100 YEARS SINCE SUFFRAGE: OPEN EYE GALLERY STAGES ALL-WOMEN PORTRAIT TAKEOVER

To mark 100 years since some women achieved the right to vote, an all-female photography initiative has created new portraits of the UK’s women MPs, shot exclusively by women photographers. These will be displayed in a free public exhibition at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, opening 28th February.

‘209 Women’ is a national artist-led project to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage and champion the visibility of women, particularly in environments that are still largely male-dominated. A collective of 209 women photographers from all across the UK has formed, volunteering their time to make and mark history.

The exhibition launched in the Houses of Parliament on December 14, 100 years to the day since the first women voted in a UK general election. There will be a public opening event for its launch at Open Eye Gallery on 28th February at 6PM, and the free exhibition will run until 14th April.

Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, said:

“The exhibition will for once put women centre stage, acting as a reminder to never leave women out of the equation, on behalf of all citizens but particularly the 51% of the population who have been so unequally represented.

“To represent and be presented for what we are – as women, by women – is a very special thing. This is what 209 women is all about.

Tracy Marshall, Director of Development and Partnerships at Open Eye Gallery, said:

“Photography has become one of the primary ways that we reflect and communicate our vision of the world. Through images, we gain a sense not only of how things are, but also how things could be.

“This project carries so much potential in communicating our vision of gender parity, pointing to a society where policy is made with people of all genders in mind. That’s why everyone at Open Eye Gallery is behind this national collaboration of artists and politicians, all the way: to light up the way to a future where gender is no obstacle — in art, in business, in politics and in every other pursuit.”

209 Women is delivered in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool City Council, The Royal Photographic Society and The Sorority. It is presented as part of a year-round programme in partnership with Culture Liverpool, to champion the achievements of women and highlight the ongoing need for gender parity.

The project is presented in association with luxury brand Aston Martin Lagonda and the Power of Women TV Series, and supported by Montessori St Nicholas school. The core team behind the exhibition is Hilary Wood (Founder/Director of ‘209 Women’ and photographer), Tracy Marshall (Director of Development and Partnerships at Open Eye Gallery), Cheryl Newman (Artist, curator and former Director of Photography of the Telegraph magazine) and Lisa Tse (Brand Consultant, TV Producer and founder of women’s club The Sorority), and is supported by Ambassador Rosemary Reed, Executive Producer and Founder of the Power of Women TV series.

Alison McGovern MP, chair of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art said:

“The women’s movement has never been about one person’s achievement: it is about all of us. This project carries out that vision, including all kinds of women from all kinds of backgrounds. It is a subtle but very true statement of equality.”

“The focus in politics has rightly been on getting a critical mass of women involved. But it is the same issue in many sectors, including art itself. The works will show that women can and ought to be portrayed in all their diversity. There is no one way to be a woman artist, to be a woman politician, to be a woman.”

Hilary Wood, founder and curator, said:

The idea for the exhibition came from my own experiences of gender inequality. I’ve worked mainly in male-dominated fields for the past 18 years. I’ve got two daughters and I wanted to be part of changing things so that they grow up in a society that is more gender equal. Since 1918, 4,503 men have been elected to the UK parliament – compared to just 491 women. On the centenary year of women’s suffrage, I wanted to celebrate how far we’ve come, but I also want to bring awareness to continued gender inequality by championing the visibility of women in power. This exhibition will bring visibility to those women that are part of making the fundamental changes to women’s equality.”

Although the suffrage movement achieved the first votes for women, there is still a long way to go to cement a culture of true gender equality across all spheres of society in the UK, particularly in positions of power. Women MPs only form 32% of the House of Commons.

209 Women is funded by Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council and The Women’s Vote Centenary Fund and delivered in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, the Royal Photographic Society and The Sorority. 209 Women is sponsored by Metro Imaging, Aston Martin Lagonda, Power of Women series and Montessori St Nicholas.