Ever since its invention back in the 18th century, photography has been documenting life. At the same time, it focuses on inviting audiences to a rather subjective world while trying to be taken seriously as an art form. Photography has always been considered a male dominated profession, but luckily things are changing. Scholars, writers, bloggers, photography students and enthusiasts have been giving due to the female pioneers of the field. Most of them were always standing and/or hiding in the shadows, oblivious to how much they could acclaim and accomplish. Arguably, the technique, concepts and themes female photographers use, differ from those of male photographers. When most women were convinced that their place was in the kitchen and certainly not in the dark room, there were those who were struggling to surpass their male counterparts and work towards gaining respect and recognition for their work.
20TH CENTURY FEMALE PHOTOGRAPHERS
Have the utmost respect for your subjects. Love them.
Kirsten Klein (Danish photographer, 1945-) finished her training as a photographer in 1966 and made her artistic debut in 1969. She has been working as a self-employed photographer since she was 25 years old. She’s considered a leading Danish photographer, whose work is directly linked to nature and tradition. Her style – often melancholic and romantic – is sometimes achieved by various photographic techniques – such as pinhole photography, cyanotypes and platinum printing. The natural elements of water, air and earth are vital to Klein and she has a tendency of portraying landscapes in between seasons, marked by the changes of weather and the effects of nature itself. Her photographs are a testimony to her own familiar relationship with nature and depict the part of nature that interests Kirsten the most; the transition between near and far. Klein’s work is all about how a moment can be eternal and timeless. Klein is interested in the transition between the shades of grey, as well as form and texture and that is obvious in her black and white pictures. The published photographer is extremely appreciative of and sensitive to art and the beauty of nature and her evocative, profound photos can attest to that. She was awarded the Thorvald Bindesbølls medal in 1994 and is the only female photographer in Denmark to be awarded a lifelong grant from the Danish Arts Foundation. In 2001, she was the first photographer to be awarded with the Jyllands-Posten's cultural prize and in 2012, she was the first photographer to receive the Thorvaldsen Medal.
Paulina Lavista (Mexican photographer, 1945-) was born into an artistic family, grew up wanting to be a writer and dreamt of working for National Geographic or Playboy, but started out as a model and later worked in cinema. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Lavista began her photographic career. While attending the National School of Film Arts in Mexico City, she met photographers Juan Rulfo and Héctor García Cobo and gradually became interested in and inspired by photography. One of her first clients was writer Salvador Elizondo and the both of them have been a couple since Paulina first took his portrait for a book of his. She later broke into more artistic work and did a series of nudes for a local magazine, before moving on to subjects from the Mexican art scene and people in their everyday surroundings. Lavista has done a number of self-portraits – alone or together with her life partner – and is also a member of Salon of Mexican Fine Art. Although her work has an intellectual approach, it is often provocative and controversial. According to Lavista, her artistic ideology is “meditation on art and technology, the history of art in general and photography in particular”.
Joyce Tenneson (American photographer, 1945-) is one of the leading photographers of her generation. Her work has been published in several books and major magazines, exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide and has been displayed in more than 100 exhibitions. Her portraits have appeared on covers for magazines such as: Time, Life, Newsweek, Premiere, Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. Tenneson earned a master’s degree in photography from George Washington University, after starting as a model for Polaroid. She is the author of 16 books and the recipient of many awards, including Fine Art Photographer of the Year in 2005 (Lucie Awards) and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Professional Photographers of America in 2012. American Photo Magazine readers voted Tenneson among the ten most influential female photographers in the history of photography. She is widely known for her distinctive photography, which often involves nude or semi-nude women. The accomplished photographer has taught master photography classes in the U.S.A. and Europe for over 40 years and is celebrated as a fine art photographer who indulges in mystical, sensual and enigmatic themes. She is also famous for her ethereal, romantic pictures of flowers, seashells and trees. Critic and author Vicki Goldberg wrote that “Tenneson possesses a unique vision which makes her photographs immediately recognizable. She creates enigmatic and sensuous images that are timeless and haunting”.
We will continue talking about female names that left their mark in photography and about contemporary female photographers who are still to emerge. There are a lot of female photographers out there deserving of praise and we can only hope to cover as many of them as we can. Please, follow this space to find out more.