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Tabitha Jussa, who works in the Department of Art and Design, is an artist and photographer with a keen interest in socio-political issues. She was invited to take part in an all-female photography initiative created to take new portraits of the UK’s women MPs, shot by women photographers.

209 Women is a national, artist-led project to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage and champion the visibility of women, particularly in environments that are still largely male-dominated. A collective of 209 women photographers from all across the UK has formed, including Tabitha, volunteering their time to make and mark history.

The exhibition launched in the Houses of Parliament on December 14, 2018, 100 years to the day since the first women voted in a UK general election, and can now be viewed at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery until April 14.

Tabitha chose to photograph Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood as she felt it was important to have an affinity and similar political views to the MP she had selected.

Tabitha said: “I was delighted to be invited by Tracy Marshall, one of the curators of the 209 Women Exhibition, who is also the Director of Development and Partnerships at the Open Eye Gallery and Northern Narratives.

“At first, I was unsure if Cat would be able to take part, as she had recently become a mother for the first time. I immediately thought that she would be on maternity leave. However, it was only because of my inclusion within the 209 Women project, I became aware that as office holders, MPs do not currently qualify for maternity leave. Cat was having to look after her new-born baby alongside her constituents! And on top of this, she had to fit me into her extremely busy day. I was very grateful that Cat was able to accommodate me. It was such a privilege to be able to make a portrait of such an incredible individual with such drive and determination and to also highlight the challenges that female MPs have as mothers.”

Tabitha has exhibited nationally including at the Openeye and Bluecoat, Liverpool; The Grundy, Blackpool; Ffotogallery, Penarth; Royal College of Art, London; and internationally at ShangART Gallery, Shanghai. She has been awarded Arts Council funding and was the recipient of the Liverpool Art Prize 2014 Judges and People’s Choice award. Tabitha also curated the ‘Common Ground’ exhibition, which was part of the Art in Football season last year and featured works from internationally renowned photographer Tom Wood and Ken Grant.

She added: “To be asked to be one of the 209 female photographers to photograph one of the 209 female MP’s currently in office was an honour. It was all the more exciting to then be told it would be part of an all-female Westminster take-over, where all the portraits would be on display at the Houses of Parliament. It has now travelled to the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool.”

209 Women is delivered in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool City Council, The Royal Photographic Society and The Sorority. It is presented as part of a year-round programme in partnership with Culture Liverpool, to champion the achievements of women and highlight the ongoing need for gender parity. The exhibition will be published in book format by Bluecoat Press later in the year.

209 Women is funded by Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council and The Women’s Vote Centenary Fund and delivered in partnership with Open Eye Gallery, the Royal Photographic Society and The Sorority. 209 Women is sponsored by Metro Imaging, Aston Martin Lagonda, Power of Women series and Montessori St Nicholas.

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