Review: Nancy Honey’s 100 Leading Ladies

Maggi Hambling

Maggi Hambling

Nancy Honey spent two years photographing and interviewing 100 British senior women. These women are or were at the top of their field; and these women are also 55 and over. Natalie D Kershaw reviews.

In her own words, the photographer felt that successful women could create a false picture of what their life is really like. Various reasons were discussed why this was but really, women felt that they cannot be seen to be weak; have to be seen away from their other roles in life in order to maintain their success. Whether this is really correct or not is left open to discussion but suffice it to say that these are real women, in real settings and settings that inspire them or make them happy. Settings that are, in some cases, a world away from their job.

Each woman offered something entirely different. The variety of their settings, their achievements and their role, all completely change your opinion or perception of them. It is a positive exhibition declaring, without over-emphasis, that anything is possible irrespective of gender and it is possible whatever your shape, size, colour and yes, your age. There are no social constructs in this room!

One of the images is of Helen Browning OBE (organic farmer and chief executive of the Soil Association) standing in the middle of a field in her jeans. What more can I say? Pauline Clare CBE was Britain’s first female Chief Constable. She’s standing in a graffiti-filled street. No offices for her to be inspired but what originally caused her to be in the police in the first place; the streets.

Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer

Professor Germaine Greer (feminist, academic and journalist) surrounded by fox gloves in a tranquil garden or woodland area. The very antithesis of what we perceive about her. Professor Parveen Kumar CBE is Former president of the Royal Society of Medicine and the BMA and co-editor of Kumar and Clark’s Clinical Medicine. Her setting sees her standing in a living room, in traditional dress holding the clinical medicine volume and you can see other colourful paintings and busts in the mirror behind her. A complete mixture of cultures.

My personal favourite was Elise Owasu OBE (architect). She is simply sat on a sofa with her feet up with no shoes on looking tiredly at the camera. It is the mixture of settings where they gain inspiration which gives a small insight into the woman. Kitchens, libraries, living rooms, blank canvases, posing with the dog, a bike ride.

Something that I gained from this is that all these women are beautiful in their own, unique way. They haven’t done what society, from a socio-cultural perspective, has dictated of them. I will leave you with Daphne Selfe – Britain’s oldest working supermodel at 87 years young and as gorgeous as ever. Women can do anything and be an inspiration.

This exhibition runs at Cartwright Hall until 10 April 2016.