Interview with Street photography platform Women in Street founder Casey Meshbesher, by Sandra Hernández
SH: Can you tell me about Women in Street’s origins? How and when did it arise?
CM: The first WiS platform was started in 2016. Beginning as a list I had researched on the Internet to find female Street photographers starting 2014. From then until a few months after WiS started, percentages of female Street photographers in media were about 7 to 11%. It seemed to me that there were more women in the genre. I gathered resources and created a network to build momentum for a movement, and that happened. After a year of WiS, the typical low was more like 20%, with some organizations reaching 30. Percentages go up each year, and now several festivals and organizations are up to 50%. One of the big issues has been the lack of female judges. The more judges, curators, organizers, etc. within Street, the more engaged women will become who want to be included. The conversations, networking, resources, and visibility made possible by gathering in one place, collectively raises the image of women in the Street genre and allows other platforms to use these databases. It was no longer simply shrugging shoulders and saying “I don’t know where to find anyone, except for the people I already know.”
SH: What is your “Ethos” (guiding beliefs or ideals)
CM: On several social media platforms we aim to produce quality content across as many networks as possible. This helps women discover and recognize each other’s work, develop a sense of community, and meet one another in person, enhancing each other personally and professionally. This also maintains these goals alive in the group consciousness so this subject does not die down, and organizations and media remain aware that they need to do better. Spinoff groups have been created. People often use the map, a database of female Street photographers all over the world, to meet one another in person as they travel. The Facebook group can be used not only for monthly galleries, but for pooling resources, and discussion of any topics pertinent to female Street photographers.
SH: Who are the members of this group?
CM: The people in the group who participate call themselves “members,” “contributors,” “participants,” or something else. It is a matter of which name you prefer. Is this a group? A collective? An organization? I have taken to calling WiS a “collaborative.” Anyone may join, provided they are a woman doing Street photography. There is no application process. Anyone may submit work to our various platforms. We have about 1400 members in the Facebook group, about 13,000 followers on Instagram, 2000 followers on Tumblr, and another 2000 followers on the blogzine Her Side of the Street. Outside the Facebook group, there are probably several hundred other “members” who regularly participate in some way with WiS. We also have our contributors who come and go, doing one or more special projects. This may be curating for a time and/or interviewing in blog or video. Many guest curators, video makers, interviewers, etc. come and go through the platform on a one-time basis. Every month we have a new curator in the Facebook group. WiS “staff” of managers runs all of the behind the scenes and arranges the collaborations. At this moment it is myself and Julia Coddington.
SH: How do you visualize the future of WiS?
CM: The future of WiS is to continue from our goal of breaking the glass ceiling in Street, which has been accomplished more or less! From here, creating even greater networking opportunities and new types of individual and collective projects made possible or enhanced through WiS, and for women to develop leadership skills that can be used in their own communities.