“As Americans – as human beings – a lot of the information that we receive is through the lens of men,” Laura Roumanos, cofounder of the nonprofit Photoville, which organized the We, Women traveling photo exhibition along with the nonprofit Women Photograph, told Bklyner. This project shifts that perspective.
Through the eyes of the 20 different artists from across the country and 17 total projects on display at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, We, Women: The Power of We examines some of the most critical social and political issues currently facing Americans - immigration, criminal justice reform, climate change, gentrification, and sexual assault. The project provides a public platform for female and nonbinary artists to tell the stories of communities across the country from their perspective - including men, women, children, and LGBTQ+ individuals.
Roumanos launched We, Women in 2017 with cofounder Amy Yenkin, as well as Daniella Zalcman, Danielle Villasana, Emily Schiffer and Rina Malonzo, in response to the deep political divisions facing the country in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. They wanted the exhibit – which will also travel to Anchorage, Atlanta, and Chicago – to be as accessible as possible.
With funding from Open Society Foundations and Ford Foundation, as well as individual donations and funds raised through a KickStarter Campaign, We, Women was able to give out $150,000 in grants to participating artists, many of whom are engaged in ongoing community organizing work.
“We’ve been in this neighborhood for such a long time,” said Roumanos. “We have a responsibility to the community to make sure that the work we put out there is responsible, is work that is accessible.”
Fully free to view, the exhibit also includes an online education guide, provided by Photoville’s education partner PhotoWings. In addition to recorded talks with the artists and a number of online videos, guiding questions are available to help parents engage their children in some of the more difficult subjects, said Roumanos.
For some of the artists, like Rosem Morton, the work is deeply personal. A sexual assault survivor, Morton’s work focuses on survivors across the country – in particular, their methods of healing.
“In my interaction with other survivors, I learned that healing takes on so many different forms. And I really kind of wanted to explore this,” said Morton.
Morton explores this idea through her diptych-style pieces, which comprise part of the exhibit's 380 feet of space.
“The diptychs are a portrait of the survivor, and the other image is how they’re coping or healing, or what creative means they’ve used in their lives to move forward.”
Photography is an ideal medium for this kind of subject matter, she said. “I think we are all visual people who really need to see and engage with a work – it’s essentially a starting point.”
Sol Aramendi, a New York-based artist whose work focuses on immigrant rights, uses her art as a means of empowering the communities she works with. Aramendi – an immigrant herself -- noticed that many immigrants employed as domestic workers across the city were passed over for pandemic relief.
This formed the basis for her We, Women project.
“The focus on this project was, for me, the mutual aid,” she said. “How these workers, who were left out from all of the pandemic relief, resolved this problem of not having a job, and how they started combining their resources and working together.”
Aramendi also engages the immigrants themselves in the work; much of her other projects, like photography program Project Luz, includes photos shot by the immigrants themselves. This way, she said, they’re able to “learn about their rights,” through the work, said Aramendi. “And also they are empowered to take action.”
7/30/21: This article has been updated to include the names of all of the We, Women cofounders. A previous version of this article also misspelled the name of one of the cofounders: it is Amy Yenkin, not Yelkin. It also mistakenly credited the black and white photo of the pregnant woman to Rosem Morton; it was shot by Bethany Mollenkof.