My teachers taught me how to make art, but Harvey Milk taught me how to use that art for social change. I took photographs before. Then, I started to make photographs. Since then, the artistic and the political have been inseparable for me.
Dona Ann McAdams (1954-)
Ever since its invention back in the 19th 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 serious 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 thematic female photographers use differ from those of a male photographer. At a time 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.
Dona Ann McAdams (American photographer, 1954-) has been making photographs for over forty years, her work exhibited at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The International Center for Photography, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, among other places. She is the recipient of a Dorothea Lange/Paul Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, an Obie and Bessie Award for her performance photography, and grants from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She received a Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council in 2019 to support the compilation of a photographic memoir entitled Still Time: A Photographic Memoir in Thirty-six Exposures. Since 1983, McAdams has been committed to bringing cameras and photography into small, underserved communities, setting up community darkrooms and teaching people how to shoot, process, and develop their own film and document their own lives. She has worked in places as diverse as adult homes for people living with mental illness, homeless shelters, small mountain communities in Appalachia, dairy farms in New England, and on the backstretch of thoroughbred racetracks. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The London Times, Art Forum, Doubletake, and Aperture. Her monograph of performance work, Caught in the Act, was published by Aperture in 1996. She has taught and lectured at Rutgers University, New York University, The International Center for Photography, The American Center in Barcelona, Hostos Community College, and many other places. McAdams embraces the strengths of sensitivity and that is evident in her work. Her black and white images somehow engage the viewer both physically and emotionally. Her work is incisive, direct and utterly uncompromising.
Adriana Lestido (Argentine photographer, 1955) began to study photography in 1979 at the Avellaneda School of Audio-visual Arts. Between 1982 and 1995 she worked as a graphic journalist for the newspaper La Voz, the agency DyN and the newspaper Página 12. Among numerous awards in 1991 she received the Hasselblad Grant, in 1995 she received the Guggenheim Grant - awarded for the first time in photography in Argentina - in 1997 the Mother Jones Award and in 2009 the National Award in Argentine Photography. In 2010 she was distinguished for her cultural contribution at the City Mayor's Office in Buenos Aires. Lestido has been devoted to teaching, organizing workshops and clinics. In 2007 she gave a photography workshop in the Women's Prison No. 3 in Ezeiza and in 2010 she was officially invited by PhotoEspaña to take a PHE10 Grand Masters class in Alcalá de Henares. She has curated many expositions, made remarkable photo-essays, published seven books, and has exhibited her work in both solo and collective shows. She is part of Vu Agency and is represented by Rolf Art Gallery and Clair. Adriana is considered as a great personality of Argentine culture and has been a tireless advocate for women's rights throughout her career. Her black and white photographs document the often difficult place of women in society and often question the state of the world. The celebrated Argentine photographer sees photography only as an accompaniment to her life, her criticism of society, her status as a woman in a male-dominated country. She organizes projects, at a slow pace, that question in depth the world in which she lives.
I do not photograph what I see, because I already saw it. What I want to see is what my eyes can't see. I photograph what I feel, but cannot see.
Adriana Lestido (1955-)
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.