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209 Women

“To be represented and be presented for what we are - as women, by women - is a very special thing. This is what 209 women is all about."

Helen Pankhurst, Great Granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst

209 Women marks 100 years since the first general election in which some women could vote. It seeks to champion the visibility of women: particularly in politics, where decisions are made that affect people of all genders. It features new portraits of the UK’s women MPs, shot entirely by photographers that identify as women. 

It was a real privilege to be asked to be a part of this project, one that actively encouraged each photographer to apply their own approach to portraiture.

We were given the opportunity to select an MP we would like to work with. I chose to photograph Cat Smith, Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood.

At the time I was not aware that Cat had recently had her first baby.

It was a shock to learn that serving MP's do not receive or are able to take maternity leave. Cat continued to work and serve the local communities as their MP throughout the early stages of motherhood. I cannot imagine how challenging this must have been.

Cat very kindly granted me access to her home in Lancaster as she was working from home alongside nursing a new born baby.

It became very apparent that this was a daily challenge - Cat's commitments as a serving MP alongside being a new mother. My continuing interest in the relationship between people and place became key to my approach for this portrait.

How Cat had to literally juggle her multiple responsibilities around her home on a daily basis shaped the final picture.

As a maker of portraiture, it is always hoped that the resulting picture will reveal something of the person beyond the physical. To form an image with this in mind from the start is certainly not wholly reliant on the interpretation of the viewer but can highlight aspects of peoples lives, beyond reasonable doubt, that most were not aware of beforehand.

Cat has been re-elected as the MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood three times which is testament to her. I hope that all representatives of the people within parliament have the same strength of character, commitment, and determination as Cat Smith.

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