks to Leica, many people in the world will be become aware of the very serious problem that has to do with the growing violence and murder of women, due to gender-related issues in my country, Mexico.

Could you explain in a few sentences what your winning series is about and why you have chosen this topic?
In November 2017, the body of my cousin Fernanda was found on the street, the victim of femicide. This documentary project arises from this most intimate situation within my own family, and tells the story of my cousin Siomara, who became a substitute mother for her (at that time) 3-year-old niece, Nicole, whose mother was murdered. This project shows how femicide does not end with murder, but has psychosocial impacts that cause trauma in orphaned children, in mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunts, who become substitute mothers because of gender violence in Mexico.

Why are there still so few women photographers? Or are they just not as visible as their male counterparts?
I think that in recent years it has become very evident that there are more and more women photographers in the photography industry; however, the statistics show us that women photographers continue to be relegated to lesser coverage as their work appears to a lesser extent in media front pages. It seems very important to me to mention that women photographers do not usually occupy decision-making positions in the photography industry. Unfortunately, editorial, directive, and jury positions continue to be mostly men, and that is why the table of power is less inclined in our favour. For these reasons, the Leica award is very important and necessary, since we also need that companies with the most influence and impact in the industry, take a stand on the inequalities we are facing.


Anna Filipova took photographs in Ny-Ålesund, the most northern permanent settlement in the world. This is the location of the largest laboratory for modern Arctic research, as well as a population made up mostly of scientists. It is also the place with the cleanest air on earth. Even though the settlement is beyond the large centres of population, atmospheric circulation brings air from Europe and North America into the region. This creates a unique environment for the observation of global warming.

The Leica Women Foto Project Award, presented by Leica Camera USA in cooperation with Photoville and Women Photograph, aims to strengthen the female perspective and its influence on today’s visual storytelling. The purpose is to encourage women photographers to reveal the significance of the female perspective. It is endowed with 10,000 in prize money for each recipient to continue working on an on-going project, as well as a Leica SL2-S with Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–70mm f/2.8 Asph. The work of one of the photographers will also be exhibited at the Women Street Photographers Summit in New York, from April 14 to 16.

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