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Paul Piper, Special Collections Librarian at Western, worked with Western Libraries Heritage Resources and the Bellingham Visual Journalism Conference to bring the exhibit to Wilson Library. Photo by Alexandra Bartick
On the sixth floor of Western’s Wilson Library, an exhibit is on display that will tell stories in a way only photography can. The artists featured in the gallery are successful female photojournalists from the Washington D.C. area. Emotion, action and setting are aspects of each picture photographers look for, but the support given and the exposure received are aspects of the gallery that help to increase gender equality in photojournalism. The exhibit is presented by the Women Photojournalists of Washington (WPOW) organization and will be featured in the library until Monday, July 27. This is the seventh year that this annual traveling exhibition has been on display at Western, and the show features work from photographers such as Jacquelyn Martin and Best in Show, from the featured gallery, winner Ami Vitale. Melissa Golden, president of the WPOW organization, said that the role of women in photojournalism is steadily increasing, but still has a long way to go. “There are more women entering the profession than ever and women are certainly represented at the top of the field, but far less so as you go down the pyramid,” Golden said. Paul Piper, a librarian at Western’s Wilson Library, who helped to bring the exhibit to the Special Collections room of the Wilson Library, echoed this sentiment. “It is similar to other professions where women are getting more of a voice, more recognition, but probably are still not equal to men,” Piper said. While this gallery is a highlight of the art captured by photographers, it is also a way to foster the success of those who took them. The WPOW organization’s mission statement reads that they are a “nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about the role of women in photojournalism and fostering their professional success,” according to the WPOW organization’s website. The organization consists of 250 members and holds workshops with guest speakers, mentoring programs and annual juried exhibitions. “We provide a support structure for women who face obstacles and discouragement,” Golden said. “We want them, our industry and the public, to know what we do has value and our perspective as women has an important place in the storytelling that journalists do.” The photos on display are meant to tell a story or document an event as this is a photojournalism exhibit, and not simply a photography exhibit. Charles W. L. Deale, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association, said photos could tell a story in a way words could not. “Well, you know, the classic saying, ‘a picture tells a thousand words,’ is certainly true I think,” Deale said. “When I [think] back over my lifespan, and [think] about pretty historic moments that have occurred, what tends to resonate with me are the iconic images.”
The Women Photojournalists of Washington exhibit is on display on the 6th floor of Wilson Library until July 27. Photo by Alexandra Bartick
Golden, being a photojournalist herself, agreed with Deale’s comments about the impact a photo can have. “Images are so much more fundamental to us as a visual species,” Golden said. “They transcend written and spoken language to communicate key information with efficiency and a quiet eloquence.” One of the storytellers featured in the gallery is well-known photographer Ami Vitale. Her photo won Best in Show of the gallery and features a young African girl from the country of Benin. The bright contrasts of the subject’s make-up and zoomed-in frame of the portrait provide a striking photo, Golden said. “While the most immediate and striking feature is the vibrant color, the picture goes beyond that to convey femininity, strength, serenity and austerity,” Golden said. Deale said he recognizes the work that must be done to improve gender equality in the photojournalism industry. He agrees that the work put out by these female photojournalists is just as good, if not superior to the work of the male counterparts. He said he hopes that one day we won’t have to distinguish between male and female, and we can simply appreciate the work of a photojournalist. The gallery will be on display on the sixth floor of Wilson Library from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. every Monday through Friday, until Monday, July 27. “Like most industries, photojournalism has come a long way, but there’s still work to be done,” Golden said. “When you combine [equality issues] with the limited job prospects that plague journalism, too many talented women are hanging up their cameras.”  


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