A photo series showcasing powerful women at work in unusual jobs is something you have to see.
Featuring the likes of a female firefighter, beekeeper, farmer, mill operator, taxidermist, lobster fisherwoman, property developer, brewer, head butcher and more, photographer Chris Crisman is busy with what he calls the #womenswork project. He spoke with Mom.me about how the work began, the team behind the series and what conversation he hopes to spark with these photographs.
The inspirational photo project began in the simplest of ways.
“I was sitting at lunch in New York City with an art buyer friend who mentioned how a friend of hers had moved to Philadelphia and switched careers from graphic design to being a butcher,” Crisman said. “I had never met a female butcher and thought it would make for a great portrait. That shoot with Heather Marold Thomason—and the conversations during the shoot—became a launch point for the project.”
Each image is extremely unique, and timing can be everything when finding new subjects to feature in the photos. When the series first began, the aim of the #womenswork project was to focus on specific professions, but Crisman and his team had some surprises as well as some difficulties in pinning down participants. In their search to add as much ethnic diversity to the project as possible, they had various other hold-ups as well.
“The case of the Nevada miners is a good example,” Crisman said when talking about the unique combination of good timing and the right participant for each shoot. “We originally reached out to the Nevada Mining Association in the spring of this year but weren’t able to line up the approvals and an available shoot rage for over three months. Others, like the Mira Nakashima shoot, took only a couple weeks from contact to sharing the final imagery.”
Each image, which Crisman posts on his Instagram account, features more information about the inspirational woman herself. For instance, when photographing taxidermist Beth Beverly, he writes that she is “an extremely talented and creative taxidermist from Philadelphia” and links to her Instagram account in order to help promote her own #womenswork.
The Philadelphia-based photographer, who lives with his wife and two young children, first picked up a camera as a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania and fell in love instantly. He shifted his focus to becoming a professional photographer soon after and currently the majority of his work is commercial while trying to balance his time with this personal project, and not traveling too much.
“It’s a delicate balance, and my wife is the one that helps ease that balance and help my kids understand the erratic nature of my business,” he said. “She is talented designer and really does an amazing job balancing all the chaos of our journey.”
The other members of his team deserve credit as well, he says, since Crisman isn’t doing this series alone.
“I have a really amazing team that includes a varying number of people on each project. That said, my producer Robert Luessen and our post production house, PXL House, were integral to each one of the Women’s Work shoots.”
It’s no surprise that the gorgeous photos are garnering responses across the internet. Recently featured in the Huffington Post, Crisman is still surprised and happy to see “how many people are now interested in sharing and being a part of what we are working on.” As the series gains momentum and global reach, what started as a passion project is finding new meaning every day, both professionally and personally.
“Gender should not determine professional opportunities,” he told HuffPost. It’s a message that he hopes to pass on to his own children, and other young people—but especially women.
“I was raised to believe that I could do whatever I wanted to when I grew up. I want to pass down a similar message to my children and without caveats,” he told A Photo Editor recently. “I want to raise my children knowing that their dreams have no limits and that they have parents supporting them to dive into anything they feel passionate about.”
Meanwhile, Crisman finds joy in creating each image. “I am a very curious person and I truly love learning about each profession," he said, "and the passion that each woman has for what she does.”
As for the future of the project, he hopes to create a book with the photographs—something which he believes will end up doubling or tripling in volume compared to the portraits he's already taken.
“We want to continue the project and add as much diversity as we can,” he adds. “All suggestions of women who would love to participate are welcome.”