Headstrong: Women and Empowerment: Curated by Fast Forward: Women in Photography

26 January - 28 May 2023

Self-portraiture has always been a tool of empowerment for women. Societies have led us to believe that, as women, we have a certain place and need to perform in a certain way and this has been like wearing a straight jacket. Feminist politics have affected changes to these patriarchal ideas and photography has been one of its tools.


The earliest photographic self-portraits date back to 1839 at the same time as the medium was invented and self-portraits by women became known as early as the mid 1850s with the extraordinary images directed by Countess Castiglione in Paris.


Headstrong celebrates the work of living photographers based in Britain. It looks at women who have made work that is concerned with how they are represented, what they are dealing with in their everyday lives and what it means to embrace diversities that challenge the conservative order of a patriarchal society. Their work is playful, thought-provoking and often surprising.


Anna Fox, from Fast Forward, comments:

“Fast Forward and Centre for British Photography are celebrating the work of women artists and photographers, based in the UK, who are breaking the mould, proposing new ideas and inventing new identities. This exhibition foregrounds artists and photographers who have been using self-portraiture as a tool to crack open the oppressive, often punishing nature of patriarchy. From exposing cyberbullies to exploring the multiplicity of female identity these portraits re-invent out dated concepts of how we should behave, how we should be and what we can become. The work speaks back to the tedious drone of misogynist culture(s) and proposes new ways of being and understanding.”


James Hyman, Founding Director of the Centre for British Photography comments :

“We were delighted to offer Fast Forward the opportunity to curate the major opening show, for the new Centre for British Photography. As supporters of Fast Forward, we are pleased to provide this platform for their efforts to improve the representation and visibility of women working in photography. It has been stimulating to work with them on the content of the show and on the related programme of talks and events. We look forward to welcoming you to the centre.”



Whiskey Chow, Shirin Fathi, Joy Gregory, Sarah Maple, Rosy Martin collaborations with Jo Spence and Verity Welstead, Haley Morris-Cafiero, Trish Morrissey, Paloma Tendero, Maryam Wahid, Maxine Walker, Rainbow Sisters*, Vicky Hodgson, Putting Ourselves in the Picture Bradford Group – Ana, Elham, Manar, Maryam, Taraneh.


*The exhibition includes works by Rainbow Sisters, a group of LGBTQ+ women who are in the process of seeking, or have been granted, asylum in the UK, who took part in the collaborative mentorship project Putting Ourselves in the Picture. This project was organised by Fast Forward with five partners: in London with Autograph and Women for Refugee Women; in Scotland with National Galleries of Scotland; in Bradford  with Impressions Gallery and on line with Work Show Grow. The Rainbow Sisters work grew out of the London based partnership between Autograph and Women for Refugee Women. As well the show includes the zines made by the refugee women who formed the Bradford group at Impressions Gallery as part of the Putting Ourselves in the Picture project.


More details here of the London collaboration here:  https://autograph.org.uk/projects-research/putting-ourselves-in-the-picture and here for the full Putting Ourselves in the Picture project: