Leica Women Foto Project 2019 Awardees
Eva Woolridge, Yana Paskova, and Debi Cornwall

The Leica Women Foto Project serves as a platform to empower visual storytellers to demonstrate the importance of the female point of view and to encourage the community to connect and inspire one another through photography.

Find inspiration as you explore the photographic journey of our Leica Women Foto Project 2019 awardees since the inaugural announcement, and see how the initiative has impacted their personal growth and professional career.

Eva Woolridge

"As a young photographer, I have worked in the industry for almost a decade now, and this was a moment where I finally received the recognition for all of my work and on a much larger platform. To be one of the three recipients of the first Leica Women Foto Project was extremely rewarding. I have evolved not only as a photographer, but as a businesswoman and public speaker that aligns with my social activism. Since winning the award, opportunities continue to flow toward me with abundance."

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Q. Since the announcement of our 2019 Leica Women Foto Project awardees, how has that impacted your photographic journey so far?
A. Winning the award was an extremely affirming experience for me. As a young photographer, I have worked in the industry for almost a decade now, and this was a moment where I finally received the recognition for all of my work and on a much larger platform. To be one of the three recipients of the first Leica Women Foto Project was extremely rewarding. I have evolved not only as a photographer, but as a businesswoman and public speaker that aligns with my social activism. Since winning the award, opportunities continue to flow toward me with abundance. I developed my own print making business, cutting out the middleman and printing my own pieces to sell. I spoke at Schomburg Research Center in Harlem, presented a TedxTalk, gained a mentor, published in an international photographer magazine, featured on countless podcasts regarding my professional experience as a photographer, and currently leading my own workshops, one being with Leica. The Leica team has been extremely present for me every step in the way, and the program leaders did their part to ensure I milked this opportunity for everything that it could offer. The program's success depends on the success of the awardees, and I am appreciative of how flexible the team is to provide opportunities. 

Q. Describe how you use the Leica Q2 as a tool for your work.
A. I am not a tech-focused photographer. I never really cared with how expensive a camera was or acquiring top grade equipment. I only needed a camera as the vehicle to best share my story. And when I received the Leica Q2, my game had changed. It is such an accessible, sturdy and dependable camera. I completely favor it for my photojournalism work, as it captures moments beautifully and quickly. I truly think my work has leveled up from the Leica Q2.

Q. How have you used the funds to support your photographic series?
A. I used the Leica funds to reinvest in my career. My first expense was taking the Ralph Gibson Book Making Workshop in Boston. It was the best grand I've ever spent because not only did it teach me to create a photography book, but for three days I interacted with one of the most successful photographers still working today. When the quarantine began, I felt inclined to find a new source of income, and so after over a year of delay I decided to buy a professional photo printer. I thought that with the award I would have completed the year with a book. Instead, I started a new journey of financial independence and creative freedom. 

Q. What advice do you have for photographers who are in the process (or are interested) of developing their own series or personal project?
A. I advise prospective photographers to submit work they are truly passionate about. Do not create and submit work you THINK will stand out to the judges. My series Size of a Grapefruit was less of a submission to impress, but instead an effort to spotlight a real social issue affecting Black women. It came from a personal experience, which led to more passion when creating the series. My goal was to heal, which is why I think it was so relatable for the judges. Source inspiration from your own experiences, it will not only be more successful and authentic, but it will also be more fulfilling for you as an artist. 

Q. What is your vision for the Leica Women Foto Project?
A. I want the next winners to acquire the same efforts toward mentorship, and fully taking the advantages given to you. It could be easy for a winner to feel paralyzed from this immediate recognition. How will they take advantage of such a big opportunity? I want winners to be flexible with changes that could occur (i.e an international pandemic) , and how those changes don't have to stop them from benefiting from this experience. I hope that this program can develop true mentorship, like it had for me with one of the judges, and continue to provide space for winners to step into developing their own programming if the opportunity develops, like it had for me.

Yana Paskova

"Receiving the Leica award immediately meant a greater reach for work I care to do, and greater means and motivation to complete it. Our in-person exhibits and talks just pre-pandemic, in addition to their digital counterparts post, have formulated thought and creativity that connects us with the photographic community on a practical basis, as well as engendered far subtler growth in our ability to reflect on our careers so far and their future direction."

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Q. Since the announcement of our 2019 Leica Women Foto Project awardees, how has that impacted your photographic journey so far? 
A. Receiving the Leica award immediately meant a greater reach for work I care to do, and greater means and motivation to complete it. It isn’t just financially that you are bolstered, but also emotionally, emotion being a subconscious or intentional part of the dedication we invest into our projects. Our in-person exhibits and talks just pre-pandemic, in addition to their digital counterparts post, have formulated thought and creativity that connects us with the photographic community on a practical basis, as well as engendered far subtler growth in our ability to reflect on our careers so far and their future direction. In short, it’s been beneficial (especially to the innately individualistic quality of freelance work) to suddenly feel at home within a niche community of talented creators. 

Q. Describe how you use the Leica Q2 as a tool for your work.
A. The Q2 allows me to engage with other people in a less obtrusive manner, as it is small, light, extremely quiet in its natural 28 mm state, but also stays small, light and quiet as I ask it for a variety in distance and perspective, through its digital zoom features. What’s more, since I like my photos to mimic what my eyes see, that its pictures manifest nearly as crisp in color and focus as the world they represent, is of course the Q2’s greatest draw. This is because when a camera seamlessly rivals the inimitable quality of real life, I can focus on the art of technique and ingenuity in creating imagery, instead of worrying about its invisible technical aspects. 

Q. How have you used the funds to support your photographic series? 
A. Originally, I aimed to use the funds to continue some of my travels for my series on all-female communities, but as the pandemic beset the world with unimaginable health risks from sharing space and travel, I’ve of course had to revise. Although those journeys still might happen in the future when it is safe to do so, for now, I’ve been using the funds to continue doing research and ideating on the continuation of my project, in place for the time I would have engaged in paid assignment or personal work and travel, both of which have now become exponentially more dangerous to all involved. This has given me the flexibility and space to more comfortably expand the foundation of all great projects: knowledge and imagination. 

Q. What advice do you have for photographers who are in the process (or are interested) of developing their own series or personal project?
A. Absolutely always follow the passions of your instincts, for a story is never better told than when you truly want to tell it, but be certain the expression of your interests stays grounded in our ever-evolving understanding of what it means to enter a community that may not be your own, and tell their story in a way that respects not just your vision, but also their actuality. This takes as much preparedness of intellect as it does of empathy and communication, and I’d add, an active suppression of the self-import photojournalism has unfortunately at times dragged into doing its work. 

Q. What is your vision for the Leica Women Foto Project?
A. My vision for this grant is that it betters my life and that of other women via the work it encourages me to do and the reach it allows for both visuals and words, to an audience hopefully committed to change. For my particular project, on matriarchal and all-female societies across the world, this would mean weakening a reliance on gender norms that have so far built a global society that is physically, emotionally and financially inequitable to women, and bolstering belief and ability within female communities and women as individuals (and their allies) to fight for equality, for themselves and us all. This, of course, is a personal battle as a female freelancer in a still largely male-dominated field, as well as one of principle, especially since this pandemic has reminded us the most vulnerable in it remain women and people of color. So the further society as a whole delineates itself from norms that benefit only those select few in power, the closer we are to eradicating the many plagues of inequality. 

Debi Cornwall

"The generous Leica Women Foto Project Award enabled me to complete my long-term project, Necessary Fictions, which looks at American state-created realities through immersive, realistic military training scenarios. Equally important, as a Leica Women Foto Project awardee, I am part of a growing community with my talented colleagues Eva Wooldridge and Yana Paskova, and Leica-affiliated photographers. I've been delighted to exhibit this new work in a variety of spaces, and to be in conversation with curators and new audiences with Leica's support."

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Q. Since the announcement of our 2019 Leica Women Foto Project awardees, how has that impacted your photographic journey so far? 
A. The generous Leica Women Foto Project Award enabled me to complete my long-term project, Necessary Fictions, which looks at American state-created realities through immersive, realistic military training scenarios. The project took me to ten sites over the course of three years for my second book with nonprofit fine-art publisher, Radius Books. Equally important, as a Leica Women Foto Project awardee, I am part of a growing community with my talented colleagues Eva Wooldridge and Yana Paskova, and Leica-affiliated photographers. I've been delighted to exhibit this new work in a variety of spaces, and to be in conversation with curators and new audiences with Leica's support.

Q. What advice do you have for photographers who are in the process (or are interested) of developing their own series or personal project?
A. Your lived experience gives you unique expertise; mine it. Don't be afraid to think big. Feel it out, and when you think you're onto something, put yourself in a funder's shoes and ask, "Would I fund me yet?" Being able to show proof of concept -- that you can get access or do whatever is needed to make good on the promise of your project statement -- will make all the difference.

Q. What is your vision for the Leica Women Foto Project? 
A. It's thrilling to see the diversity in the work awarded in the inaugural Leica Women Foto Project year. I look forward to seeing that flourish. Funding is a huge hurdle, but there are so many others to overcome. I can't wait to welcome each new class into a growing community of awardees who support each others' work and create opportunities for each other.

View the Leica Women Foto Project 2019 Winning Series

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