An innovative course teaches—and inspires—young women wildlife photographers.
Though well-known for photographing charismatic mammals such as tigers and orangutans, Suzi Eszterhas also has an eye for life’s daintier fare, from native bees (above) to pelicans (below).
AFTER THE FIRST TIME SHE MENTORED young female photographers more than 10 years ago, award-winning wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas had a dream to encourage more girls to pursue nature photography, a profession long dominated by men.
So, in 2017, Eszterhas created Girls Who Click (GWC), a nonprofit that offers free photography workshops for girls ages 13 to 18. “It’s in the teen years when they decide they ‘can’ or ‘cannot’ do this for a job,” Eszterhas says. “Girls are way more likely than boys to decide they can’t do this, and that’s what breaks my heart. This job brings me tremendous joy, and I want to see girls have that joy, too.”
To date, some 500 girls have participated in GWC workshops, which are taught by about 25 of the world’s leading female nature photographers. Up to 20 young women can join each workshop and borrow equipment if they don’t have their own. Students learn some technical basics—such as lighting, focus and shutter speed—as well as how to develop an eye for what makes a memorable image and how to photograph wildlife without disturbing the animals.
Most learning takes place in the field at sites such as California’s Monterey Bay and Florida’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where girls photograph everything from sea otters to spoonbills. The program also offers online tutorials, which have helped GWC continue despite the pandemic.
Eszterhas sees herself in the girls who participate. “I was a kid who had a dream and a passion, but I did not feel empowered,” she says. “I so easily could’ve given up on my dream.” But she stuck with it and has seen hundreds of her images, from sloths in South America to koalas in Australia, published in books and magazines.
Such success took work—and confidence—which is what Eszterhas hopes to build through GWC. “Suzi has definitely inspired me,” says California high schooler Daphne Perlich, who took a workshop taught by Eszterhas in 2019. “It made me more confident about my photography.”
Eszterhas loves to see such transformations. Her hope is that girls “stay completely committed to their dreams”—no matter what barriers lie in front of them—and pursue those dreams “with a laser focus.”
Writer Melanie Lippert works in science communications, focusing on environmental education and endangered species.
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