Nancy Durrell McKenna

Photography, Film & Exhibitions

For over 35 years I have been photographing and filming women, children and their communities in more than 85 countries. My focus and passion has been maternal and newborn health, which draws me like a magnet to pregnant women. In 2003 I founded the UK charity SafeHands, dedicated to improving maternal health and the sexual reproductive rights of women and girls nationally and internationally. We use photography and film, powerful communication tools that supersede the limitations imposed by literacy and language to raise awareness about important subjects including Child Marriage, Obstetric Fistula, Female Genital Mutilation, HIV/AIDS, Family Planning, Safe Delivery and Menstrual stigma and taboos.  Our films educate. empower and inspire action in the developed world and improve the knowledge and skills of front line health workers in emerging countries.

Nancy Durrell McKenna photographing subjects

In SafeHands Book

In SafeHands is a compilation of thirty years of photographic work dedicated to the women, girls and their communities, who welcomed Nancy into their lives and who trusted her to tell their stories.

Purchase Book

Other Books

2019 – In SafeHands, second edition, pub. SafeHands for Mothers
2016 – In SafeHands, pub. SafeHands for Mothers
1995 – Living in Canada, pub. Ginn and Co Ltd. UK.
1992 – Living in India, pub. Ginn and Co Ltd. UK.
1988 – Canadian Family, pub. Adam and Charles Black, London
1985 – Yik Ming in Hong Kong, pub. Adam and Charles Black, London
1984 – KwaZulu South Africa, pub. Adam and Charles Black, London – The Times Educational Supplement Junior

In SafeHands Exhibition — on tour

This exhibition has been transferred to ​La Coruña, Galicia, NW Spain, February 2022.


Photos from the Royal British Columbia Museum Exhibition
Victoria, BC
June-August 2019

​Touched by a Midwife and One Aspect of Woman

Touched by a Midwife and One Aspect of Woman photographic exhibition depicts the extraordinary form of the pregnant body with the skill and love of a Midwife. This exhibition has been purchased by the Whittington Hospital Trust to adorn the walls of its Birth Centre.



Inspiring Campaign for BOND International Development Awards for Now That You Know, Say NO to FGM


Best Direction for The Cutting Tradition, Philadelphia Documentary and Fiction Festival


Best Documentary for The Cutting Tradition, Victoria Australia Independent Film Festival


The Royal Photographic Society: Combined Royal Colleges Medal


The John Dobson Foundation, grant for Safe Motherhood Project


British Council
Travel Grant


The Bronze Award for Birth: Eight Women’s Stories, British Media Association Film and Video Competition


The Gold Award for Birth: Eight Women’s Stories, New York International Film and Television Festival


The Times Educational Supplement Junior Information Book Award for KwaZulu South Africa


2023 – MUJER (WOMAN), Granada, Spain, October 5 – December 3 2023

2023 – MUJER, Calle Compostela, La Coruña, Spain

2022 – In SafeHands, Colegio Oficial de Médicos, La Coruña, Spain

2021 – Touched by a Midwife, Permanent Exhibition, Whittington Hospital, London UK

2019 – In SafeHands – The Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria BC, Canada

2019 – Touched by a Midwife – Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing, University College Hospital, London,UK

2016 – BOND Annual Conference – QEII Conference Centre London, London, UK

2013 – A Decade in Africa – sponsored by The Guardian newspaper, The Guardian Building, London, UK

2008 – Images for Life – The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, UK

2005 – Maternity Worldwide – Brighton, UK

2002 – Effective Leaders? Images from East and Central Africa

2001 – Colours Of The Dominican Republic – Bolivar Hall, London, UK

2000 – From The Invisible To The Visible: Images of Mauritian Women For the New Millennium – Mauritius

2000 – Art Fair at Christopher Place – The Speech, Language and Hearing Centre, London, UK

2000 – Women of the World: Cara a Cara: Face to Face – Museo de la Ciudad, Spain

1999 – Images from the Field – House of Commons, Ottawa, Canada

1997 – One Aspect Of Woman, Pregnancy and Birth – The WBZ, Dusseldorf, Germany

1997 – Promocion APEC de la Mujer – La Galeria, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

1997 – One Aspect of Woman, Pregnancy and Birth – Geraldton Museum, Australia

1996 – One Aspect of Woman, Pregnancy and Birth – Perth Cultural Centre, Australia

1994 – Twentieth Anniversary Celebration of Family Medicine Teaching – Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1993 – One Aspect of Woman, Pregnancy and Birth – Fouts and Fowler Gallery, London, UK

1992 – A World of Difference – Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK

1988 – City of London Festival – All Hallows by the Tower, UK

1984 – Sawubona! – National Theatre, London, UK

1983 – Sawubona! – Photographer’s Gallery, London, UK

Photographic material held by the following agencies and libraries:
Oxfam, Christian Aid, UNESCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP, Comic Relief, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), World Council of Churches, World Health Organisation (WHO), International Labour Organisation (ILO) Deutsche Welthungerhilfe, Global Affairs Canada, Save The Children, EuronAid, British Council, CARE International and Partners in Population and Development, Photo Researchers and the Wellcome Foundation.


In the past 20 years, the work of SafeHands has expanded, but what remains at the core of our work is the belief that when women tell their personal stories, they have the power to spark change.