The Journal Collective magnifies underrepresented visual stories on its online platform  - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

The Journal Collective magnifies underrepresented visual stories on its online platform 

In Partnership with Squarespace

An online photography collective supports women and nonbinary photographers to share visual narratives that are personal and representative of diverse experiences around the world.

In March of 2020, photographer Charlotte Schmitz, founder of The Journal Collective, had the forethought to question who would create the visual record of a life-changing, global moment. As a curious and ambitious artist, she was fascinated by how daily life was starting to shift and what that meant for her fellow photographers and their everyday surroundings. She posed the question to her online network and peers at Women Photograph (a private database hosting more than 1,300 independent documentary photographers), “What if hundreds of creative female women photographers in 100+ countries documented their private spaces and daily lives during COVID-19?” After receiving messages of encouragement from  her broader photography community, she partnered with Friendzone.Studio and photographer Hannah Yoon to set up the framework for a new collective. This curiosity, along with a growing need to support underrepresented artists, led to the launch of The Journal Collective, an initiative focussed on giving women and nonbinary photographers a community and a platform for sharing narratives and exploring each other’s gaze.

This feature is part of  “Three Creative Paths,” an editorial series produced in collaboration with Squarespace, the all-in-one website and commerce building platform. In dialogue with a diverse group of creative entrepreneurs, the series dives into three unique experiences and explores the importance of a strong online presence for turning a passion project into a successful career.

“Our website is an important education tool to spell out our mission, who we are, and why it’s important to support photographers from underrepresented countries telling often ignored stories.”

Photos by The Journal Collective members: Ali Smith, Atika Zata, Celia Talbot Tobin, Claudia Toledo, Elisabetta Zavoli, Florence Goupil, Gihan Tubbeh, Janet Jerman, Keri Oberly, Kiki Streitberger, Koral Carballo, Laurence Philomene, Liliana Merizalde, Nina Riggio, Nelly Ating, Maggie Shannon, Oksana Parafeniuk, Rhiannon Adam, Sarah Pabst, Solmaz Daryani, Terra Fondriest, Tira Khan, Yen Duong.
  • Marie Hartlieb, creative concept strategist at Friendzone.Studio and co-founder of The Journal Collective (left) and Flor Orpianesi, designer at Friendzone.Studio and co-founder of The Journal Collective (right) in their Berlin studio.
  • Flor Orpianesi
  • Marie Hartlieb (left) and Flor Orpianesi (right) in their Berlin studio.
  • Maide Yıldız, programmer of The Journal Collective’s website (left) and Charlotte Schmitz, founder and project manager of The Journal Collective (right).
  • Marie Hartlieb (left) and Flor Orpianesi (right) in their Berlin studio.
  • Flor Orpianesi
Inside view of The Journal Collective studio in Berlin.
Flor Orpianesi (left) and Marie Hartlieb (right) on a video call with Maide Yıldız (on screen, left) and Charlotte Schmitz (on screen, right).
Flor Orpianesi (left) and Marie Hartlieb (right) in their Berlin studio.
Flor Orpianesi (left) and Marie Hartlieb (right) discussing The Journal Collective’s website.

The Journal Collective is currently managed remotely by several of its members. To share their uniquely collaborative and creative working process, in February 2022, Friendzone’s creative concept strategist Marie Hartlieb and designer Flor Orpianesi welcomed us inside their Berlin studio. Meanwhile, in a herculean effort to solve their daily time-zone puzzle, founder Charlotte Schmitz, traveling in Machala, Southern Ecuador, and photographer Yen Duong, based in Ho Chi Minh City, respectively started the morning and evening with a video call. Currently acting as a project manager, Charlotte discussed ongoing updates for the website with Yen, who is responsible for writing the website’s content. In Istanbul, Maide Yıldız, who manages the programming side to the website, worked in parallel to better translate the supportive, interconnected nature of the hub. Membership has grown to over 400 photographers from more than seventy five countries worldwide, with each member working daily to organize, publish, promote, and support each other’s work. Together, this global team demonstrates the power of a community-based initiative, countering the often competitive and individualistic tendencies within the photo industry.

Most people first learn about The Journal Collective through their Instagram, where members were initially divided into regional groups to exchange photos and organize posts during curated takeovers. These first instances of community allowed for rare opportunities to collaborate and connect with other photographers. The Journal Collective’s Instagram account currently has over fifteen thousand followers and it was soon after gaining this popularity that its founders saw the need to create an online website using Squarespace; a place where members and visitors could slow down, reflect on the images on view, and learn about new projects.

Charlotte explains, “Instagram is the place where we share all the images, but our website is an important education tool to spell out our mission, who we are, and why it’s important to support photographers from underrepresented countries telling often ignored stories. It’s very difficult on social media to inform the audience about what we are doing, aside from sharing images, and we want to educate editors, curators, and the public about our goals.” Yen adds, “the website is really important for us as a way to archive what we have achieved, what we’re doing, and also where we want to go, because that’s where we express our concept.” The website has also expanded opportunities for member collaboration, most obviously seen in their member-curated, thematic galleries. Past collections have included prompts such as visual representations of Movement, Memory, or Color. In August 2021, photographer, writer, conservationist, and marine biologist Cristina Mittemeier called for images related to the theme of Water, resulting in a broad and beautiful set of photographs varying widely in geography, aesthetic, and narrative.

​​Along with housing a dynamic archive, the website supports The Journal Collective’s goal of being accessible and supportive to a global community, particularly those who are not based in large cities. The global nature of the group means that regular in-person meetings are near impossible, but supporting photographers worldwide is nonetheless paramount. By having an online base, activities and opportunities are not localized in large cities but available for a wider group of photographers. Regular newsletters and monthly check-ins create a remarkably successful working dynamic, made possible by the shared enthusiasm and commitment by the members. Charlotte emphasizes her hope, “my idea was really rooted in a desire to create a collective project because I believe that our industry is very based on individualism and competition. The only way to balance the story, and to work against inequalities, is to come together and work in collaboration.” It was quickly evident too, in the conversation between Charlotte and Yen, that there is a deep respect and admiration for one another—a sensibility that perhaps best characterizes The Journal Collective.

“The only way to balance the story, and to work against inequalities, is to come together and work in collaboration.”

Ultimately, The Journal Collective’s website provides photographers with opportunities to have their work seen. They seek to expand the reach of their members’ work with the hope of increasing visibility, participation in exhibitions, festivals, and publishing opportunities. Members have commented on the critical nature of their online presence—how it led to assignments, exhibitions, grants, and book projects, allowing them to be compensated for their art. Press coverage ranging from The British Journal of Photography, The Washington Post, to Artsy, among others, shows the impact of the online exposure they’ve received. For photographers, it is often exposure like this and also the connection to editors, curators, or creative directors that makes all the difference. The Journal Collective effectively works to connect photographers not only to each other, but to those seeking out diverse and inclusive photography projects for publication or programming.

When asked about the future of The Journal Collective, Charlotte and Yen agree that it would mean a lot to develop a book project in order to provide a powerful capstone and archive of the past few years. To see images in print by hundreds of women and nonbinary photographers would offer a permanent visual record of the intimate realities of underrepresented voices working around the world. Through photographs, whether on social media, online websites, or in print,  they hope to expose viewers to diverse realities, and, hopefully, build a more informed, curious, and empathetic public.

View of Gaertner Street from the balcony of The Journal Collective studio in Berlin.
Flor Orpianesi (left) and Marie Hartlieb (right).
Marie Hartlieb (left) and Flor Orpianesi (right) with self-taught lens artist and member of The Journal Collective Ceren Saner (center).
Marie Hartlieb (left), Ceren Saner (center), Flor Orpianesi (right).
Self-taught lens artist and member of The Journal Collective Ceren Saner (center).
Flor Orpianesi (left), Marie Hartlieb (center) and Ceren Saner (right).
Front view of Shakespeare & Sons bookstore in Berlin.
Marie Hartlieb (left), Flor Orpianesi (center), and Ceren Saner (right) sitting outside of Shakespeare & Sons in Berlin.
Marie Hartlieb and Flor Orpianesi looking at photographs made by members of the collective.

Charlotte Schmitz, Yen Duong, Marie Hartlieb, Flor Orpianesi, and Maide Yıldız, along with the 400 plus members of The Journal Collective work to support women and nonbinary photographers tell intimate and critical stories from around the globe. As a collaborative group, they promote one another while inspiring the photography community at large. Using their website as a central hub for connecting photographers to new audiences, they create opportunities for more equitable and equal representation within the photography community.

This feature is part of  “Three Creative Paths,” an editorial series produced in collaboration with Squarespace, the all-in-one website and commerce building platform. In dialogue with a diverse group of creative entrepreneurs, the series dives into three unique experiences and explores the importance of a strong online presence for turning a passion project into a successful career.

Along with the founders of The Journal Collective, this series features Mary Scherpe, the creative force behind the legendary blog Stil in Berlin. 


Text: Amelia Lang
Photography: Lena Giovanazzi
DoP: Marcus Werner