The Power Of The Photograph With Fiona Freund

Steeped in history and tradition, the insurance community is not known for its diverse workforce. Indeed, a 2021 report by Lloyd’s of London showed that only 8% of the Insurance market employees came from an ethnic minority.

And diversity is not confined to race and ethnicity. It also spans sex and gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, socio-economic background, religion, and more. Again, not something in high supply in a traditional sector.

And yet, diversity matters. Research shows that companies with a racial and ethnically diverse workforce were 35% more likely to exceed their industry peers in terms of performance and profit.

Innovation and Diversity are inseparable

Organisations that harness the differences in people are the ones that will succeed in today’s world. An innovative culture, rich in future and client focus, is the magic sauce that makes organisations stand out.

Innovation is about people. Diverse and inclusive teams bring fresh thoughts, inspiration from different experiences, and transfer knowledge from seemingly unrelated places.

At EDII, we know that teams made from a mix of ethnicity, gender, age, educational background, and more are those that bring out the most inspirational of ideas.

We are always looking for ways to get this message across. To change perceptions and to see things in a different light. When EDII CEO Caroline Bedford was selected to feature in the ’50 over Fifty’ campaign, celebrating the contribution of women over 50 in the insurance workforce, we knew we had to bring the movement, its goals, and its ethos to our Digital Minds audience.

Meet the incredible power that is Fiona Freund

“A picture paints a thousand words”, so the saying goes, and nowhere is this truer than in the incredible visual storytelling from notable photographer and campaigner, Fiona Freund. Inspired by her #MotherWorks and #CorporateQueer campaigns, 50 over Fifty founders Katrina Foster and Michaela Gibson invited Art Director and Photographer, Fiona, to work with them to create a movement to inspire the UK Insurance Industry to become more age-inclusive to women.

As an inclusive employer with a strong focus on inclusion and diversity, we partnered with Canopius for a special EDII event: The Power Of The Photograph with Fiona Freund. Organised by former Digital Minds delegate, Mike O’Callaghan and opened by their UK CEO, Sarah Willmont, Fiona gave Caroline the low-down on her photography origins and showcased some of the stand-out images from her campaigns.

How did you get into photography?

Both my parents are photographers, so I guess it was somehow my destiny! Creativity ran in the family and I grew up listening to conversations about compositions and colour balance. I tried many things after leaving school – including stand-up comedy and backing singing! – but eventually realised I had a yearning for visual creativity and picked up a camera.

I started on a very traditional route, focusing on fashion photography and within 2 years I had a few big breaks, shooting portraits and fashion for the Observer, The Guardian and then for Vogue for more than 15 years. I’ve been incredibly fortunate.

Working in fashion is a great experience because you get to work with big teams, with Art Directors. Make-up artists, stylists, and an editor, but you never truly have the creative freedom to express yourself through your art. The photo is always cropped or edited in a way that you wouldn’t choose. There was always that feeling that one day I wanted to do something where I can present the images in a way that was true to the people in them.

Michaela Gibson and Katrina Foster
Kirat Nandra

You are described as a ‘visual narrator’. How did you get into using photography to tell people’s stories?

As a child, I was bullied at school and the feeling of not being ‘allowed in’ stayed with me. Having my own children made me more focused on how I could use my skills to help people, to celebrate differences and become a force for good. I wanted to include everyone in my photos no matter how unique, or how similar, they were.

Your first inclusion campaign was #MotherWorks and champions mothers in the workplace – tell us about that.

I wanted to showcase the bizarre duality of working mothers. Their role in holding the economy up with one hand, and their children in the other.

I photographed almost 60 working mums across all levels and backgrounds. C-suite, teachers, retail staff, MPs, and more. Being a mother myself, I’m no stranger to juggling priorities and I wanted that reality to show in these images. My goal was to make working mothers feel represented and recognised. To help organisations promote the value of working mums, include them, and celebrate them.

This was closely followed by #CorporateQueer. How did that come about?

One in five LGBT+ people are still not ‘out’ at work, for fear of bullying or harassment. #CorporateQueer was created for Pride in 2021, and commissioned by the Houses of Parliament, to celebrate the LGBT+ community in a unique, bold and visual way to pave the way to make the workforce more inclusive for everyone.

I met so many incredible people and their stories inspired me. Carla Matthews (photographed below) said that as a D&I campaigner she felt that she had pushed the door open and needed to hold it open to as many other to get through too. I wanted these campaigns to celebrate the work that is currently being done to improve diversity and inclusion.

Michaela Gibson and Katrina Foster
Kirat Nandra

Most recently, the #50overFifty campaign has made a big splash in the UK Insurance Industry. What was that designed to achieve?

Well, first of all, it was just brilliant! What an amazing campaign and I had such fun shooting it! I was approached by Michaela Gibson, an Inclusivity specialist in the insurance industry. Michaela had seen the MotherWorks and CorporateQueer campaigns, and together with Katrina Foster from WTW, thought the model would transition well for their goal to promote the value of women over 50 in the industry. Women are not getting enough recognition – they are not appreciated for their incredible experiences.

When they got in touch with me, I was beyond thrilled. I’m 57, and I often feel that in the creative industry, you’ve got to be young. This has made even me want to celebrate age!

When Katrina and Michaela first put the idea out there, they didn’t know how much interest they’d get, or even if any women would apply to be featured. Suffice to say, they ended up with three times the applicants they had the capacity for, and the campaign has made a huge impact.

Michaela Gibson and Katrina Foster
Kirat Nandra

Why do these campaigns make such a difference?

Celebrating lived experiences via photography gives insight into the battles, choices and triumphs people face.  As the saying goes “We can’t be, what we can’t see”.

These campaigns are more than just photos. Every portrait is paired with a story that the featured person wants to tell, to share their experiences, making the connection real. You really get to know who they are.

Seeing others with shared challenges makes people feel represented and recognised. It supports the goals of organisations that want to drive inclusion and equality.

What’s next?

A question I’m always asking myself! At the moment, I’m doing a lovely, lovely project.

In the 1950s and 1960s, 15,000 young women were brought over from Ireland to train as nurses in the NHS. These fabulous women are now in their 80s, and we’re collecting their stories. I’ve been running around, photographing these amazing Irish women, and let me tell you, they have some incredible stories.

#CorporateQueer will be on exhibition in the Houses of Parliament, and we are planning more exhibitions celebrating the differently abled, neurodiversity, parents and all the amazing cultural backgrounds of people working in the UK.

I’m determined to use the power of photography to drive inclusion and champion the diversity that organisations, clients and stakeholders throughout can benefit from.

Michaela Gibson and Katrina Foster
Kirat Nandra

Thank you to Digital Mind Alum Mike O’Callaghan, Sarah Willmont, Monique Retief, Daniella Davies and all of the team at Canopius for helping to bring this event to life.

To see more of Fiona’s work, visit

And you can follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram

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