Meet the Fellow: Danielle Villasana

Danielle Villasana is a trailblazing photographer with a gorgeous body of work on an array of global issues. Her areas of focus include gender, health, human rights and, more recently, displacement and migration, all of which she explores in her pieces by deeply following a small handful of people. Her stories thus simultaneously represent the wider phenomenon at hand, and reveal recognizable human lives with insight and compassion. This beat is full of the under-covered stories she seeks to tell, cultivated with a lens that is not sensationalist. An example is her personal project completed over many years about the lives of trans women across the Americas. Throughout this project, she avoids taking a majority of images that show violence: although trans women in the Americas face much of it, Danielle knows that their lives are much more than that.

All of this is an admirable effort on Danielle’s part, and makes clear the ethics that guide her work, but it also is in keeping with who she is: brave, witty, dedicated and kind, she is that person you meet and feel you’ve known for a decade. While admiring her work, it’s clear she’s a powerhouse of talent; while with her in person, she sets the subjects of her storytelling (and her work companions) immediately at ease.

In September of 2016 Danielle and I were living on different sides of the world and we had never met. But we reached out to each other online; I was taken with her years of dedication to her project documenting trans women, a subject that I had also covered in El Salvador. I admired the way that, it was clear through her photos, she approached her work with respect and nuance. We agreed in that exchange of notes to someday try to find a way to collaborate. That was a big dream; we are two freelancers in the hustle, in a career that’s shifting and in which resources are often scant. But IWMF made it possible. Danielle came from Istanbul, I came from El Salvador, and here we are in Honduras, able to pursue our collaboration enriched by a group of other talented, funny and incisive women journalists from around the globe.

– Danielle Mackey