Female Photographers

Why is it that Nikon & Canon focus (pun intended) mainly on male photographers, even if the ‘female market’ obviously is large and fast growing? A huge chunk of the market, regardless of gender, is of course the typical amateur photographer whose main focus is family and holiday memories, while the professional organisations still have more men represented than women.

Grete Stern

Grete Stern

The sentences above were discussed in Leanne Cole‘s blog a while back. I commented on her post and later decided to write my own post about it.

I’m not a camera salesman, so for me the market part of photographing isn’t interesting: who’s buying most cameras – women or men? This doesn’t concern me. The only thing that concerns me is what they produce with the cameras. The big majority of people take pictures to produce family memories, boring pictures of their cats, plants and so called ‘Facebook-moments’ (previously known as Kodak Moments). They’re also using their phone cameras to document whatever they’re having for dinner at some restaurant.

Many professional organizations largely consists of press photographers and in this line of work, the photographer is often ‘out in the fields’ in different war zones – a job where you’ll mostly find men, probably because of mental and physical differences between the sexes (men are often more adrenaline seeking, careless and violent than women). A lot of war photography is just about being at the right place at the right time or faking a scene – and it’s more often than not political propaganda. Of course this is just a matter of taste, but in my opinion male photographers such as war photographer Robert Capa and street photographer Henri Cartier Bresson are wildly overrated.

Many (most) of my favourite photographers are women.

  • Daniela Rossell:  I wrote an article on Daniela Rossell’s wonderful series «ricas y famosas». I really love her her ethnographic look at the Mexican upper-class’ tastes and lifestyles: she has a closeness & intimacy with her subjects. https://cardinalguzman.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/daniela-rosell-the-rich-andfamous/
  • Graciela Iturbide: Another great Mexican, female photographer is Graciela Iturbide. Some of my favourite works are Zihuatanejo, Ciudad de México, Desierto de Sonora and Juchitán (from the series named after the photo Juchitán)
  • Grete Stern: a lot of great surrealist works and double exposures. She made 150 photomontages, called Suenos (dreams). Fantastic!
  • Herlinde Koelbl: German photographer Herlinde Koelbl had some interesting photos in her exhibition “mein blick” where she took portraits of people in their apartments: a wonderful glimpse of homo sapiens in their natural habitat.
  • Madame Yevonde: Madame Yevonde’s portrait of Lady Bridgett as Arethusa. A classic!
  • Wanda Wulz: Another of my blog posts was inspired by another female, Wanda Wulz. Her photo «The Cat and I» is double exposure at it’s best! I made some double exposure collages inspired by that photo: https://cardinalguzman.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/when-the-kitty-gets-the-cream/
  • Shirim Neshat: Iranian born Shirim Neshat has some interesting photos as well. Rumor has it that her photos are very provocative in Iran.Then again most things seems to be very provocative in Iran. Unfortunately I don’t know her works that well and I’ve never been to her exhibitions, but what I’ve seen so far has been very interesting.

Enjoy this gallery with some selected photos of the mentioned photographers. Disclaimer: I have no rights over these images. I tried to contact the photographers that are still alive to get permission to publish these photos, but some didn’t answer and I was unable to find contact information for the others. I’m assuming that they won’t mind having their photos published in a non-profit, personal blog like this.        



26 thoughts on “Female Photographers

  1. I think one of the biggest reasons has to do with a point you alluded to. It’s much easier to create an ad campaign that shows the excitement and grabs the attention of the adrenalin junky, thrill seeking male. While more difficult to show the thoughtful, contemplative creativity of the female artist in a way that will lead to more sales.

  2. Some of us are thrill seeking adrenalin junkies WITH feminine creativity Jeff : ) I really enjoyed this although not the uphill battle so much. It still exists in practically every field, sport and yes advertising and is still on a par with racism. Just my .02. Great post CG.

      • I am indeed but that does not define me. Falling from a plane is good for my soft skin! Kind of removes dead skin cells…..

  3. Right now, much of the photography loving world is being swept away by the work of Vivian Meier. Me included; but I can’t help but wonder what her perception of the big camera company’s considerations of female photographers was given that she kept herself, her vision and her talent well away from public awareness until long after her death. If that guy had never discovered her seemingly endless cache of prints and negatives, we never would have known about her at all, and we still know very little.

    I think it’s extremely important to recognize the work and talent of this woman, yet she clearly chose to hide it.

    • You’re absolutely right Allan. She should have made it on this list because of her many street photographs, but I didn’t think about it when I created this post. The story behind is interesting and I think I read somewhere that they’re making a film about her life.
      I like how most of her shots are from the hip. Perhaps she chose to shoot this way in order to shoot anonymously? It can be easier to capture natural scenes when people aren’t aware of the camera.

  4. Where to start on this fascinating topic! For starters I’m not too aware of any advertising campaigns from any camera company, let alone its focus on male photographers. Dorothea Lange traipsed around the US documenting the Depression with her huge Graflex Super D and the fabulous Lee Miller worked her way through Europe as a war photographer, winding up in Hitler’s bathtub with her Leica. Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbott, Ruth Orkin, Annie Leibovitz are just a few of the names whose work we remember more for what they produced than the tool they used.
    Love your selection of favorites Cardinal! Here’s a link you might find interesting – the photographer lives in the neighborhood -http://www.thefrasergallery.com/artists/DianoraNiccolini-artwork5.html

    • Thanks for the namedropping Patti. There’s plenty of work to check out there 🙂
      I already know the works of Dorothea Lange and I recognize Annie Leibowitz’ name – probably from one of my photo books, but I can’t remember her style. Dorothea’s photos from the Great Depression is quite interesting: social documentary at its best.
      A lot of steroids there in that link 🙂

  5. Great selection for the gallery and a fabulous way to introduce these photographers – I’m sure someone has gotten a grant or written a master’s thesis on the difference between the sexes approach to photography: it all boils down to how we see our worlds…

  6. Outstanding post, Max. I remember the earlier post with Daniela Rossell’s work. I am happy to have discovered (thanks to you) Iturbide and Sterne. Tusen takk!

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