‘Today We Are Possible’ — A Photo Exhibition Exploring the Intersections of Gender and Wealth

Originally Published on February 28, 2024 by Regine Roquia for Womanly Magazine.

On January 31st, WOMEN’S WAY, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of women, girls, gender, and racial equity, launched the, “Today We Are Possible” photography exhibit at Philadelphia’s Heim Center for Cultural and Civic Engagement. The exhibit, featuring captivating and intimate portraits by photographer Gregory Wright, explores the intersections of gender and wealth through the experiences of six Philadelphia women: Ivy, Faith, Ingrid, Tracey, Tamara, and Taina. We had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Sheard, Director of the Gender Wealth Institute, to delve deeper into the exhibition’s development.

What motivated WOMEN’S WAY to use the “Today We Are Possible” photo exhibit as a medium to explore the intersection of gender and wealth in Philadelphia?

In year 1 of our Gender Wealth Index Research Project, we wanted to hear directly from women about their experiences with wealth accumulation and wealth extraction. We put the call out to do a series of interviews, where we got to know women in our community more intimately. The wisdom and insights we learned in these interviews were fascinating. Some of what previous research already confirmed — that having a college degree was positive for their economic well-being in the short term but very challenging in terms of debt in the long term. We also heard the nuance and complexity in their stories, that they had achieved traditional markers of success like buying a house or completing an advanced degree, but that didn’t allow for a sense of peace or a feeling of safety. We wanted to memorialize these insights and center these women through photography. We are grateful to our partners at the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Engagement for Women for helping to bring this exhibit to life.

How did the collaboration with photographer Gregory Wright and the inclusion of writings from Black feminist thinkers shape the exhibition’s visual narratives?

The idea was to have the quotes directly from the women themselves, representing their thoughts and feelings, rather than us summarizing or offering interpretation. We also wanted to put them in the context of feminist writers and thinkers, as a way to point to Black Feminist work as a praxis and to refer to this sense of time. Wealth is an experience that is built over time, through conscious decisions and actions by actors in a variety of systems. These decisions and actions allow for wealth to grow in individuals, families, and communities, or allows for wealth to be painstakingly extracted. Wealth is also often talked about in terms of legacy — what you want to leave for your loved ones over time, what will allow your future descendants to build on and invest. We placed the quotes in context with Black Feminist writers from our history as if to simulate or situate a conversation over time. What Tamara is talking about in her interview with us, June Jordan was urging the collective to reckon with, decades earlier. The wisdom was there, the wisdom continues, and this is a theme.

Greg was a dream to work with. He listened to hours of audio from the women in their interviews to understand their perspectives and used that to inform his approach to the work. He also was thoughtful and full of care as a collaborator. It was fun to work with someone who could hold the weight of the work we were aiming to do while also bringing levity to it. He would start the photography sessions with some deep breathing, or play some 80’s R&B. Whatever was needed to bring safety and fun.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Plan your visit to the exhibit here.