FOCUS Invites: Meet the curators

Nina Emett 


Nina Emett is a documentary photographer, photography commissioner and photographic curator. With a post-graduate diploma in Photojournalism from London College of Communication (University of the Arts London, 1997) and an MSc in International Development (University of London Birkbeck, 2006) coupled with relevant senior level management experience, she combines important social and environmental issues with the photographic arts.

Nina has worked as a photographer for a wide variety of NGOs, corporates and publications including Amnesty International, The Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture, Brittany Ferries, PwC, Common Purpose, The Independent as well as for local government and private commissions. She is currently working on a long-term documentary project Women Workers of India to be published by Indian art book publisher Mapin in early 2018.

Nina is Director of FotoDocument (, an arts education organisation she founded in 2012. FotoDocument commissions documentary photographers to create solution-focused photo essays in response to key social or environmental challenges. FotoDocument has run three major projects since the organisation’s official launch in 2012, commissioning 23 photographers, installing 18 photo essays in high-profile public spaces, forming over 30 partnerships and working with 30 schools. Nina strongly believes in the power of visual imagery as an effective communication tool to harness public attention and engage people in powerful storylines which create a sense of active global citizenship – this is reflected both in her own work and in the work FotoDocument commissions.

Previously Nina worked for Brighton & Hove City Council in refugee policy and racist hate crime (2005–2010). She devised and implemented community cohesion measures with Sussex Police to reduce race-related incidents and crimes and build trust and confidence with BME communities. She founded two city-wide refugee-focused arts festivals: The ONE Event (2005), Press For Change (2006), drawing audiences of 2,000. She liaised with a range of cross-sector partners, coordinating arts activities and exhibitions across the city. In 2006, she took a sabbatical to photograph genocide survivors for SURF in Rwanda.

From 1999-2003 Nina set up and managed the refugee education charity Salusbury WORLD, based within a London primary school, where she ran a range of services including home-school liaison, after-school arts clubs, and an advice centre. She helped coordinate a film about the charity’s work In Safe Hands made by Save The Children. She photographed and co-wrote the charity’s refugee education manual Home From Home. She ran photography workshops and curated a refugee children’s exhibition at the Tricycle Theatre, London (2001).

Nina is a Fellow of the School for Social Entrepreneurs (2011), an Alumni of Common Purpose’s ‘Dao Xiang Venture’, Shanghai (2013) and ‘Dishaa Venture’, Ahmedabad (2015) and was Chair of performing arts organisation Bandbazi (2010-2013). In October 2015, Nina won a PEA (People, Environment, Achievement) Award for FotoDocument’s ‘One Planet City’ project. @ninaemettphoto

Women Workers of India

By Nina Emett

Women Workers of India is a photographic essay by Nina Emett which focuses on women in India who have found a way out of poverty through membership of SEWA – Self Employed Women’s Association – an organisation founded by union lawyer, Ela Bhatt, in 1972. The work aims to provide a modern day visual testament to Ela Bhatt’s original vision, courage and commitment as interpreted by the photographer. It will be published in January 2018 by Indian art book publisher Mapin.

Ela Bhatt was disturbed by the suffering she saw around her growing up in Gujurat. She could not grasp why poor people seemed to ‘accept their fate’ but she later realised they were caught in the poverty trap. Bhatt’s maternal grandfather was a freedom fighter who had gone on the Salt March with Mahatma Gandhi. She was brought up with Gandhian principles, believing that poverty needs to be transcended because it is dehumanising and takes away freedoms. Throughout her life she saw for herself that women suffer the effects of poverty the most profoundly and disproportionately. Bhatt is one of fourteen Elders along with Desmond Tutu and Kofi Annan who work together as global leaders for peace and human rights.

SEWA is a trade union and a network of worker cooperatives across 124 trades including embroidery, construction, agri-business and salt-panning. It has improved the security and earning potential of the most vulnerable women workers in the informal sector, most of whom are self-employed and with little protection or rights. The goals of SEWA are full employment and self-reliance. There are 1.8 million SEWA members across 14 states and over 100 worker cooperatives owned and managed by women themselves. Many of the women say “I am SEWA” because they feel a sense of collective ownership. “Change is genuine and grass-roots up, producing confident women to be role models for the next generation.” Jyoti Macwan, General Secretary, SEWA.

Nina Emett was inspired to visually document the powerful stories of some of the women members of SEWA. On showing the final photographs to Ela Bhatt, this triggered memories and accounts from her lifetime’s work which have been recorded as part of the final piece.