To say 2017 had highs and lows would be an understatement. But for these photographers, it was a year marked by victories and creative triumph, new boundaries pushed, and ripe with adventure. I chose to highlight specifically female photographers for two reasons. The first is that when I began researching, many lists only featured pretty girls holding on to their hats, gazing into the sunset. Don’t get me wrong, selfies are fun — there’s a selfie artist on this very list. But I wanted to find out who was getting into the nitty-gritty of travel, adventure, photojournalism, and art. Who was blazing trails this year, and making a mark on an industry famously dominated by men? So, this is about women who kicked 2017’s butt and lived to tell the tale. They are journalists, explorers, self-portrait artists, nature and landscape artists, capturers of culture and people, documenters of crisis and conflict, storytellers, and so much more. Here are the women who inspired me in the last 365 days.
1. Varina Patel
Patel is a brilliant landscape photographer based in the USA. She has an uncanny eye for colors, shapes, and balance in her images. She’s also an excellent photo-educator and runs Visual Wilderness with her husband, Jay, and together they teach anything and everything about landscape photography. This has taken them all around the world, including Fiji, Hawaii, Nicaragua, Iceland, and Morocco.
2. Danielle Da Silva
De Silva is a force to be reckoned with. She’s been listed as a Top 30 under 30, spoken for TEDx, and founded her own non-profit, Photographers Without Borders. She’s a co-founder of Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary, speaks eight languages, and is an established storyteller. She’s an activist, conservationist, and works with non-profits while she travels.
3. Tasneem Alsultan
Alsultan is an American-born Saudi who covers stories in the Middle East and has been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Amnesty International, and National Geographic. In the past, she has received grants and awards for her work on human rights issues, especially focusing on gender and social issues. Her work has toured the world. In 2017, she was a finalist for the Sony World Photography Awards in the genre of Contemporary Issues, won the Stern Grant, and continued to publish with incredible newspapers.
4. Robin O’Neill
O’Neill is the adrenaline junky of this list. She’s an outdoor lifestyle and action photographer based in Whistler, BC. She does plenty of action editorial work and explores her incredible backyard with a sense of wonder and wild curiosity which has won her both the Whistler Deep Winter and Deep Summer Photo Showdowns — photography contests held in the area. She works with tourism and hospitality boards, as well as apparel and product brands. All this action at home has led her to amazing adventures on the road, including humanitarian work in Africa.
5. Taylor Roades
Roades is a Canadian photographer specializing in conservation, people, culture, and adventure. She does editorial, commercial, and reportage assignments for Lufthansa, Destination BC, Mastin Labs, and Canadian Wilderness Adventures. Her travels have taken her to Scotland, Indonesia, the Yukon, the rural central coast of BC, and Chile.
6. Elizabeth Gadd
Gadd is the selfie queen of this list — but not in the way you’re thinking. Gadd is just 24 years old but has worked with some of the world’s best brands, like Sony, Fairmont, Daily Mail, Canadian Geographic and Air New Zealand. She’s Canadian and explores ethereal self-portraiture in unbelievable locations, from her backyard in BC to Ireland, Iceland, Peru, and beyond. One peek at her Instagram feed and you’ll know you’re in the right place.
7. Katie Goldie
Goldie is a travel photographer through and through, shooting in places like New Zealand, Canada, the USA, Asia, Nordic Europe, and Namibia, to name a few. She’s worked for many tourism companies in Canada, Malaysia, Namibia, Croatia, Turkey, and brands like Manfrotto, Budweiser, Eddie Bauer, and 20th Century Fox.
8. Alice Martins
Martins leans hard into photojournalism. The galleries on her website are powerful and at times difficult to view — anyone who travels knows it’s not all Icelandic waterfalls and the Eiffel Tower. Martins has an incredible gallery with double exposures from war-torn Iraq that I really recommend. She is Brazilian-born and previously worked in Southern Africa covering HIV and AIDS issues, but she is now based in Iraq where she focuses on the crisis in Syria and the war on ISIS. This year alone, she was published or featured in the Washington Post, Spiegel, TIME magazine, and Buzzfeed. When not working on stories in this region, she travels to nearby places like Cyprus and Turkey, but most of her year is spent on the front lines of places like Raqqa, Aleppo, and Mosul. This woman is badass.
9. Adriana Loureiro Fernandez
Fernandez is a talented photographer from Venezuela, currently living in NYC. She has covered a number of issues in her home country (which she calls “decaying”) and has a series called “Paradise Lost.” The stories she weaves around Venezuela are extremely personal in nature, and she’s not afraid to approach people to include in her work. She is currently working on her MA in Journalism at Columbia.
10. Adrienne Pitts
A New Zealand photographer now based in the UK, Pitts has a bright, colorful style with a lot of life in her photos. She’s worked for Google, Cathay Pacific, Paypal, Lonely Planet, Adobe, Audi, Mazda, Passion Passport, and many more. She is focused on finding the heart of a culture through people, food, light, and bold color.
11. Christina Rizk
Rizk is a German-Egyptian who returned to Cairo after university to pursue storytelling. She has been published in the New York Times, Die Zeit, Newsweek, and more. She has an incredible breadth of work depicting Cairo in unexpected ways. In 2017, she gained a full-time position with Deutsche Presse Agentur covering the Middle East and North Africa, but in late 2017, she decided to move to Berlin, where she’s been pursuing an MA in Visual Arts and Media Anthropology. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
12. Hannah Reyes Morales
Morales is a Filipina photographer based in Manila. She not only covers issues all over her own country but has explored Cambodia, Israel, Indonesia, New Orleans, and beyond. She leans toward humanitarian and crisis stories, from the war on drugs in the Philippines to forced marriages, sulfur mining, the lives of Filipina nannies, and child boxers. In 2017, she won the Hondros Fund — a fund in honor of photojournalist Chris Hondros who was killed on assignment in Libya — for her ability to translate the human experience into a photo.
13. Elena del Estal
Del Estal is a Spanish freelance photographer who is currently based in India. There, she explores the culture, streets, and faces of India but goes further to tell stories about polio, child brides, forced marriages and gender inequality. This has gained her publications in the Wall Street Journal, CNN, El Mundo and more. In 2017, she was listed in a Top 30 under 30 list by Photoboite, which led to an exhibition in Rome and won her a nomination for World Press Photo’s Masterclass. Outside of India, she’s been exploring Nepal, Louisiana, Spain, NYC, and Iran.
14. Melissa Findley
Findley‘s focus is on travel, adventure, landscape, lifestyle and charity. She’s worked with Canon Australia and tourism boards to take her around the world and back. Along the way, she photographs landscapes, waterscapes, people, and moments. She’s volunteered with charities in Cambodia, Nepal, Uganda, Borneo, and Laos. Her work seeks to capture the beauty of the world, so her feed is uplifting and inspiring.
15. Lauren Decicca
One more for the photojournalism genre, Decicca is based in Bangkok but most often found documenting refugees, drug addiction, PTSD, displacement, disease, and other world issues. She’s been published in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, CNN, USA Today, Al Jazeera, and much more. She’s been working hard on stories with the Rohingya refugees, displacement inside and outside of Myanmar, and other SE Asia conflicts.
16. Alexis Coram
Coram left a job at a well-known tech company and hit the road in a campervan with her pet and has been barreling around the USA and Canada. This isn’t the first time Coram has gone exploring — she’s been around the block a few times, including Alaska, Peru, Scotland, and Mexico. Her landscapes and sense of light and color are astounding. She’s wrapping up this 2017 road trip and heading to Europe for a new one.
17. Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
2017 was one of Akinmade’s best years yet: she was published in National Geographic for a piece on Greenland and took the cover of Nat Geo’s Traveller Photography Magazine with a piece on Sweden. She also got published in Afar Magazine, BBC, Adventure.com, Fodor’s, Forbes, and Lonely Planet to name a few. She’s an award-winning writer and photographer and published two books, one on the Swedish way of life, and a book of travel reflections and images after many, many years on the road. Her Instagram game is on point. Check it out here.