The success of Karyn Leong’s mission to empower women through her photography was immediately obvious at the opening of her exhibition ‘Still Beautiful’ at 147 Lorong Kelawai this weekend. Many of the women featured had come to see the pictures and were clearly very moved by the whole show. Beyond being an exhibition, the event served as an opportunity for women to connected with one another and support each other. The exhibition entry is via donation to the Women’s Centre for Change, adding another element to this overall atmosphere of female empowerment. The images represent both the diversity in Penang, and the shared experience of being a woman, brining people together in recognition of their own power.

Karyn’s aim, more specifically, is to celebrate mature women as individuals and as an integral part of the community. The images are a series of black and white portraits shot during hour long sessions designed to give the subject time to relax and open up to the camera. Karyn had a similar show in her home town in Australia, and so it is only fitting that she has brought the idea to her home from home, Penang.

Alongside the 15 portraits are short descriptions of the women and a list of five words each chose to describe herself, which as whole offer a really interesting look at how we look at our own strengths. It is particularly interesting to think about certain words that are recurring, and what this means for values within a ‘female experience’. As well as the 15 main images, there are a few strings of more candid images Karyn has taken while wandering around Penang. She encourages people to take these if they recognise anyone in the photographs and to give them to the subject, almost as a physical demonstration of how far her message can reach.

Speaking to Karyn offers a greater insight into her work and her overwhelming desire to support women and encourage to recognise the beauty in themselves. It is perhaps associated with her career as a nurse, that she is so determined to now care for people in a different way as she insist that her photography is never about her but the women who inspire her. She is particularly enthused when talking about how her work has expanded through social media. When some of the women change their display pictures, she explains, to one the portraits she’s taken, people will comment with encouraging messages of support, reminding the women that they are beautiful.

The exhibition will be open from the 30th of July to the 5th of August between 11am and 2pm, at 147 Lorong Kelawai. Entry is via donation to the Women’s Centre for Change.


More of Karyn’s photography can be seen here

By Ella Benson Easton