Frame of Mind: A Celebration of Female Storytellers
By Alice Aedy
We’ve had our eye on photographer, activist, documentary filmmaker Alice Aedy for years now. Alice has quickly become a socially conscious household name, known for her work in forced migration, environmental issues, and women’s rights. Last year Alice’s name became synonymous with The Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Strikes for Climate. Recently Alice launched a platform called Frame of Mind, so we reached out to see if she’d share the story behind it with us. Learn more about Alice and her tireless work here.
The coronavirus pandemic has suddenly made us aware of our collective vulnerability; we are a human family, facing global issues. Storytelling within that context is more important than ever. During lockdown, I have set up a platform called Frame of Mind – a project I had been planning for a year, but like so much in my life, found itself relegated to the backburner – an online platform and community spotlighting the storytellers who shape our understanding of the defining social issues of our time. Through my work as a documentary photographer and filmmaker, I have seen the impact of visual storytelling, and I’m inspired by others, who like me, use their camera or pen as a tool for change. On Frame of Mind, I celebrate some of the most respected documentary filmmakers, photographers, journalists, and writers – with a focus on female and under-represented storytellers – exploring how they have used their craft to create social change and re-frame the narratives we use to navigate the world.
There is no time to lose, and I quickly had to decide that the pandemic won’t stop me. Two women I have already spotlighted on Frame of Mind are Nadine Ijewere, who made history two years ago as the first woman of colour to shoot a cover of any Vogue Magazine in its 125-year history, and National Geographic photojournalist Anastasia Taylor-Lind whose work humanises political stories. From Lebanese director Jessy Moussallem, Iranian Magnum photographer Newsha Tavaklovian, and Brasilian iPhone photographer Luisa Dörr, these women are – in their distinctive ways – shaping the way we view the world.
There is power in storytelling – we only need to look back through history to see the impact that stories have had on shaping our lives: how we live them, why we live them, and what it means to be human. Stories give shape to experience and existence, they are how we remember people. Stories bring order to the chaos of life. A book I read as a teenager always stayed with me; ’Imagined Communities’ by Benedict Anderson, which depicts nations as a socially constructed community, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group. Nations, religions…these are stories that we use to create communities, with a shared narrative that binds – or excludes. Stories create an “us” and a “them.” It is through stories that we dare to imagine a better world – but it is also through stories that we continue to justify an unequal world, where dominant cultural narratives perpetuate oppression and marginalisation. So who tells stories – and how we tell them – matters.
According to The New York Times, only 0.5% of recorded history that researchers have estimated is devoted to women’s stories. That is very much changing with a revolution of female photographers, journalists, and filmmakers finally telling our own stories. But in almost every industry, women remain under-represented. That’s why Frame of Mind has a focus on women’s stories by female, non-binary, and under-represented visual storytellers. I often cite the writer Elena Ferrante who wrote in the NYTimes, “Power is a story told by women. For centuries, men have colonised storytelling. That era is over.” I think that is so powerful – a huge shift is underway and we are finally taking control of our narrative. That is something to be celebrated and Frame of Mind is somewhere I can do that.
In truth, I have been obsessed with documentaries as long as I can remember – real stories move me in a way fiction rarely does, but I have always struggled to find one place where there is a carefully curated selection of great documentaries. “DocClub,” a curated documentary selection shared every week, is a key strand of Frame of Mind. Over time I have learned that documentaries often allow for nuance and complexity, a true reflection of the chaos of the world we experience, which photojournalism doesn’t always. And yet documentary film-makers rarely get the credit I think they deserve, with many remarkable films struggling to have a life beyond film festivals. DocClub exists to spotlight incredible docs and the filmmakers behind them. So far I have shared the unforgettable essay film “I Am Not Your Negro,” two animated films “Waltz with Bashir” and “Persepolis,” powerful environmental films “Honeyland” and “Gasland,” and the extraordinary “The Work.” Book clubs exist – why not the same for documentaries?
With more time on my hands during lockdown, I have had the chance to lose and immerse myself in the work of storytellers in a way I never had before – with undivided attention, clarity, and presence of mind. It has given me joy and left me feeling more inspired than ever. And as time passes, I can’t help but ask, will I maintain this new sense of perspective beyond the pandemic?