Female Photographer

Guest Post by Lara MatthewsFriend Lara on Facebook

A glance through any art history book will show the introduction of female photographers to the mainstream art world first happened mostly during the Photo-Secession movement of the twentieth century. Of course women were photographing before this but, most of our awareness of the female photographic experience dates back to this period. This was the era of Imogen Cunningham, Margaret Bourke-White, Anne Brigman and Laura Adams Armer. Historically, women have played large roles in expanding the photography industry. Artists like Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbott, Lucia Moholy, Cindy Sherman, Fay Godwin, Annie Liebowitz, and Roni Horn laid the groundwork for female photographers today. Guided by their own inspirations as well as many talented male photographers, these women helped create the foundation of females in photography.

Fast forward to 1991 when Kodak released the first commercially available DSLR camera, forever changing the industry. As prices came down over the years, digital cameras became widely available to the masses, increasing the number of photographers world wide (the number continues to grow today). In fact, as the medium became more user-friendly in the digital era, more females started to learn the art of light. Today, women are the largest growing segment in photography.

As female photographers are making louder impacts world wide, the face of photography is being molded to fit the influences from this growing demographic. Sally Mann, Catherine Hall, Sue Bryce and Lara Jade are changing the face of portraiture photography with their fresh and vibrant visions. Cara Weston, Samantha Chrysanthou, Athena Carey, and Elizabeth Carmel are leading the female landscape genre and women like Nicole Young are making leaps with food and stock photography. Photojournalism has also seen its share of strong female photographers like Pulitzer Prize winning documentary photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice and combat photographer (and the only woman to win NPPA’s Military Photographer of the year award twice ) Stacy Pearsall. Even the macro and nature genres have seen influences from artists like Lee Daniels. Females excel in every genre of photography today. There is not one subcategory that is untouched by the female eye but, the largest impact that women have had in photography is through portraiture. From weddings, fashion, baby, senior and family photography, females are building a solid foundation and bringing a fresh and stylistic perspective to the field.

Males have historically dominated the photography industry, inspiring and leading the way for females. Even though women are the largest growing demographic in the industry, a study conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2008 showed that women are still underrepresented in the field. The study concluded that 42.8% of the industry is made up of female photographers but, when the field is narrowed to photographers under the age of 35, 60% of this age range of professional photographers are actually women. This means that the newest generation of photographers are predominantly female.

What does this mean for the industry?

In the coming years, females will shape the industry as they never have been able to before. The style of imagery will reflect a more feminine perspective, gear will need to be tailored to fit their demands and media publishers will have to start paying closer attention to gender as well. Photography has and always will be an ever-evolving medium. It is exciting to see where this medium is going and by whom it will be led in the future. Female photographers are standing beside their male partners in the industry today and leading the way as the new generation of the future.

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Join the conversation! 11 Comments

  1. Thanks for your post Lara. There are so many talented, dedicated female photographers out there and, as you said, the numbers are increasing and that is such a good thing. Could I add a couple of names to those you have mentioned please. Suzi Eszterhas, a truly masterful wildlife photographer and Cheyenne L Rouse, a fine art photographer, author and workshop instructor.

    Reply
  2. Insightful and interesting perspective – very well written!

    Reply
  3. In the midst of female executives writing books about how women need to just “lean in” I would argue that photography has become a viable career choice for many women because it allows one to be more flexible in their day and maintain room for a family AND a career (as tough as it is). As a woman who has come to professional photography a little later in my life, I do regret that there are very few role models who are at least my age (though I would follow Bambi Cantrell ANYWHERE!).

    Glad you noticed we’re here. ;-)

    Reply
  4. i’m curious why you put sally mann in this group….

    Reply
  5. Deanne Fitzmaurice is what exemplifies social change and what can be done with photography in the world.

    Reply
  6. as women are becoming more independent in the work field, photography paves the way to explore this market to a larger scale thus allowing women to cover areas of photography known only to be dominated by men. Women have earmarked themselves in the past, but now there are many opportunities out there. Cheers to all working female photographers for putting their best foot forward within the photo industry!

    Reply
  7. @Pamela Joye
    Have you seen here work???
    She is an absolute artist with the camera. Her photos uzzzz emotion…
    Her use light and geometry are profound in many of her images.
    just to name a few http://sallymann.com/selected-works

    Reply
  8. “Males have historically dominated the photography industry, inspiring and leading the way for females”

    I took my first photography course in 1979 and Males did everything they could to supress any efforts I took to learn and pursue photography. From the lab guys who mocked my stylized sessions to the community college teacher who told me a housewife needs to stay home. My classmates made fun of me and workshops in the city wouldn’t accept me. (I was a woman, a minority and looked 12 til I was 30). I kept taking pictures, they were all destroyed in storage by a flood when we became homeless.

    I am 57 and I am pursuing photography with my daughter. I keep my equipment in an antique cabinet made by Laura Gilpin’s father (a well known woman photographer of the Navajo). My time is limited but whatever time left I have, I will make pictures.

    Reply
  9. [...] WOMEN PHOTOGRAPHERS — Lara Matthews: “A glance through any art history book will show the introduction of female photographers to the mainstream art world first happened mostly during the Photo-Secession movement of the twentieth century. Of course women were photographing before this but most of our awareness of the female photographic experience dates back to this period.” SOURCE: http://photofocus.com/2013/03/18/women-the-new-generation-of-photographers/ [...]

    Reply

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