The Women in Light photo collective held the opening reception for their fourth annual show in the Luxe Gallery at San Diego City College on Friday, Feb. 24.
“Women in Light: A Perspective” features work from City College students and faculty as well as local photographers regarding womanhood, femininity, and the societal structures and gender roles that define women’s lives. The show will run in the photography department at City College until March 24.
The Luxe Gallery is located on the fifth floor of the V-Building and is open Monday through Thursday from noon until 9 p.m. and on Friday from noon until 4 p.m. The collective is also holding a discussion panel on the future of photography for women on Thursday, March 23 at 6 p.m.
The four founders of the collective met at City College while studying and volunteering in the photography department. Charcee Starks, Paula Miranda, Cariely Benitez and Nicole Espina all volunteered as lab techs on campus, where their friendship blossomed into a creative partnership focused on documenting and discussing the female experience.
Inspired by Women’s History Month, Cariely Benitez came up with the idea for a women’s photo exhibit four years ago and shared her idea with her peers. “The boys were like, ‘Why a women’s show?’ Well because we don’t have many of them,” Benitez said.
Benitez said she believed photography that focuses on the female perspective is “highly important” to the art community, especially in the current political and social climate.
“I’m a mom. I take care of my kid; I take care of my mom. I’m her caretaker. There’s many different hats that we wear and we don’t get really recognized,” she said. Benitez is also an educator that works in the Poway Unified School District and with local photography organizations.
Benitez’s work for this year’s show is a series of ten black and white photographs featuring the women in her family in her hometown, shot on her smartphone. “Dear To Me” is a celebration of the strength, vitality, and humor (among many other qualities) of Benitez’s family.
Another founder of Women in Light, Charcee Starks, was the principal organizer for this year’s show. Starks has volunteered as a lab tech at City College for the past seven years.
Starks explained that her schedule is busy but she always creates content for the Women in Light show. “This is like my one thing a year that I make sure to do,” she said.
One of Starks’ pieces, “Ego and choices,” focuses on the duality of the Superego and the Id of human psychology. The two models personify temptation and moral decision in this black and white print.
Starks’ photo series, titled “London in Summer. For My Mother and My Sisters,” commemorated her trip to London during the Brexit vote with her family. Amidst the political discourse, Starks said she was inspired by the beauty and strength of flowers and plants she saw, and how they reminded her of her own family members.
Flowers were plentiful throughout the exhibit, as a depiction of the connection between women and nature.
City College student and photo lab tech Adriana Rosalinda Escandon said she used flowers in her submission to depict our society’s obsession with consumer products and the way women are frequently tossed to the side for “new and improved” versions once they lose their youth and vitality.
Escandon also said she believes flowers symbolize the five stages of life for women: birth, blossoming, maturing, withering, and death. She explained how her pieces for this year’s show, black and white prints with heavy contrast and shadow, were much more morbid than her usual work.
“Fingering Nature,” a series by photographer and educator Rebecca M. Goldschmidt, organizer of the transborder photo project Border Click, showcased a more sensual depiction of nature. The photos featured Goldschmidt’s hands caressing various flowers, plants, dirt and water. “I want them to have these undertones of eroticism, or rather your connection to nature,” she said.
Another theme apparent in the Women in Light show is the pervasive issue of physical abuse towards women, frequently by their significant others.
The most vividly morbid series of the show, titled “Death of a Girl,” showcases women murdered in various ways. Elizabeth Traughber, City College student and photo lab tech, featured her daughters and a friend from her church in her photos ““Burned,” “Stabbed,” “Death in the Desert,” “Strangled” and “Body Dump.”
Traughber explained that she wanted to bring attention to the abusive relationships that women become stuck in and how they can end violently. In her photo’s label, Traughber wrote that the production of the series, “helped me to heal in ways I never expected.”