Usually when talking about photojournalism people picture a man doing the job. Well, that might be true for a few years a go. Gladly this is changing and opening a whole new world and opportunities in the field, for professionals and for admires of their work. Going against the odds and showing they are very much capable of doing what used to be a "man's job", 5 female photojournalists, from 5 different countries, started a collective to produce stories mainly on social issues. Let us present you the Milk Collective, by Laure D'Utruy, Mojgan Ghanbari, Francesca Capra, Niqita Gupta and Joanna Demarco.
First of all, why is it called Milk Collective?
‘The Milk Collective’ was actually the first name we thought about and we all loved it straight away. We thought it had a ring to it, but it was also appropriate on a deeper level. We liked the word ‘milk’ because it has female connotations, which was suitable since we’re a collective made up of five women. It was also because the verb ‘to milk’ denotes getting all that is possible from something or a situation, and we thought that perfectly matches the job of us as photographers and journalists, obtaining information, milking stories. Lastly, the word milk harks back to the 20th century activist Harvey Milk, and raising awareness through photography is a sense of activism in its own right, and we liked that subtle verbal link.
Why did you decide to have a collective of women?
Women photographers have different access points to men photographers, meaning they can obtain different stories than men and this is usually due to, but not limited to, comfort or cultural reasons. Although there are many female photographers nowadays in the industry, there are not many female collectives which we know of. We thought that if we came together as female photographers from different parts of the world, we could offer something new within the industry, and create stories which span geographical borders yes are unified within something larger.
What are your main goals as a collective? What is the core of your work?
We want to create two types of stories and a platform to tell them on. The first, in-depth stories which we are working on individually in our respective countries. The second, collaborative projects with each other to give a wider perspective on a situation due to cultural differences. Our stories are not always about female issues, however, they are naturally always from a females point of view. We cannot take the presence of the female out of the situation, and I think that is our vantage point. Our eventual goal is to work together on in-depth, long-term projects.
What are the challenges that you face as women in the photojournalism world?
As we said before, the number of females in the photojournalism world is increasing. This is making it less surprising to find a female photographer in a situation which is somewhat traditionally identified as a male role. However I think this has changed and female photojournalist are, in this day and age, taken as seriously as their male counterparts. What may be challenging is for women to enter ‘dominantly male’ environments, however, this may be just as challenging vice versa, ie. a man entering a ‘dominantly female’ environment. As a job, it also puts the individually in an uncertain situation financially and time-wise, it is hard to match up with a fixed schedule that would work with family time or a stable relationship. Finally, we think it’s emotionally challenging, but that could also work as a strong point.
What are you working on at this moment?
Individually, we are working on long-term projects which differ in topics. From the daily life of a transgender child growing up in a supporting environment to a single mother who adopted three children with down syndrome, to the life of a model/boxer in London and the daily private life of Iranian women. Together, we are working on blog projects. Our current one is a collection of portraits and life advice from elderly women in different countries. We feel that life advice and wisdom from older people is valuable, and should be recorded. We are planning more in-depth projects collaboratively at the moment too, which are perhaps more hard news-related.
Mojgan Ghanbari/Milk Collective Laure D'Utruy/Milk Collective Joanna Demarco/Milk Collective
We are also currently planning some exciting projects with other photography-related organisations.
Being a part by many miles, how do you manage to coordinate the works and how often do all the five of you meet?
For this question we would like to say a big thank you to the creators of Skype and Watsapp, who made this all possible. We are in constant conversation on Watsapp, and take it to email threads when we want to send something longer and of discussion. We try and have a Skype meeting every few weeks which is always tricky due to time differences and shaky internet connections.