Amanda de Cadenet pulls very few punches. “If I have zero interest in the question,” she tells us, “I won’t answer it.” It’s a refreshing frankness from the founder and CEO of The Conversation and now, #girlgaze, a multimedia photo project designed (and recent book!) to support girls behind the camera. The project's first exhibition, #girlgaze: a frame of mind, opened at the Annenberg Space of Photography in October 2016 and ran until February 2017. It featured work from up-and-coming female and gender non-conforming photographers. It was received with open arms.
As the tale of implicit career bias goes, only one-third of professional news photographers are women. Which begs the question: whose eye is capturing what's important? The goal for de Cadenet is to get more perspectives seen, and begin championing that potential early. “It’s so important for girls to understand that they have the power,” the photographer slash founder says.
And understanding it they are. According to de Cadenet, the #girlgaze community is seeing exponential growth. “We are growing so fast that our heads are spinning. Our little team is just trying to keep up,” she shares while noting that this is good news. “Girlgaze is obviously a much-needed platform.” One that focuses on empowerment, something, she shares, “is anything that facilitates a person feeling better about themselves, or good about themselves. Building self-esteem is empowering. For me that means hiring more women across the board in various sectors, because careers build self-esteem.”
That means getting dollars. #girlgaze isn't only about giving women the platform, it's about getting them jobs. "Our goal is to close the gender gap one job at a time," she says. "My hope is that we give as many girls as possible the opportunity to work and share their point of view with the world by creating paid opportunities and ways to connect with each other and the people who write checks."
Where The Conversation addressed the fears and realities of women-- bringing the conversations taking place in Amanda’s kitchen about postpartum depression, sex, and gender stereotypes to light, #girlgaze has intentionally focused on the younger generation. "My audience was getting younger and younger-- that doesn’t happen," she says. The multitasking mama (of three) had to ask herself, why it was happening. What content was missing? She saw the gap, realizing that young girls’ exposure to the media, subtle racism and sexism and misogyny, was deeply affecting their self-esteem. “Something does well when it’s needed,” de Cadenet explains. And there was a need.
“They were getting impacted,” she says. “They wanted guidance younger, so I consciously made a choice to create something for them. Creativity is the vehicle for change for a lot of young girls that I know.” A generation she thinks highly of, citing young feminists like Rowan Blanchard. ‘It is our job and my commitment, now more than ever," she says, "to not abandon these issues and to support the next generation of girls tenfold... You have to take stock on a situation before you can change it and then you can create realistic tools.” For the lifelong activist and journalist #Girlgaze is one such tool, helping uplift strong female voices and views.
She also recently published, "It's Messy," a book of essays that came at the behest of her followers and focuses on the Brit's own story. "I wrote 'It's Messy' because many women and girls asked me to,” she explains. "The chapter subjects are curated by my social media audience and I pretty much stuck to what they wanted to know about except TMI about my sex life." The TMI part is debatable.
While it may seem that oft outspoken de Cadenet shares exactly what is on her mind, when it comes to young women sharing their POV she wants them to know, "Just speaking up without that consideration is not always smart. It doesn't need to be complicated, but stay truthful to your point of view no matter what and know your audience.”
Photography by Amanda de Cadenet