Posts Tagged ‘Trailblazers of Light’

Pioneering Women of Photojournalism

Saturday, April 3rd, 2021

CNN recently published the article ‘These are the pioneering women of photojournalism‘ a story by Kyle Almond highlighting the website Trailblazers of Light, started by award-winning photojournalist Yunghi Kim who has covered stories all over the world for Contact Press Images and is best known for her story documenting South Korean “comfort women,” sex slaves used by the Japanese military during World War II.

Trailblazers of Light now lists more than 500 women who since the late 19th century have made significant work, reporting from around the world, including in war zones and other dangerous places, breaking their way into what is still – as a 2015 study by World Press Photo, the University of Stirling and Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism confirmed, very much a male dominated world.

The CNN article is illustrated by over 30 photographs of some of these women at work, some familiar names, and others I was not aware of, each with short notes about their careers.

I think there are at least ten of them who had got as a mention when I wrote about photography including the history of photography for a commercial web site, and some I had featured at greater length such as Dorothea Lange and Berenice Abbott. It was clear to me back then that our history of photography has been dominated by men and that there were many women whose work had been sidelined and largely forgotten, and whose work demanded greater attention.

I was also finding many contemporary features by women photographers that greatly impressed me and I could link to on the site. And on the streets where I worked it was also clear to me that although women were much outnumbered by men, their numbers among those whose work I admired were rather more equal, perhaps because women have to work harder to be recognised.

Trailblazers of Light

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

Around a year ago I read an article by the remarkable photojournalist Yunghi KimGaslighting in Photojournalism‘ in which she rightly took umbrage at a statement on NationalGeographic.com by photographer Daniella Zalcman, “For a very long time, we’ve been predominantly looking at the world through the experience and vision of male photographers“.

It was, she rightly said “a sexist and ageist quote“, which ignored the great contribution made by many women in the past in order to boost the achievements of NatGeo’s current crop of women photojournalists.

As some readers will know, I used to write for an online photography web site, and before that to teach photography to mainly young students, the majority of whom were female. I had a number of principles that underlie the articles that I wrote about photographers and the work that I showed students and among them were that I wanted to show the contribution that had been made to photography by women through the whole history of our medium and over many fields. Another was to show that not all photographers were American or even British or European – something that was probably a major factor in my contract eventually being terminated.

I tried hard to find women who would qualify for my list of notable photographers, but men still outnumbered them by around 5 to 1, at least in part because of the lack of published material (and particularly published material on the web) by or about them. But there were some truly great women photographers on that list and I think I wrote rather more about many of them than about most of the men.

Yunghi Kim has gone on from her critical article first to produce a list ‘The Silent Generation‘ of women photojournalists, and then to work with her team to produce a remarkable web site – Trailblazers of Light, highlighting the many, many women photojournalists of the film era, decades before the advent of digital cameras and photography.

Also referred to as the, “The Silent Generation,” it refers to a time when a few courageous women first entered the photojournalism work force and simply did the work without fanfare but with steely determination. They worked side by side with men on a daily basis at newspapers, magazines, wire services, and photo agencies. They reported from foreign war zones, the streets of our towns and cities across America, and everywhere in between.

https://trailblazersoflight.com/women-of-the-film-era

It isn’t an exhaustive list and will doubtless grow in time. As the site says, “Most of the names here are American photojournalists or those who worked for American-based publications, photo agencies and news wires. There are some international photojournalists listed as well.”

Currently the site lists 517 photojournalists and 249 picture editors, and the site gives a short history of the contribution of women to photojournalism in the USA, beginning with “Frances Benjamin Johnston, who worked for Acme News Service. She was born in 1864 and had a career which lasted over 50 years” and continuing to the digital age.

It’s a remarkable history, only a fairly small part of which was familiar to me, and although there are plenty of names among the 517 that are familiar to me, there are rather more I’d not before heard of. Clicking on their names in the list of Photojournalists generally links to an article on a web site with some more details or an article about them. The site also has a historical timeline and some oral histories.

It’s looks a hugely valuable resource for students and educators, though I’ve only had a short time to investigate it. It would be good to see a similar resource to cover other areas of photography worldwide.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr