In a collection of interviews to mark International Women’s Day 2022, we shine a light on some of the brilliant women at the heart of The Independent.
Amy Smirk gives a look inside the distribution and library team, and reveals her hopes, lessons she’s learned and the incredible women that have shaped her. Get ready to be inspired.
Describe your job
As a team, we maintain and distribute post publication content across many platforms and outlets while managing and developing our own digital archives and databases of content.
The role can be wide and varied from managing large scale digitisation projects, preserving, and making content accessible, to working with the picture desks and distributing imagery to our clients, all while advocating for our creative contributors and their work.
How did you get into your profession?
I’m a photographer turned picture editor morphed asset librarian.
I’m here because I took some chances, got stuck in, did some faking it until making it, took a few unknown leaps of faith, and explored opportunities for skill expansion wherever possible.
While studying my degree at Westminster, I had the pleasure of working summers – and some years after graduating – as the Photography Director at Point O’ Pines in New York. It was an invaluable experience to which I still feel gave me my first stepping stone into my career. Managing a team in the daily ritual: Shoot, Edit, Archive, Distribute, Repeat. To this day, I still say I’ve never learnt so much in such a short space of time.
Who and what has helped you break the bias?
Nicole Smallman. Refreshingly herself in every remit, from the day we met, Nick broke the bias for me. Kind, inclusive and boldly outspoken, she’d be first in any group to speak out to an injustice before her. Astutely clewed with the times and current affairs, she celebrated diversity and called out discrimination with a rare approach; truly wishing to understand and counter the root of prejudice. With a heart of gold and a passion for people, the core of her being was that of understanding, acceptance and hope for a better future.
Which women do you admire?
So, give me a month and I could write a dissertation to this question!
Mina Smallman: A force to be reckoned with, Mina has shown incredible strength in the face of adversity, utilising her grief for good. She exemplifies a powerhouse of female empowerment. With a strong determined voice, she is a solid advocate for societal and institutional change within the MET and our wider communities.
Sherie Alden: Small but mighty, Sherie exemplifies what it is to be a strong female leader. Throughout her work at The Point, she and her equally inspiring partner Erin have paved a robust foundation for thousands of young girls and women who passed through their program, giving them a safe space to develop their skills, and helping them realise their future goals and dreams. Her legacy will ensure future masses of women have a safe space to grow in confidence and explore their passions.
Sue Nicolaides: A brilliant and inspiring individual who saw a challenge she could help with and just went for it. Sue, founder of ‘Go with the Flow’, works fighting period poverty and providing over 500 girls in rural Ugandan schools with sanitary and hygiene products so they don’t miss out on their education.
What are your hopes for the future in terms of breaking the bias?
I hope there will always be a safe space for people to discuss and break down the bias. I hope people continue to rise up and confidently call out injustice; peer education is a positive community process. I hope communities open up the conversation to those who don’t have an outlet or platform to explore their thoughts and where they came from – it’s a rocky road once things begin to get buried. My hope is that we can keep these things on the surface and allow compassion and understanding a place in the fight for a brighter future.
What one bit of career advice would you give to others?
Just jump in, have a go, try not to let fear of failure rule. I feel it’s better to try, fail, learn, and grow. Be kind to yourself, tell others when they inspire you, big up your sisters and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses when they bloom.