Tag Archives: art

To Be Woman – Part 3

As time goes on and I continue this project I feel an ever stronger urger to continue sharing stories of women who fight and overcome. There is so much strength that comes from listening to others. Stories that feel so personal to the teller sometimes make a profound impact on the most unlikely listener. Stories preserve our past and help us create a stronger, smarter, kinder future. As we push forward into uncertain waters, I hope we can all take the time to listen and share with one another in the hopes of creating a more connected and respectful world.

Please view the previous installments of the project here:

To Be Woman

To Be Woman: Part 2

If you’re interested in becoming a part of this project and sharing your story, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally HERE.



To be a woman is to be mocked by the man behind the counter at Calumet Photographic:

He made fun of me, laughing at me, telling me I was “mixing two alcohols” by purchasing film chemistry & cf cards.

I shall not be moved by sexism

To be a woman is to be sexually harassed by the man who owns the photo studio down the street:

He put his hands all over my shoulders, neck, stomach, back, while he told me he treats photography as sexual foreplay & only photographs women he wants to fuck; then he asked to photograph me.

I shall not be moved by patriarchy

To be a woman is to be abashed by the promoter who puts on Erotic Art Events:

He asked me to lie & advertise false sales, I was to only bring in female models for “the patrons delight”, no male models, then he ran his hand down my thigh, & patted my ass.

I shall not be moved by chauvinism

To be a woman is to promote the idea that my work is amazing, phenomenal & groundbreaking though, when the exact same work is presented by a man, it is be merely mediocre.

I shall not be moved when Forbes states that my photography profession is “ruled” by women.

Women only represent 50% in number & average less than 17K annually.

To be a woman is to break the glass ceiling, only to be sliced open as is shatters.



I have been called River Diva. I have been called Last Chance Hollywood Cuddlenick. I have been called bitch and every other demeaning name under the sun. I have been told I don’t belong on the river, never mind that I have achieved numerous certifications and have many years of experience. I will never be hired at certain companies in Canada, Switzerland and Italy, all for the single reason that they don’t hire women. I have heard the disappointment in a customer’s voice when they realize they “have gotten the girl guide.” I prove them wrong every single time. However, I shouldn’t have to. Me being a female guide isn’t the problem. The outdated notion of what a woman “should be” or “can do” is the problem. I am exactly where I should be – doing what I love. I have been called Adventure Barbie, but make no mistake, I am no Barbie Doll.


This project is about women; women who have felt hopeless; women who have gained strength; women whose stories deserve to be heard and appreciated. In a time when progress can sometimes feel like it’s falling by the wayside, these women remind me that there is still so much good worth sharing and working towards. There is so much strength and so much power to be found in their lives, in their words, and in their souls.

My goal in documenting women was to expose a shared experience of prevailing determination. I was not disappointed. Hearing their stories was such a powerful experience for me as an individual. I got a firsthand glimpse into the lives and experiences of those who stand to lose so many rights. I heard stories about the fear that develops from encounters with racism, sexism, self-loathing, transphobia, and sexual assault. It was emotional to hear what these women were saying. It was educational to have them highlight the importance of appreciating the intersectional aspects of each of their individual stories. And as we all know, after a storm the sun does shine again. I listened as the clouds of their past led to the beautiful blossoming of stories about compassion, might, inner strength, and self-assurance. I saw a fire in their eyes as they spoke about the wishes and goals they had for our future world. I heard women who at one point felt broken describe to me their plans for a future where we are all valued and supported. I heard about the actions they’ve been taking to better our world and was inspired all over again to give back to those who support us. I promised myself for the millionth time over that I would take a stand laws, people, or organizations that threaten us. I felt that common thread of purpose, hope, and promise tie us all tightly together and pull me forward.

Take the time to listen to women. I hope this small sampling of stories will open doors into conversations that may never have happened, but so desperately need to. I will not be deterred by those who aim to silence me. We will not be silenced.

#women #woman #femenism #respect #thefutureisintersectional #femenistfuture #fucktrump



I will not be deterred by those who remain silent in the face of injustice.

The happiest day of my life was the day after I gave birth to my son. After fifty-two hours of labor, I felt superhuman. I was completely unprepared for how much I loved him; I was like Dorothy stepping into Technicolor Oz from black-and-white Kansas.

I thought that he would look exactly like me, but he is a fair-haired, hazel eyed, tiny tornado of joy. He is a mélange of American natives and European immigrants, all love and laughter and curiosity. I can’t imagine contaminating him by teaching him to hate or to fear those who are different than him.

I thought I would be raising my son in a more progressive country than the one I was raised in. But I’m not. I was raised with the belief that ignoring bigotry took away its power. To deny it attention would ensure that it would starve and die. That’s not true. I am disheartened, but I am not afraid. Those who find excuses to treat other men and women as less than human are always on the wrong side of history.

I want my son to be able to say that I spoke out against inequality and that I taught him to do the same.

Bhawana K.


I will not be deterred by pressures to conform.

I was born in Oakland while my Indian immigrant parents were students at UC Berkeley. I grew up in a Hindu family and am proud of my heritage. I converted to Islam the summer after college.

Because of my headscarf, so much of my interaction with people is burdened with having to dispel misconceptions about who they think I am or what I should be (foreign, conservative, quiet, meek, obedient…). It’s as if I’m asked to prove, every day, that I am normal. I reject the idea that I must act, believe or look a certain way to be accepted as an authentic American.

I also consider myself an Orthodox Muslim, and find myself pushing back against prejudice or patriarchy that stems from cultural practices falsely disguised as religious principles. I believe my faith encourages critical and rational discourse and I enthusiastically engage in it.

As a citizen, Muslim and human, it is my duty to improve my society in whatever way possible. This includes not only speaking out against, but also challenging practices or beliefs that prevent social progress or justice. I don’t think we have to continue to do things simply because they’ve always been done that way before.

Nicole B.


I will not be deterred by my vulnerability.

Three years ago, I was hit by a car. Now 23 screws, 6 plates, and a rod hold my leg together and, in the coming decades, I will likely need a hip replacement. One year ago, I learned that I have a congenital defect where my aorta expands each time my heart beats. If it expands too far, I’ll need open heart surgery or else I’ll die. Without the Affordable Care Act and its protection for people with pre-existing conditions, people like me face futures dominated by insurmountable debt. Insurance provides assurance.

I would love to have this become an ongoing project and I would be honored to work with anyone willing to share their story with me. If you’re interested in sharing and being photographed, please email Kate at katherineelysephotography@gmail.com and we can set up a time to chat.