Celebrate International Women’s Day with Luisa Dörr

by Maria Yap

posted on 03-08-2018

Within seven years, Luisa Dörr went from discovering photography to being discovered herself. As a teenager, Luisa thought she wanted to be a designer, but that changed when she saw the potential a camera could hold. Her work focuses on portraiture mixed with landscapes. On why portraiture appeals to her, Luisa says, “The whole history and prehistory of art is basically a series of portraits.” She goes on to explain that she’s maintained the portraiture style in her photography because portraits allow her to capture the soul of her subjects and tell their stories.

Mo’one Davis. First girl to pitch a shutout and win a game in a Little League World Series.

While there are many portrait photographers, one thing that makes Luisa stand out is that she shoots everything entirely on her phone. On her shooting process, she says, “I never go out with my real camera because it feels too big. My iPhone is always in my pocket, and I feel light and free with it.” Her simple yet bold aesthetic caught the eye of Kira Pollack, TIME Magazine’s Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise. Captivated by the portraits on Luisa’s feed, Kira tracked her down and offered her an assignment to shoot 46 influential women for the magazine’s FIRSTS project, featuring women who are changing the world.

Ilhan Omar. First Somali-American Muslim person to become a legislator.

From an iPhone to the Cover of TIME Magazine

With only two minutes to do some portraits, this project proved to have its challenges. Luisa explains, “For a short time, during these sessions, I tried to forget how important the person was and just saw them as a human being.” Many of the subjects were used to seeing a team of photographers rather than one with an iPhone and barely any production. Luisa elaborates, “Some of them were shocked that the phone they carry in their pockets could be used to create covers for TIME Magazine. You usually see images of these famous women with a lot of production and lights, but it was important to me to bring simplicity to the project and make these women relatable through my lens.”

Serena Williams. First tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam single titles in the open era.

While Oprah, Michelle Phan, and Ellen DeGeneres were some of her subjects, Luisa was most inspired by Dr. Sylvia Earle, the first woman to become Chief Scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Luisa had asked Sylvia to bring her diving suit to their shoot, so that the portrait would have more context. Sylvia arrived not only with her diving suit, but with boots and diving googles, too. At 82, she continues to go deep-sea diving once a month, all over the world. “She is still working and is just as happy to be working today as she was when she first started. That’s the kind of life I want to live,” describes Luisa.

Dr. Sylvia Earle. First woman to become Chief Scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lessons Learned & Advice for Women

On the biggest lesson she learned while photographing the world’s most powerful women, she says, “Not one of them wanted to be the first. They did what they were passionate about and showed their potential and worth to the world.” While the FIRSTS project showcases strong and powerful women, Luisa realizes that this series only scratches the surface of the issues facing women as they are portrayed in art and the media. She notes, “Since prehistoric times, the artistic representation of women was to make them into sexual objects. Adding to the fact that the media has been dominated by a masculine lens, the only way to break this cycle is by giving a voice to a more real, less sexualized representation of the feminine universe. International Women’s Day is about empowering all women to be heard and to celebrate the women who are realizing their full potential.”

For more of Luisa Dörr’s work, check out her website and Instagram page.

Hillary Rodham Clinton. First woman to win a major party’s nomination for President.

Topics: Creativity, Diversity & Inclusion, Photography

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