From selfie feminism to #MeToo, we are undoubtedly entering the age of girl power. Whether through art, politics or social activism, women all over the world are on the rise, grabbing whole industries by the reigns and introducing the world to a kinder, more loving and inclusive consciousness.
Since this also happens to be the age of the Internet, what better way to discover some new artistic goddesses than through social platforms? While a strong case could be made for a long-overdue comeback for Tumblr, IG still rules the day when it comes to all things visual—like art, obviously. With this in mind, we scraped its many corridors to bring you a shortlist of the best contemporary #girlgaze artists to freshen up your feed—and maybe even expand your mind.
These artists might all identify as female, but I’d like to make the case that what really makes you a #girlgaze artist isn’t your gender but your sensibility. More than laws and politics (though those are obviously crucial too!), we believe that that’s where the real strength of the #girlgaze movement lies: as the name itself implies, it literally has the power to change the way we see the world, one snap at a time.
This killer Australian artist makes photographs, installations and participatory works that incorporate female bodies in a way that’s not just stunning and otherworldly—they’ll also make you pause and ponder the relationship between humans and the natural world, and maybe even tweak your own habits to make them a little more sustainable. (In case you’re still on the fence: yes, this is the sign you were waiting for to finally ditch the plastic and get some metal straws.) Check out Tamara’s latest work on IG, and be sure to watch Blue, a documentary about the devastating destruction of the oceans.
Shanghai-born, Brooklyn-based artist, actress and musician Pixy Liao first caught our eye with her fun and fruit-filled photo series exploring intimacy and relationships with her real-life boyfriend. But her art has such a range that it wouldn’t even be fair to boil it down to a little snippet—you’ll just have to go check it out for yourself! Oh, and she also isn’t afraid to point out the hypocrisy in IG’s photo guidelines on nudity. Pixy, will you be my new best friend and life coach please?
This fine art and portrait photographer takes the Petra Collins trope—funky angles, soft pastel links and the requisite occasional nipple—and dials it up, like, 50 notches. Using distortion and bright, almost garish colors, she manages to highlight her subjects’ transcendent spirits at the same time as their fragility and humanity, and if that’s not the hallmark of great art, well… jk, it definitely is.
Scroll through Leitman’s IG and you’ll probably have the feeling that you somehow teleported back to the grungy New York downtown clubs of the 80s. In fact, her work bears almost uncanny resemblance to Nan Goldin’s—not a modern-day Nan Goldin, but the O.G. After moving to San Francisco for art school, she quickly fell into the nightlife scene, photographing its outrageous party scene and its larger-than-life characters. But it’s the love that she so clearly feels for her subjects and friends, like Barry, an elderly gay bartender who was one of the last survivors of the AIDS epidemic of the 80s and 90s, that makes her work stick in your head. Her IG feed is also a delightful blend of her own work and vintage pics, so definitely worth a follow.
One of the bigger names on our list (that blue checkmark doesn’t lie), Francesca Allen might strike as you as a pretty garden-variety #girlgaze artist at first sight. The women who populate her images might be of all different shapes, sizes and races, but Francesca’s lens blends them all into an aesthetically pleasing celebration of feminine joy, vulnerability and connection. But isn’t that exactly what our egotistical, broken and angry world needs more of? Be sure to throw her account a follow for some good vibes on your feed, and don’t miss Allen’s first book, Aya, exploring friendship across cultures, available for preorder now.
Europe’s forgotten war– a visit to a Greek village trapped somewhere between the Ukraine and Russia. Chermalyk 2018.
This German-born photographer has a real talent for capturing obscure faces and places, including many hotbeds of conflict and controversy, in human terms rather than political. Her lens brings out the common humanity—their hopes, dreams, fears—that all people across the world share, regardless of borders and barriers. Even though she doesn’t focus on women per se, her perspective on individuals and communities definitely qualifies her for the ranks of the #girlgaze gang—and she’s guaranteed to make you, too, want to become a force for peace in the world. Brb, joining the Red Cross!
After getting sober eight years ago, Jill Beth Hannes has been leaning on her camera to help herself tap into the feelings of isolation, fear and loneliness that came with having to get to know herself all over again. While the women in the images aren’t all her, in a way, they are. But the pictures themselves are so soulful even without the backstory that anyone who looks at them will immediately grasp her disorientation as she slowly comes into herself, builds up her life from scraps and eventually finds peace and stability. Ultimately, it’s the universal quality of these feelings and this journey that makes Hannes’ work so relateable. Read more about the project here, and as always, smash that follow button.
Another young artist exploring female connection and coming-of-age through the photo lens, Alice Joiner focuses on mental health and sexuality in her diaristic style pictures. Her latest show in London, Loving the Fire, communicates the difficulties of forming meaningful connections in this world (as anyone who has ever showed up to a networking drinks even knows all too well) through the delicate portrayal of the female form. While her personal journey has been dark at times (Joiner struggled with mental health and an eating disorder in the past), the light she finds in those around her is sure to inspire.
This Georgia-based art, design and advertising duo (and real-life couple!) spreads warmth and cheer with their sunny, color-blocked pictures. While the bulk of their work is editorial and commercial, they do a good bit of fine art work as well, and regardless of the medium, everything they touch radiates such strong Wes Anderson vibes (but without the white-collar angst) that if I could figure out what creative juices they’re drinking, I’d bottle it up and bathe in it.
Not your typical braless Berlin art girl, Siân Davey practiced psychotherapy for fifteen years before picking up the camera—what seems like a big leap, but think about it this way: both involve getting super close and intimate with another person and diving deep into their psychology. This background studying and treating mental health definitely finds its way into her work, which centers around family and community. Take her first photo series, Looking for Alice, a tender portrayal of her journey with her young daughter, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. “One of the biggest truths is to realize that we’re all suffering in some way,” Davey told It’s Nice That. “When we can acknowledge that, then we can start making sense of why that is and who we are.”
Photos via @tamaradean, @bloodypixy, @lissyellelaricchia, @marissapleitman, @francesca_allen_, @johannamariafritz, @thestrangewomen, @alicejoiner, @forminflux, @siandavey1