Cover Illustration: Francesca Gamboa

For Malaysian photographer Annice Lyn, being part of the minority motivates her to grow the female photography community as well as push for greater equality and diversity

When I covered the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang in 2018, I learned through the International Olympic Committee breakdown of validated press accreditations that 2,309 (80.9 per cent) were male and 544 (19.1 per cent) were female. Within the 544 women, only 77 (10.3 per cent) were accredited female photographers out of the total of 744 photographers from 50 countries. I was one of the 77 accredited female photographers in the global event.

While gender equality has grown leaps and bounds in recent years, these statistics illustrate that inequality still persists in the realm of visual culture and that there is a chronic lack of diversity and visibility of women in the photography industry. That women are underrepresented within the sports media space reflects the same reality in other industries. In order to redistribute the cards equitably, I believe we must set the stage so more women can pursue what they would like to do.

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Even with the advancement of digital technology, photography has remained a significant tool for change—capturing the present, preserving the past, and holding immense power to impact and unite people. I believe it is crucial to create a community of women photographers, as it provides a direct female perspective and in turn shapes how society views women. Be it a hobby or a profession, and across domains from photojournalism to fashion photography, it’s important to have—and document—a female perspective.

Female visibility has been a fallacy: we see women everywhere but we see them in a very limited way. The female perspective in photography provides a wealth of insights, enabling a broader range of talent and empowering women photographers the world over to share their own stories. It could be as simple as a mother photographing their child or someone doing a self-portrait. Such diversity makes for a richer and more nuanced collection of visual representation; by reframing the world through the female gaze, we create “a whole new visual language and, in turn, a visual identity for women (and men)”.

Over the years, women have fought for equality and recognition when it comes to career opportunities and proper remuneration. Unfortunately, some still struggle with discrimination that does not allow them to advance as artists and storytellers. I have personally experienced this first-hand: being belittled and undermined on my abilities and knowledge when it comes to the technical aspect of photography. Furthermore, women face the additional hurdle of encountering an unsafe work environment only because of their gender.

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It’s one of the reasons why I co-founded Women Photographers Malaysia (WPM) with Aisha Nazar. WPM was formed at the start of the pandemic in 2020, with a mission is to develop an inclusive culture and empower women photographers. By hosting workshops, organising monthly meetups, and providing a safe space among minority visual storytellers, we hope women and non-binary photographers find the strength within to put themselves forward.

If we would like to reshape the male-dominated media industry, each and every one of us need to step up to develop an inclusive culture. A culture that recognises the existence of gender inequality and offers better support to female workers around the world. As a female photographer, influence for me means trying to bridge the gender gap through my profession and encouraging others who want to do the same. A photo may be something to look at or swipe through, but the best images speak a thousand words and encompass many different realities.

Annice Lyn is a visual artist, documentary and sports photographer who has been named Tatler Asia's Most Influential: Malaysia 2021. The former Malaysian national figure skater-turned-photographer has covered both the Olympic Winter Games 2018 in Pyeongchang and the Tokyo Olympics 2020, and focuses on capturing images on topics of critical importance. She co-founded the group “Women Photographers Malaysia”, and her work has appeared on the cover of Time magazine's April 2021 “Climate is Everything” issue as well as The Guardian, National Geographic, The New York Times and more.

This essay is part of an op-ed series written by Asia's Most Influential 2021 honourees. See and learn more about Asia's Most Influential here.

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