Photography exhibition in Attenborough Centre celebrates female academics

Dr Vinita Damodaran holds in her image palm-leaf manuscripts from her home region in Southern India that contain valuable knowledge about plants and plant medicine.

A series of specially commissioned portraits that reveal the personal motivations of female academics at Sussex is on show at the Attenborough Centre for the Arts on campus.

Click here to visit the full exhibition gallery.

The Twelve Women in Academia exhibition celebrates the valuable contribution of women in higher education and their specific area of expertise.

The academics who were invited (in conjunction with the head of each school) to take part represent a range of career stages; some are leading research in the most competitive areas, while others are just starting their journeys.

The women are all pictured with an object that represents an aspect of their work or has had some personal significance in their career.  

Dr Vinita Damodaran, for example, holds in her image palm-leaf manuscripts from her home region in Southern India that contain valuable knowledge about plants and plant medicine.

Dr Damodaran, a Senior Lecturer in South Asian History, is using indigenous and colonial archives such as these to better understand how previous generations have lived in hostile environments that could become more common as the effects of climate change become more apparent.

The project also includes Dr Lily Asquith, a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow who works to analyse data collected from the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN.

Dr Asquith started her journey towards academia more than 10 years ago as a new mother with no science qualifications, and is now developing novel methods to uncover signatures of new physics as part of her research.

Dr Damodaran, Dr Asquith and the other 10 women were photographed by fine-art photographer and Sussex alumna Miss Aniela, who took inspiration from the work of 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt to create an almost oil painting-like feel to each image.

Explaining the portraits, Miss Aniela said: “What I’ve been doing is shooting them as a set of portraits in this low-key, dark, moody, almost Rembrandt-inspired style, each pictured with a prop that relates to their practice or their personality.

“Each prop has been different for each woman and when the set is put together it becomes a series of interesting and conceptual portraits.”

Professor Stephen Shute, chair of the University’s Equality and Diversity Committee, says: “Miss Aniela has created a series of portraits that captures the lives and work of our 12 academics in subtle and intriguing ways.

“The portraits not only show the rich variety of disciplines in which our female academics are contributing to global knowledge, but also reveal their personal motivations.”

Commissioned to celebrate women working in higher education, the Twelve Women in Academia photography project complements and supports the University’s commitment to equality and diversity.

The portraits are on display in the Jane Attenborough Studio in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts from Thursday 23-Monday 27 June, 10am-4pm.

The series will also be on display at the Jubilee Library in Brighton from Monday 27–Wednesday 29 June. The library’s opening hours for those days are 10am-7pm on Monday and Tuesday, and 10am-5pm on Wednesday.

Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Thursday, 23 June 2016