Leonard Freed, Women's Liberation / Magnum Photos

Ideas Series: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

This image is by the great photographer Leonard Freed.

It must have been taken at a women’s liberation rally in the 1970s and serves as the ‘poster’ image for my selection from Magnum’s resin coated archive.

The woman in the picture is both the observer and the observed, and has a certain confidence, energy and urgency in how she meets the photographer’s consuming gaze and challenges it with her own.

The slogan ‘You’ve come a long way baby’ on the plaque card behind her is a question we can ask ourselves now, fifty years on from the photograph’s conception. “Have we come a long way?”

From a female photographer’s perspective, informed by the process of selecting from this archive, I would shout a resounding yes, we have come a long way and the archive stands in testimony to this.

It also reminds me that this long revolution is not yet over, and we still have a way to go. The demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement – violence and sexual violence against women, equal pay, universal childcare and abortion rights – which we have only recently being able to articulate have yet to be met.

The female photographer in this picture gives me a sense of optimism about the future. She empowers me to do, say and photograph with history in mind, and I am very grateful to her for the freedom and the voice I have as a female photographer in society today.

This article was commissioned as part of the BPB14 exhibition Magnum: One Archive, Three Views at the De La Warr Pavilion on display until January 2015