I have a few thoughts that I wanted to share - take it as a little soul searching and and exporing of the origins of The Parachute Project.
Five years ago I was a working as a hardware electrical engineer and since then I’ve become a professional photographer. That thought alone makes me realize how far I’ve come. I never would have thought that today I would be doing photography in other cities on such an amazing project.
I had never thought all the loneliness in my engineering classes and all the inherent sexism I faced within the workplace would have deterred me, but I was rather wrong. For those that are not aware of what I’m referring to, it boils down to being a minority in a male dominated field. I was usually one of very few women in classes or at work in industry. Let's face it, STEM was not encouraged for young girls in the 80’s and 90’s. I was always one of three girls in classes of 60-80 people. And when you’re one of the very few female engineers in a group of 100’s, you see exactly what inherent and covert sexism is really all about in the workplace. What Elizabeth Warren faced when she was shot down by Mitch McConnell in January of 2017, that coined the feminist chant of “Nevertheless She Persisted!”? That was every bit of my daily life in engineering.
I left engineering for many reasons, the biggest being that I was really rather tired of fighting the male ego and constant dominance that was displayed day in and day out. My love for problem solving and analytical thinking was overrun with comments about not smiling enough, comments that it must have been nice to have three months of maternity “vacation”, my opinion being drowned out in meeting after meeting - and not two minutes later having a male counterpart say the same thing and be praised for it… It was a constant fight for proving myself and capabilities, working twice as hard on some projects with minimal recognition - all while male counterparts were being promoted, praised, given raises & promoted for doing significantly less or for being better buddies with the manager. I had felt the pay gap in my wages versus male counter parts - which was a constant slap in the face. My husband and I had the same degrees, the same field of work, the same years of experience - yet I made 70cents on the dollar to him consistently throughout my career.
Honestly - I had lost my drive. I had lost my ambition. I had lost my will to fight. And I had lost my will to be any kind of technical lead within the engineering world and it showed so badly that I realized it would be better for me to leave engineering all together than stay in it. I felt leaving for “family reasons” was apt enough. I mean, no male in that field bats an eye or argues with a woman who decides she wants to raise her children. They expect it and think it a more natural occurrence than a woman who wants to stay and work long hours away from her family. So I got no resistance to leaving - the first time ever not facing resistance. But what came at me after leaving work was a completely different story.
I never thought I would be doing photography at my age. I mean, starting photography as a profession at 39 was a bit crazy. Most people commended me that I was brave to venture into this new world - but I don’t know if it is bravery so much as crazy, LOL. But I wanted back into something that would drive me. Something that would give me a sense of pride and something that I honestly love. My first love was always photography and I thought - hey, why not. I’ve had a camera in my hand since I was 12 years old. I knew how to work it, I had an eye for composition and a love pure from my heart. What have I got to lose? So I dove in head first with all my might. And with that, I never thought it would take me on a journey so profound and healing. So I started. And I fell in love again, and I found my drive again.
Enter The Parachute
After four years of honing in my skills, attending all sorts of classes for a college degree in photography and making my work less amateur and more professional, I found that little missing piece that gave me my creative outlet. Then one day after feeling so riled up after the Elizabeth Warren incident, I morphed a simple project into the drive that it is now.
My goals for the project started off rather small. I just wanted to photograph something pretty.
Because we’re women and we’re beautiful and we deserve the beauty to shine ?. But it turned into something so much more. Something that felt like it was bigger than myself and my creativity because it was touching on something emotional and raw that all women face.
I realized along the way that everything I was doing was a symbol for what women go through, and at the same time my outlet for all that I had gone through and a visual outlet to show what women truly are. I realized along the way that the metaphor for the pink parachute that I was photographing was everything that women face - all our challenges in life, all our unique circumstances. From gender equality, gender pay issues, sexism in the work force, societal stereotypes, inherent sexism and just in general the perceptions of what we ourselves, as women, think we can accomplish - I realized the metaphor for this is all in the parachute.
But like a parachute that faces resistance, I also realized that it was a metaphor for empowering women with what they CAN be. We can control and guide and power-through all that resistance because our strength is massive and is prevalent.
Where I started off lamenting the issues that women face, the parachute project has reached a new point. From the woes I’m naturally guided to showing and celebrating all the amazing things we as women ARE and not just what we face. Raising awareness of women’s issues and struggles also means raising awareness of our strengths and powers. And honestly, #neverthelessshepersisted couldn’t be more apt for this project. Despite the issues we face, despite the resistance we face, we persist and always will because we are tenacious and we are strong and -we-will-.
So off to the next phase of the parachute project. My images from Miami will be released in my next blog within the next week. After that, I will be booking tickets to New York City and exploring creating images in the amazing urban landscape. My goal is to represent women of all walks of life around the country because we are as diverse as this country’s landscape.
Because truly, women are everything to society. Women are leaders (not bossy). Women are the foundations, they are guides, they are the energy and the force of our families. Women are incredibly intelligent, intuitive and straight up strong. We are the roots, and celebrating our maternal lineage should be just as important as celebrating all our paternal lineage. We fought for our rights to own land, to vote, to hold positions within career posts - and we won. We still face so much in so many respects, but the drive and the force behind us will help us win in these everything we do and win against everything we face. And we need to remind ourselves of this.
It’s with the pink parachute project that I’ve been exploring all our issues and want to talk about them more and raise awareness for each one in detail. I want women to celebrate the victories we have accomplished and explore how we have been able to overcome so much. I’ve already posted on my FB page a series of articles that have highlighted how we have been hidden from so much history. From art when women were dominant, to sciences where people are surprised there are genius women, to the celebration of the women who have shaped history. We can not neglect and deny the role women play in every day life. We can not neglect or deny the role women play in shaping society and history. We can not continue to stifle and silence women from influential and dominant roles in careers.
We are strong and we will navigate our parachute to where we want it to go.
Stay tuned for more. More Parachute project and more Miami images :).