Anita Corbin: First Women UK

Dyson Gallery, Royal College of Art 20 July – 22 August 2018

Betty Boothroyd – Image © Anita Corbin

 

A decade-long project to capture the portraits of 100 pioneering women of the 21st century culminates in a striking new exhibition at The Royal College of Art this summer (20 July – 22 August).

The exhibition, appropriately titled First Women UK was created to mark the centenary of the Representation of the People Act, which granted the vote to women over 30-years old and paved the way for universal suffrage.

Anita Corbin first sprang to prominence in the early Eighties with her series of informal portraits of young women, ‘Visible Girls’ and went on to become a highly-regarded reportage and portrait photographer. Now, Anita will unveil her empowering 10-year project documenting 100 pioneering women of the 21st century.

First Women UK trains its lens on ‘ordinary women achieving extraordinary things’ in a variety of disciplines, including sport, media, the military, faith, business, arts, music and politics.

First Women UK will be a visually arresting and immersive exhibition, featuring portraits from celebrities and famous personalities from across the decades.

From Seventies rocker Suzi Quatro to poker star and TV quiz show host, Victoria Coren-Mitchell, newscaster and Morecambe and Wise star-turn, Angela Rippon to writer and comedienne, Jenny Éclair, Corbin has documented a broad swathe of Britain’s foremost women.

Visitors to the exhibition will also see the likes of explorer Felicity Aston, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, business leader Dame Inga Beale, chef Clare Smyth and Olympic gold medal-winner, Nicola Adams.

From ages 18 to 102-years old and in fields of expertise covering everything from beatboxing to bomb detection, I wanted to create an impressive visual story of female potential, fantastic role models that will hopefully inspire other women and men, of all generations, now and in the futureAnita explains.

She adds: “In a long history dominated by notable males, First Women UK asks ‘What is it about women that can inspire you?’”

First Women UK’s patron, Baroness Betty Boothroyd – and first female Speaker of the House of Commons – is a great supporter of the First Women project, which aims to develop the awareness of the possibilities available to women, not just in business – but to inspire and encourage the viewer to define what their own path is and what personal achievement really means.

Dany Cotton, another ‘First Woman’ by virtue of being the inaugural female Commissioner of the London Fire Brigade, says: “Anything that enables other women is a great thing. It’s so important that we make it easier for all women to believe it’s possible to achieve their goals”.

All the works in the exhibition are portrait format, a metre tall and presented without glass or mounts, “I wanted the viewer to have a real visceral connection with the First Women”, Anita says. The show is curated by Kathleen Soriano, currently Chair of the Liverpool Biennial, whose book Madam and Eve: Women Portraying Women has just been published.

The National Portrait Gallery has already purchased eight of Corbin’s First Women portraits for the nation’s archive and a beautiful book of the entire First Women UK collection is scheduled to be released at the exhibition launch.

Anita reveals her inspiration for First Women UK: “With more images being made now than ever before, I wanted to provide an alternative to the mainstream, to create images of women that demand people look beyond the exterior and find the inner truth. I wanted to celebrate the impact women have had on society over the last 100 years. I hope that the First Women series will inspire future generations and help them see that it is possible to break down barriers whether they are social, economic, cultural or political. I have created these powerful images to offer emotional support to women who seek to be the best they can be; those women who want to aim high will look at my pictures and see they are not alone.

For more information, visit www.1stwomenuk.co.uk, follow @FirstWomenUK on Twitter.

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