Paola Gianturco: Documenting Incredible Power of Women Around the World


For Paola Gianturco, leaving the business and marketing world for photojournalism in the early 90’s was a natural next step.


“I photographed always,” she says. Equally natural was finding her subject: the many women across the globe who strive to improve the lives of themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. From her time as the principal in the first women-owned advertising agency, to being on the board of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, to teaching classes about women and leadership at both Mills and then Stanford, Paola has been a strong advocate for women and their rights. “I have a long history from the beginning of looking for news and important issues that affected women,” says Paola, “I was just tired of the fact that women had been discounted so consistently virtually everywhere.”



To date, Paola has published 5 successful books full of inspiring stories and strong-willed women, all of which support a variety of worldwide organizations helping women lead better lives:

In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World

2000/2004,  Monacelli Press/powerHouse Books

Her first book, In Her Hands, profiles 90 women entrepreneurs around the world who create and sell exquisite handmade crafts. Paola was invited onto the Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss her project and the experience meeting these extraordinary women. Images from the book were also shown at the United Nations National Assembly. Of the experience, Paola says “It was wonderful to walk into that rotunda and see these photographs of these women from all over the world, whose stories could then become visible, these very poor women, who were nonetheless exercising their skills and talents to support their families. They were very inspiring and important stories to make known to our legislators. And I was proud they were there.” Next, she was invited to present her work to the Ndebele King in South Africa, a group featured on the cover of In Her Hands. Proceeds from the book go to a number of nonprofit organizations: The Global Fund for Women, The Kraft Center, Aid to Artisans, Association of Women in Development — an organization which has changed its name and is now called Women Thrive, which works on international women’s issues as they are served by U.S. policies for trade and aid. So far Paola has raised 120,000 dollars. 

Celebrating Women

2004, powerHouse Books

Celebrating Women, Paola’s second book, travels from Swaziland to China documenting the many festivals around the world which honor women. Work from Celebrating Women was exhibited at the Field Museum in Chicago for 7 months before going to the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris for International Women’s Day. Afterwards, the work traveled to university galleries across the United States. Sales of the book support the International Museum of Women in San Francisco.

¡Viva Colores!: A Salute to the Indomitable People of Guatemala

2006, powerHouse Books

Viva Colores, a project 10 years in the making, documents the diverse and vibrant culture of Guatemala. According to Paola, “They were all people who had experienced some and maybe all of the kinds of catastrophes that beleaguer Guatemalans. Civil war. Terrible weather. Hurricanes can demolish whole villages. Poverty, extreme poverty. Volcanic eruptions. And yet somehow these Guatemalans, as a result of their faith in part, and as a result of their constitutions and imaginations, had managed to continue to live normal lives. Or reconstitute their lives so that they could be lived normally.” The the author royalties from this book went to a nonprofit organization that helps build bridges and bring water to villages.

Women Who Light the Dark

2007, powerHouse Books

Women Who Light the Dark profiles the women who head NGOs fighting the most intractable problems facing women today. Issues such as education for women, domestic violence, and child marriage. The Global Fund for Women partnered with Paola to create this book and receives the proceeds from its sales. Together, Paola and the Global Fund for Women were able to promote events around the book across the United States, generating wide outreach for the NGOs highlighted in the book.

Grandmother Power: A Global Phenomenon

2012, powerHouse Books

Paola’s most recent project, Grandmother Power, shows grandmothers the world over to be vibrant and important to their communities, helping to alleviate social ailments of all stripes. Paola, who is a grandmother herself, says her three goals for Grandmother Power are “to contribute a significant amount to the grandmothers who are raising children orphaned by AIDS in 15 African countries, jostle people’s expectations about what it means to get older — I’m just tired of the stereotype of grandmothers being invisible women who are rocking, tatting in their rocking chairs, and third, my great dream is to engage grandmothers who are not yet involved in activism in changing the world.” Work from Grandmother Power has been exhibited at The Grand Rapids Public Museum in Michigan.


"You know, there are more grandmothers right now

than there have ever been in the history of the planet."


Of her oeuvre, Paola says, “I was determined that women’s voices should be heard. And they were not being heard. They were practically inaudible. So I saw that that was a particular contribution that I could make.”

In Her Hands brought its message to the public and policymakers alike. It generated direct revenue from book sales for organizations that benefit the artisans' communities. Listen to Paola and get a look inside the book as she shares some specific impacts it brought about.

Discover more about Paola's projects and their impacts on her website.


Supported Organizations from In Her Hands

  • Association for Women's Rights in Development:  builds cooperation among development and human rights researchers, practitioners, policymakers and activists around the world.

  • Women's Thrive Worldwide (formerly Women's Edge): a dynamic coalition of individuals and organizations dedicated to ensuring that U.S. International aid and trade programs work for women.

  • Global Fund for Women: the largest foundation in the world (and the only one in the U.S.) that focuses exclusively on international women's issues. The Global Fund provides seed funding to support the activities of women's groups overseas that are working on critical women's issues such as gaining economic independence, increasing girls' access to education, and reducing violence against women.

  • Freedom from Hunger: fighting chronic hunger and poverty with self-help programs that combine credit and education. Freedom from Hunger provides small, short-term loans to low-income women worldwide, at the same time educating those borrowers about health, nutrition and managing micro-businesses more effectively and profitably.

  • Aid to Artisans: offering practical assistance to artisans world-wide, working in partnerships to foster artistic traditions, cultural vitality and community well-being through training and collaboration in product development, production and marketing."