Posts Tagged ‘women photographers’

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


Women in photojournalism

Saturday, September 14th, 2019

When I taught photography – which I did, mainly at beginner level to students between 18-20, though my oldest student was in his eighties – for around 30 years – the great majority of my best students were female. Partly this was because generally they worked harder and met the deadlines more often, and perhaps they listened more carefully in my lessons and made better notes, but I think there were also some differences in thinking, perhaps because of peer pressure which made boys reluctant to show sensitivity lest they be thought feminine.

Because many of my students were women I tried hard to show examples of work by women when I could – despite at one time teaching a syllabus with a number of named photographers in the history of photography in which the only woman was Julia Margaret Cameron. And when I wrote a popular photography web site I made sure it featured the work of women who I thought had been neglected in both the history of our medium and in current practice.

I’ve also known many good women photographers and although there are fewer women than men among the photographers I’ve known (and in most areas of the profession) I have the impression that a higher proportion of the women are photographers whose work I particularly admire.

Many women have shown they can do as well as men even in the more hazardous areas of photography including German photographer Anja Niedringhaus who was the only woman on the team of AP photographers awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of the Iraq War. That year she also won the International Women’s Media Foundation’s Courage in Journalism award. On the web site ‘Menschen im Krieg: Das Lebenswerk der Anja Niedringhaus‘ buttons link to her work from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Gaza, Iraq and Bosnia. Her career had begun with a move from a local paper after covering the fall of the Berlin Wall and other events she covered included the aftermath of 9/11 in New York.

Niedringhaus died age 48 in Afghanistan on 4th April 2014, shot by an Afghan policeman while sitting in a car at a checkpoint near Khost while covering the presidential election. The officer walked up to their car, shouted “Allahu Akbar!” and shot killing her and severely injuring a woman journalist sitting beside her. He gave himself up and was later sentenced to death for wounding, murder and treason. The International Women’s Media Foundation founded the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award in her honour with the aid of a $1 million gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and it is given out every year to a female photojournalist whose work “follows in the footsteps of Anja Niedringhaus.

A feature in The Week’s ‘Captured’ photo blog shows the work of Niedringhaus together more stunning photography from this year’s winner Heidi Levine, Rebecca Blackwell (honorable mention) and Anastasia Vlasova (first runner up). All of their work is worth exploring.