Guest Post by 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. 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.