The Photographic Journal

Women on Sofas

Essay 428 • Feb 16th 2020

This project was driven by a curiosity about the space a woman occupies in contemporary western society. It explores how we experience ourselves in the domestic and public arenas, whilst celebrating our diversity and power in unexpected ways. It looks at the pride and pleasure we take in our strength and resilience, and in challenging society’s expectations of us. In spite of growing freedoms in many areas of society over the past century, the domestic sphere is still often seen as women’s terrain. It is a space into which we are welcomed. It has been interesting to observe this space, disrupt it and take it beyond its ‘natural’ limits, whilst exploring our emotional response to it.
The women come from a diversity of backgrounds and cultures and span eight decades. The sofa is more than a domestic object; it is imbued with symbolism and a rich history. It holds a familiarity and is an invitation for togetherness. These photographs bring that intimate space into the outside world and ask us to reconsider what it means to get comfortable, and feel safe. They also consider the social function of the sofa, and allow that function to broaden into the idea of bodily experience. The image of the sofa initially suggests inactivity. Women on Sofas works to challenge that.


Ruby Steele is a London-based photographer. She graduated with a BA in Photography from London College of Communication in 2018. Since graduating she was awarded the Michael Wilson Photography Prize, shortlisted for the British Photography Portrait Awards 2019 and The Wall Gallery Photography Awards 2020. Her work has been exhibited in GX Gallery, South London as well as The Millepiani Space Photography Show in Rome, Italy and sold at The Auction Collective, North London and The Boathouse Creative Studios, East London.
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