Ruby and Power

‘Judgements do not define me; I define me. I am powerful for being who I am, not another person’s version of myself.’

'Power isn’t something you are born with; power is earned; something you fight for. Everything that I have gone through and will go through has pushed growth within myself. If it weren't for the adversity myself or any woman has faced we wouldn't be the women we are today and that in itself is very powerful. I am lucky to have been brought up around powerful women who I really looked up to for inspiration, who always encouraged me to take myself seriously and to back myself.'

'I am powerful because I grow. As I grow I learn who I am. Growth is power.'

'I don’t agree with the statement what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger; I feel like the statement puts too much power into the position of what didn’t kill you. It doesn’t show the support you received or any of the internal change after it. Your resilience is what makes you stronger, it isn’t the falling it is the getting back up and trying again.'

// Ruby’s portraits were shot with a PentaxK1000 and Portra400 film and expired Fujifilm Fujicolor Superia X-TRA 400. No edits.

Nikki and Power

‘I feel as though a lot of my power comes out of my own fragility. When I feel really emotional or fragile that’s when I feel most powerful - that’s when I start writing and painting.’

Nice is a word often used to describe passive women, but I think sweet girls and nice girls are powerful in their energy. I try to surround myself with nice girls, because they are the people who strive to make others feel good - and to give other people power is a truly empowering thing to do.’

// Nikki's portraits were shot with a PentaxK1000 and Portra400 film. No edits.

Fury and Power

'I feel powerful when I surprise men who are attempting to shrink-ray me with my intelligence, strength and dissent. Whether it be in a cat-calling situation, a butt-grabbing situation or even just a mansplaining situation. The look on their faces when they realise what they’ve walked into is so priceless and delicious, I just love it.'

'The way I dress/my appearance in general has always been an extremely empowering regimen for me. It makes me feel powerful to define my own femininity and make choices that people or even just I might not always expect. I feel most powerful when I am acting against the current, and questioning otherwise concrete norms that somehow feel inherently wrong.'

‘[At school], the girls had the tentatively granted option to wear a tunic or pants and I was one of the only girls (perhaps the only) in my year to choose the pants option, in perpetuum. If comments were ever made it only cemented the need for me to continue; I felt strong and different. I also rocked a heavy cat eye through the better part of high school, despite being sent to the office every second day or so to remove it along with any nail polish I was wearing. Eventually they conceded and left me to it ~ tiny battles lol. I continued to do it right until the end, and it always made me feel so diabolical and big in a place that was otherwise trying to shrink me down. I did a shoot once where I was made to look quite androgynous, and it made me feel so powerful and strangely, so feminine. I think for me it was a similar feeling to what I played with during adolescence.'

'I saw the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition today... his images of Patti are incredible, and I’ve always identified with her on a cosmic level. She’s so raw and powerful and unapologetic and completely defines her own femininity. She has to be one of my biggest idols.'

// Fury’s portraits were shot with a PentaxK1000 and Portra400 film. No edits.

Moni and Power

‘I feel most powerful when I’m learning and able to communicate effectively. After all, knowledge is power, and learning and listening, in whatever form that may be, makes me feel like a more connected and understanding person. And I feel like true power and compassion comes from these forms. In order to be a good artist, writer, or have an informed opinion on anything, you need to listen first, understand experiences and then speak. And I honestly feel truly powerful when I’m in that cycle of listening and producing as when I’m making art or writing essays is when I feel like I am able to be my most expressive.’

‘Feeling like I have a voice (when that happens) makes me feel quite powerful and listened to. But also, learning about other people and connecting with other people… as their stories fill me with passion and allow me to broaden my perspective, making me feel more connected to different humans. I guess just understanding people and listening to people, but also being heard through that sense of communication.’

‘I think as a WOC [Womn Of Colour] in Australia, we are not really represented at all in the political landscape or the media so we really have no visible power, which is really unfortunate because migrants and POC [People of Colour] are the backbone of Australia’s economy (in particular paying taxes).’

‘I don’t really feel as though I have a voice outside of an artistic community as many people question and invalidate concerns and issues that POC [People of Colour] deal with (mainly white cis females funnily enough) or have to make every issue about them when they just need to listen. But funnily enough in the art community (or in my work) I struggle to make work that is political and speaks without being to outwardly preachy because when you’re preachy, people don’t take your concerns seriously as you get lumped in with a group of extremities. However, I for sure have a much louder and more represented voice than those in the LGBTQI+, indigenous and disabled communities.'

‘Having the privilege and opportunity to dress how I please without any restriction makes me feel powerful as I feel like that’s the one form of expression that we all must partake in every day and I love being able to explore my identity through how I represent myself. I feel like it’s one of the only ways I’m able to express myself and others have to listen (if they look) without being controlled (at least not as much as other places in the world). But of course, the way I dress is still controlled and shaped by my context.’

// Moni's portraits were taken with a PentaxK1000 and Portra 400 film. No edits.

Ella and Power

'Feminine identity is something that I’ve consistently struggled with throughout my adult life. I’ve felt immense pressure to make a choice about the “type” of woman I want to be. I’m not allowed to be loud and foul-mouthed but also intelligent and thoughtful. I can’t wear all black one day and all pink the next. I can’t stumble off the dance floor at 3am and be at my desk 6 hours later.'

'Depth and complexity are often traits that are considered inherently masculine, and I’ve found that women are rarely afforded the space to flourish as multifaceted human beings. The pressure to fit a mould has weighed very heavily on me at times. It’s taken me some time to be able to say to myself that any person (and particularly any man) that is intimidated by a strong woman isn’t worth a second of my time. I don’t want to water myself down.'

'Increasingly I’ve had to prioritise taking care of myself, which isn’t something I’m used to. I’m ignoring anybody that suggests that a woman who prioritises herself is “selfish” or “indulgent”. We don’t live in a world that celebrates confident women, so I feel like owning yourself and everything you like is a really rebellious act. I feel most powerful when I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I try to enrich my life with anything and everything that makes me feel brave, strong and womanly.'

// Ella's portraits were shot with a PentaxK1000 and Portra 400 film. No edits.

Annie and Power

(CW: suicide, mental illness)

‘I was deeply depressed and suicidal from a young age, and though I never fully understood those feelings until I was older, I still felt their debilitating hold, the related anxieties and self loathing attached, and though I still feel it on occasion now, I can safely say that my experiences since then, my failures, mistakes and lessons learnt, that have empowered me to be the person that I am today, strengthened my resolve and my character, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.’

‘In terms of what it means to be someone who identifies as a woman, for me, I grew up with a mother who was hardly ever there, she worked all the time. I was raised quite traditionally, my mother always had a perceived image of me. She had told me often of the sacrifices she had undergone just to have me, of how, before my birth, she forwent meat for a whole year, all so that she might have a baby girl. All throughout my youth I had heard tirelessly of how I never quite met her picture image, even now, she still asks me if I’d relent and take her up on her offer of plastic surgery, (because under her belief, if I could but shed the masculine jawline that I have, I might be the perfect feminine girl that she had wished for).’

‘In retrospect, I think, given the way I was raised, part of me had learned at a young age to correlate all the traits of men with strength and prowess. I wanted to run wild with my brothers, the word ‘tomboy’ was music to my ears, I wanted independence, I didn’t want to be weak, I grew hard and spoke less, forgot how to confide in my family, became sullen and misunderstood. In my adolescence, I dressed solely in shorts and T-shirt’s, vests and ties, surrounded myself in darkness, I abhorred the colour pink. I refused to wear skirts or dresses, (much to the disdain of my mother,) I was afraid to, for fear of the perception and the connotations attached, and then later still, when I had made amends with the feminine deep within me, I began to lean the other way. Bared my body as a weapon, found thrills in stolen glances and hungry open stares, in my mistaken perception of seduction, my mother called me a whore. These two abstracts of either spectrum enthralled me, they confounded me and held me captive. I thought I knew who I was, or rather who I was trying to portray. I thought I knew was what power was. I thought I knew a lot, of course I was wrong, as so often we are at that age. It wasn’t until much later on that I realised that I was fooling myself, that I was a prisoner of my own image and my own body, that I had suppressed a whole great deal trying to be who I thought I had to be. With time, I learnt that strength came from within, from the heart, from amnesty and love, and I came to recognise that the power I held was mine alone, to do with as I pleased, and in support of this, as well as in lieu of any personal aspirations, whether occupationally or educationally, a little ways ago I made a vow to myself, regardless of cumbersome or how often I fail; to be a benefit, not a burden, to surround myself with love, that with whatever little light I held inside, I would devote it to making my life, and the lives of those around me, however bright I can, because in its heart, it’s a tangible goal which empowers me to try harder yet still.’

‘I was useless for a good deal after high school, besieged by an onslaught of depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies that my parents didn’t understand or want to, it wasn’t something they had ever known, mental illness was as foreign to them as this country was, when they first landed here.’

‘You will never stop learning, improving, you still make mistakes, it’s the very nature of life, but time and perspective can teach you to understand and forgive a lot of things. Sometimes you need to grow before you can heal, as Mary Tyler Moore once said, “you can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you”.’

‘I went through a lot of dark times in my life, and I know wholeheartedly that a lot of people out there could say the same. I have seen so many girls out in the world ruled by the walls of their own creation, and I can share in their humility, their anxiety, their want to be beloved, their fear of not fitting in, the quiet things that rule behind every single grin. And so often I’m torn between berating the confidence and self love into them, and to sharing in the pain, because realistically, no one has the answers, as human beings, our very nature fosters imperfection. And we need the hard times, it’s those times that nurture you the most, as trying as they are, they teach you strength and resilience, give you the kind of awakening and understanding that only time and experience can gather. Because you can’t rush growing up, at least nowhere near as easily and you can rush misunderstanding and misfortune.’

‘I find power in intelligence, in strength of mind and character, in mental fortitude, in openness and kindness, in forgiveness, in owning your identity and your own story, in the resolve to overcome adversity and adhering to your own values.’

‘The fact of the matter is, there is still inequality in the world, and there is still work to be done, but what warms my heart and fills me with pride is the ratio; the shifting ratio of those who want change, who will fight for it, spread their truths and raise awareness. I think there is hope for us yet. I think we’ll get there someday, hopefully sooner than later.’

// Annie's portraits were shot with a PentaxK1000 and Portra400 film. No edits.

About Women and Power

Women and Power is a project aiming to showcase what power can mean for different individuals who identify as a woman.

As someone who identifies as a woman, I find myself pushing away traditional expectations that surround womanhood and femininity. The challenges I’ve faced due to the gender I identify with have influenced the way I perceive gender and the way it informs how I exist in the world. For me, identifying as a woman means being my own individual and being critical, and I hope my series Women and Power has successfully contributed to discussions which work to challenge the normative ideas that exist in our society.

There’s so much to learn. I take full responsibility for the fact that whilst a woman, who faces inequality (which so many incredible individuals have fought to reduce in the past, present and will continue to in the future), I still hold so much power and privilege.

I’ve learned a lot from this series. I’ve learned that you can feel powerful by going within, being sensitive, nice and vulnerable. You can be powerful by rejecting societal norms and challenging traditional notions of gender. You can find power through your complexity. You can be powerful through facing adversity and fighting it. You can be powerful through your ability to never give in or give up.


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