Brave Women

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ShootProof / Community Voices

Rachel LaCour Niesen is a Yankee by birth but a Southern storyteller at heart. When a much-loved uncle gifted her with her first SLR camera, Rachel found her calling in photography. In pursuit of her passion, she headed to the University of Missouri, where she studied Photojournalism. She’s currently a Business Development Strategist at ShootProof

Brave Women Are Changing the World, One Picture at a Time

Sometimes changing the world starts at home. At ShootProof, we see women photographers bravely sharing their perspectives, consistently telling the stories that matter most to them. Many of those stories are found in the photographer's hometown or region. After all, when a story is close to your heart, it’s natural to tell it.

These three brave women are changing the world through their photos and films. Their vision informs us, their images challenge us and their dedication inspires us.

And they make some of their best work in their own backyards.

1. Elaine McMillion Sheldon

The stories of Americans living in rural areas are often overshadowed by a barrage of international news updates. But for filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, proximity to her subjects is important. As a native West Virginian, Sheldon feels called to shine a light on her home. The light she shines so brightly leads her to stories of identity, roots, survival, resilience and hope.

"I never thought I’d be back in West Virginia, I thought I was gone, but I got out and then I realized that I’m from a place that’s very unique and a place that people don’t really understand,” from an interview with Sheldon on “100 Days in Appalachia.”

Sheldon recently created "Heroin(e)" a Netflix Original Documentary short that follows three women fighting the opioid crisis in Huntington, West Virginia. "Heroin(e)" was nominated for a 2018 Academy Award and won the 2018 Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Documentary.

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2. Tasneem Alsultan

From women’s voting rights in the Middle East to the complexities of marriage in Saudi Arabia, Tasneem covers compelling gender and social issues in the Arab Gulf region. Her personal project, Saudi Tales of Love, taps into her own history. She got married at 17 and became a mother at 21. After a divorce that shook her sense of societal expectations, Tasneem began exploring the theme of love and long-term relationships. What she discovered was a testament to the power of human connection: She’s also a member of Rawiya, the first all-female collective from the Middle East and a Canon Ambassador. When she’s not pursuing documentary work, you can find her photographing wedding celebrations around the world.

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3. Yagazie Emezi

As a self-taught documentary photographer from Aba, Nigeria, Emezi is focused on African women and their stories. She feels particularly drawn to timely topics surrounding women’s health, sexuality and beauty standards.

During a visit to the township of West Point in Liberia, Emezi found brightly colored fabrics and sunny shades of makeup in one of the rainiest spots on the planet. Her portraits of Liberian women are striking reminders that beauty starts with self-expression.

Each woman in Emezi’s photographs brings her own vibrance and sense of self to the scene. Rather than selecting clothing or makeup based on what matches, or what’s on-trend, the women in Emezi’s portraits showcase how color and patterns make them feel. By broadening our sense of beauty, Emezi helps us see strength in uniquely personal choices. You can find more of her work, including recent personal projects, on Instagram.

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Discover more brave women who are changing the world, one photo at a time.

These are just three women who inspire the team at ShootProof. To immerse yourself in images that will keep you coming back again and again, check out “Women Photograph,” a group that elevates the voices of women visual journalists Founded by 2017 Real Life Speaker Daniella Zalcman.

Their mission is simple and poignant: “to shift the gender makeup of the photojournalism community and ensure that our industry's chief storytellers are as diverse as the communities they hope to represent.”

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Their database includes hundreds of independent women documentary photographers based in 99 countries. In their words, “Women Photograph is inclusive of a plurality of feminine voices including trans, queer and non-binary people.”

The group also offers annual grants, a mentorship program, and a travel fund to help female photographers access workshops, festivals, and other developmental opportunities.

No matter where you find your inspiration, your encouragement, your tribe, we want you to know that we’re with you – from the moment you decide to pursue photography to the time when you collapse into your bed after an 18-hour shoot. Together we’re thriving. Together we’re changing the world.

Bio Photo by Anna Kuperberg

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