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Image credit: Daniella Zalcman

Entries for our Awards are drawing to a close for 2021, and we are coming to the end of our interviews with our acclaimed judges.  Today we hear from Daniella Zalcman, documentary photographer and founder of Women Photograph.

Please tell us a bit about yourself – what is your background and how did you come to photography/art?  

I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was about 12 or so — I grew up in the DC area and was dogmatically focused on moving to New York for college so I could start interning at local newspapers (which was my main career objective as a teenager). I joined my college newspaper the second I got to campus and ended up almost accidentally falling into photography, but once I did, I was hooked. By my sophomore year, I was working as a freelance photographer for the New York Daily News (liberally skipping classes to do so), and the rest was history.

Can you give an overview of one of your typical workdays? 

No such thing! If I’m working on a big project, I’m somewhere on the road by myself exploring one of my ongoing personal projects and connecting with people whose stories I’d like to share with the world collaboratively. Or I’m at home working on the logistics of Women Photograph. Or I’m in the classroom teaching, which is one of my favourite secondary ways to share my work and always feels like a way to recharge and reset when I’m not deep in the middle of a project. 

Image credit:Daniella Zalcman

Tell us about your work – what does it aim to say or how does it address contemporary social or political issues? 

My work very often focuses on the legacies of western colonialism or at least seeks to reframe the way we see ourselves and the political, social, and economic structures that we live in through the context of western colonial practices. That can range from looking at the rise of homophobia in East Africa to the forced assimilation of Indigenous Youth in North America. Mostly, I want my audience to think more deeply about the way we contextualize our own identities.   

Who or what influences your work? 

The photography, thoughtfulness, and moral compasses of my peers — photographers like Hannah Reyes Morales, Annie Flanagan, Hannah Yoon, Yagazie Emezi, Erika Larsen, Tailyr Irvine, Endia Beal, and so, so many others who inspire me with the way they see and move through the world as photographers.

How do you know when a body of work is finished? 

I… am extremely terrible at finishing projects. I become very deeply attached to the people and families who generously allow me into their lives. That relationship is permanent (and so, most of the time, is the continued documentation). There’s always another chapter to every story!

How do you seek out opportunities?

I’m very methodical about reverse engineering what I need for a project or a chapter of my life. Do I need to spend 10 months on the road finishing one chapter of a body of work? Then I’ll seek grant funding that’ll keep me supported for that period of time. Or I’ll look for a fellowship or teaching opportunity that will give me a break from physical burnout if that’s what I need. I try to make sure that I’m constantly feeding the next step, whether that’s a career goal or something that caters to making sure I’m keeping myself healthy and happy.

Image credit: Daniella Zalcman

What skills are required or personal attributes essential for success in your position? 

Flexibility, open-mindedness, empathy, gentleness, a desire to listen and being open to being wrong. 

What parts of your job do you find most challenging? Enjoyable? 

I think the parameters of what we consider good and ethical journalism are changing more rapidly than they ever have before in this industry. I think it’s incredible to witness that evolution and be part of that conversation — but I do think it’s also one of the biggest challenges facing photojournalists right now. 

Who or what should we be looking out for in the field today? 

There are so, so many incredible photographers out there I couldn’t even begin to list them by name. Still, I think affinity groups like Women Photograph, Indigenous Photograph, the Authority Collective, Diversify Photo, Foto Feminas, African Women in Photography, The Everyday Projects, and Black Women Photographers are amazing resources for finding new talent and inspiration. 


A big thank you to Daniella for a wonderful interview. You can see more of her work on her website and on Instagram.

Now you have met nearly all of our amazing judges for this year’s Head On Photo Awards, make sure you enter your best portrait and landscape photographs before entries close on Monday 31 May.  And good luck!!




Image credit: Daniella Zalcman


Head On Foundation (est. 2008) is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting photographers' work at all career stages. We encourage excellence and innovation, make photography accessible to all, and raise awareness of important issues through the medium. The Foundation's main activities are Head On Photo Festival and Head On Awards (Portrait, Landscape, and Student photographic prizes) and an annual program of collaborative projects. Head On Foundation is a bridge between Australian and international photography markets. The festival has toured in the US, China, India, Europe, and New Zealand, introducing the global arts community to the wealth of photographic talent Australia possesses.

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Head On Photo Awards 2024

Entries to the Head On Photo Awards 2024 open in May/June.

Image detail: Gary Ramage