How women photographers access worlds hidden from men

We asked National Geographic photographers to reflect on how gender influences their work.

"If I could give advice to women, particularly women in places with less resources, I’d say value your perspective. I wish I cherished my background, being a Filipino woman, earlier. When I was younger I spent too much time trying to form myself in shapes that I was not, because I thought that that’s what it took to be a photographer. I didn’t value the things that made me, me."
Photograph by Hannah Reyes Morales

There are benefits to being a photographer who happens to be a woman: you’re welcomed into secret worlds, invited into homes, and trusted with the most delicate subjects. Then there are the downsides: fighting to be taken seriously by a male-dominated industry, entering dangerous and unpredictable situations, and tackling stereotypes about where women should go and the topics they should cover. We asked National Geographic's women photographers from across the world for memories and reflections on how gender is intertwined with their work, the opportunities for young women coming after them, and the future of their field. They showed us their favorite photographs of women—a young falconer in Mongolia (above), a Saudi motorcyclist, a Japanese geisha taking a smoking break—and told us the behind-the-scenes stories. They also told us they were optimistic that the status quo is changing, thanks to those who fought for decades to be taken seriously. "For a very long time, we've been predominantly looking at the world through the experience and vision of male photographers," says photographer Daniella Zalcman. "That's changing more and more rapidly now—and it's about time." Here are their words and photographs.

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