4 Women Photographers on the Most Difficult Photograph They’ve Ever Taken

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it’s normal The myth that creative genius is born naturally – Beethoven just understood music, Michelangelo magically knew how to draw, Denzel Washington was born ready to act. But the truth is that talent takes time. Processing ideas, experimenting, sketching and planning, overcoming setbacks, experiencing moments of inspiration are all part of the job. In honor of Women’s History Month, WIRED magazine asked four women photographers to demystify the process by telling us about their most difficult shot yet.

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These interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Photographer Jasmine Clarke took this photo of her father and sister in Jamaica, where her father is from.

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Photo: Jasmine Clark

Jasmine Clark

Photographer, Brooklyn

WIRED: Tell us about the photo you chose.

Jasmine Clark: Monty and Zoraya is a photograph of my dad and sister in Jamaica, where my dad is from. I wanted to create a portrait that reveals very little of the subjects, but still evokes an emotional response. I wanted the image to be warm and inviting while still maintaining a level of privacy.

Why do you consider it the most difficult photo?

I had a clear idea of ​​how I wanted the image to look, but I wasn’t sure if I could make my vision a reality. Creating an image – drawing up a visual plan – is more difficult for me than working on a photograph. In addition, photographing your family is always difficult.

Do you have any advice for artists who may be stuck or don’t know how to proceed with their work?

Keep a process diary – write down all your frustrations, fears and concerns. Then put the magazine aside and take some pictures. Try to separate the creator from the critic. It’s almost impossible for me to work if I over-analyze every photo I take. This may happen later in the process.

“It was a landscape I had never visited before and I knew the consequences of artists reacting and taking from an environment they don’t consider part of their own,” Felicity Hammond says of this photo she took at Barrow- in. – Furness, England.

Photo: Felicity Hammond

Felicity Hammond

Mixed media artist, London

WIRED: Tell us about the photo you chose.

Felicity Hammond: In Defense of Industry is the result of a commission I completed for Signal Film and Media in Barrow-in-Furness in the north of England. He drew attention to the relationship between the history of the city and the landscape in general, in particular the history of mining in the area and the subsequent shift towards nuclear industry in the mid-20th century. Getting to the heart of the ongoing political issues surrounding the influence of the nuclear industry – in a city best known as the site of the construction of the Trident submarines – the work takes up topics related to defense, secrecy and the invisible land below the surface.

Why do you consider it the most difficult photo?

It was a landscape that I had never visited before, and I was aware of the consequences of reacting to artists and taking them from an environment that they do not consider part of their own. The work came about through many visits and building relationships with local groups and those who commissioned the work, which in itself was insightful and challenging. Recently I have also been thinking about this work; The devastating events of the past few weeks have brought me back to that image, and I can’t help but think of the power and violence inherent in the industries that support arms production.

How does challenge or even failure fit into your creative practice?

Failure is a big part of success. A lot of my work involves material processes that we don’t normally associate with photography, so trials and tribulations become part of my creation process. I also exhibit my photographic work in extended installations, which have their own challenges. When I exhibited In Defense of Industry at Barrow-in-Furness, I used water for the first time in my work. The commissioners supported my idea of ​​creating a huge 10-meter pool with a photo collage printed on a lightbox and reflected in the water. It seemed really ambitious and exciting, and it certainly involved trial and error and complex processes.

Cheryl Sanchez took this photo during the 2021 Puerto Rico Day parade.

Photograph: Cheryl Sanchez

Cheryl Sanchez

Photographer, Brooklyn

WIRED: Tell us about the photo you chose.

Cheryl Sanchez: I took this photo last year during the Puerto Rico Day Parade when my roommates invited me to participate in the day’s activities. I decided to take my camera with me and take pictures of my meetings, resulting in some of my favorite shots to date. While walking we ran into this man, in all his Puerto Rican pride, playing salsa from his speakers. His presence was so energetic and welcoming that I had to stop him and take a picture.

How has this image influenced or changed the way you work since then?

This photo made me feel uncomfortable and fearful when it comes to creativity. Instead of obsessing over results, I have learned to enjoy the process and believe that no matter how little planning is required, your creations can be equally beautiful. Accepting the resistance that naturally arises when fear of failure is present can teach you a lot. One of the problems I often face is the over-criticism of my work. But moments like these remind me that while the photographs I take are important, my mentality and feelings while taking them are of great value.

Assuming that overcoming adversity is a creative process for you, how do you hope to face adversity as a photographer in the future?

Communication between photographer and subject is both difficult and incredibly important. I want to further develop this by photographing people who are not used to being in front of a camera.

This photo shows Rosette Rago and her best friends in the living room where they isolated themselves during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Photograph: Rosette Rago

Rosetta Rago

Photographer, Sacramento and Los Angeles

WIRED: Tell us about the photo you chose.

Rosette Rago: This is a photo of me and my best friends that I worked on last year for a project about finding love in a time of hate. When the photo was taken, we were all working from home and in isolation for over a year. Three of my friends lived in the same house, and our life began to revolve around their living room. I had a tough divorce and for several months I sat in their living room with my laptop while my friend Michael worked on his Peloton and my friend Neil tended to his houseplants by the window. We watched the election results in that living room. We played random music for hours as we sat and ate snacks, wondering when we could go outside again. Greg, who lived within walking distance, stopped by in the evening after work. At the time, I was living in my best friend Erika’s one-room apartment and she would pick me up from home. For that long and strange time, this living room was our world.

Why do you consider it the most difficult photo?

It was a very emotional time for everyone. I was tired of all the news coming from different parts of the world, and the project was essentially about hope. I was furious and exhausted, but working on this project made me sit down and think about the things in my life that I am grateful for. I also felt a deep sense of responsibility in getting the most important people in my life involved. These are my people and I feel safe here. I wanted to be able to honestly portray what they mean to me and how much happiness they bring to my life.

What problem do you often face in your work?

Having been an editorial photographer for most of my career, I usually don’t have the luxury of time. Now that I’m diving into long-term personal projects, I’ve had to learn to sit still and basically try to do the opposite of what I’ve always done before. When I see this image now, it makes me emotional. It is important. This is what I’m looking for when working on my projects. I am sincere with this photo and will I feel it in a year? I have to take care not only about creating an aesthetically beautiful image. I also have to keep my impostor syndrome at bay. The question that often comes up in my brain is, “Am I the right person to tell this story?” I have been given so many incredible opportunities in my career and I find it hard to believe that I am worthy of them. It’s something I’ve gotten better at, but it’s always there. I am learning to trust myself and my instincts more.

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