The historical past of ladies photographers dates again to the beginnings of pictures itself. But whereas names like Ansel Adams and Man Ray have floated to the highest of the photographic vernacular, the contribution of ladies in pictures has been diluted or erased from historical past altogether. On this, pictures isn’t any much less responsible than different types of artwork. But there isn’t any doubt that the omission of ladies, each unintentionally and deliberately, leaves a gaping gap within the narrative of pictures.

On this article, I flip the highlight on ladies who formed photographic historical past. These 9 ladies (and lots of extra) asserted their presence by means of each technical and inventive ingenuity. Here’s a transient recount of their tales.

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879)

A portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

Julia Margaret Cameron obtained her first digital camera as a present from her daughter in 1863. Cameron threw herself into pictures, crafting portraits and staged scenes impressed by literature, mythology, and faith.

Cameron rejected the meticulous photo-reality wanted by her contemporaries. As an alternative, she favored a dreamlike softness saying “…when focusing and coming to one thing which, to my eye, was very stunning, I ended there as an alternative of screwing on the lens to the extra particular focus which all different photographers insist upon.”

The revolving door of luminaries in Cameron’s house offered her with ample alternative to supply piercing character research of a few of the most well-known folks of the interval. Her portraits represented a few of the earliest examples of artwork assembly formal observe.

Cameron was a prolific photographer. Over 16 years, Cameron created greater than 1,200 pictures – a staggering quantity contemplating the laborious course of concerned to create every completed piece.

Mary Steen (1856 – 1939)

Mary Steen excelled at indoor pictures. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

Mary Steen was a photographer and feminist from Denmark, Scandinavia. She excelled at indoor pictures, a very troublesome area as a result of lack of electrically powered gentle sources obtainable on the time.

In 1888, Stern grew to become Denmark’s first feminine courtroom photographer, a task that concerned photographing each Danish and British royals. In 1891, she grew to become the primary girl on the board of the Danish Photographic Society.

Steen was additionally a member of the Board of Administrators for the Danish Ladies’s Society. Along with Julie Laurberg, she photographed main figures within the Danish ladies’s motion. In 1896, Steen began working as a photographer to Alexandra, Princess of Wales, the later Queen of England.

Steen inspired different ladies to take up pictures. She campaigned for higher circumstances at work, together with eight day’s vacation and a half time without work on Sundays. Main by instance, she handled her workers properly, paying them truthful wages.

Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976)

“Succulent” by Imogen Cunningham. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

Recognized for her botanical, nude and industrial pictures, Imogen Cunningham was considered one of America’s first skilled feminine photographers.

After learning photographic chemistry at college, Cunningham opened a studio in Seattle. Cunningham drew popularity of her portraiture and pictorial work. Subsequently, she invited different ladies to hitch her, publishing an article in 1913 referred to as “Images as a Career for Ladies.”

Cunningham by no means confined herself to a single style or type of pictures. In 1915 Cunningham’s then-husband, Roi Partridge posed for a sequence of nude pictures. The nudes achieved vital appraise, regardless of being a taboo topic for a feminine artist on the time.

A two-year examine of botanical topics resulted in Cunningham’s opulently lit magnolia flower. She additionally turned her lens towards business and trend.

It was Cunningham who mentioned “which of my pictures is my favourite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

Gertrude Fehr (1895 – 1996)

An instance of solarization, a darkroom approach utilized by the New Images motion in Paris that may now be emulated in Photoshop

After learning on the Bavarian College of Images, Gertrude Fehr apprenticed with Edward Wasow. In 1918, Fehr opened a studio for portraiture and theater pictures.

Throughout 1933, the political local weather compelled Fehr to go away Germany with Jules Fehr. Settling in Paris, the couple opened the Publi-phot faculty of pictures. The college specialised in promoting pictures, a pioneering program on the time.

Fehr participated within the New Images motion in Paris. Exhibiting artists alongside Man Ray, Fehr explored the inventive boundaries of pictures, producing photograms, photomontages, and solarized prints.

Throughout the 1930s, Gertrude and Jules Fehr moved to Switzerland. There, they opened a pictures faculty in Lausanne, now often known as the Ecole Photographique de la Suisse Romande.

Fehr gave courses in portrait, trend, promoting and journalistic pictures on the faculty till 1960 when she devoted herself to freelance portraiture. Each her instructing and pictures paved the way in which for modern photographic artwork.

Trude Fleischmann (1895 – 1990)

Trude Fleischmann together with her work. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

After learning artwork in Paris and Vienna, Trude Fleishmann apprenticed with Dora Kallmus and Hermann Schieberth.

Fleischmann opened a studio when she was 25. Working with glass plates and synthetic gentle, Fleishmann created deftly subtle portraits of celebrities. Her studio rapidly grew to become a hub for Viennese cultural life.

In 1925, Fleishmann took a nude sequence of dancer Claire Bauroff. Displayed at a theater in Berlin, the photographs have been confiscated by police, profitable Fleischmann worldwide fame.

The Anschluss compelled Fleischmann to go away the nation in 1938. After settling in New York in 1940, she established a brand new studio the place she resumed photographing celebrities, dancers and intellectuals together with Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her introspective and atmospheric portraiture is seen as artwork suffused with technical prowess.

Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965)

Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mom”. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Recognized for her work documenting the melancholy, American photographer Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mom” grew to become an emblem of hardship and resilience within the face of financial collapse.

The vast majority of Lange’s early studio work centered round portraits of the social elite of San Francisco. With the graduation of the Nice Melancholy, nevertheless, Lange transitioned from the studio to the streets.

Making use of strategies she had developed for photographing portraits of rich clientele, Lange’s unapologetic research led to her employment with the Farm Safety Administration. There, she continued to doc the struggling of victims of the melancholy. Quickly, her highly effective pictures grew to become an icon of the period.

Described in her personal phrases, Lange used the digital camera as “…an instrument that teaches folks the right way to see with no digital camera”. Her unflinching examine of the human situation within the 20th century formed photojournalism in a approach that continues to resonate right now.

Grete Stern (1904 – 1999)

A self-portrait by Grete Stern. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Initially a graphic designer, Grete Stern studied below Walter Peterhans in Berlin the place she and Ellen Auerbach opened a well-regarded studio, ringl+pit.

Emigrating to England in 1933, Stern then traveled to Argentina together with her husband, Horacio Coppola. They opened an exhibition literary journal Sur hailed as “the primary severe exhibition of photographic artwork in Buenos Aires.”

By the mid-1940s, Stern was properly established in Buenos Aires. She labored with ladies’s journal Idilio, illustrating reader-submitted goals by means of photomontage. Stern integrated feminist critiques into her items which grew to become common with readers.

In 1964, Stern traveled Northeast Argentina, producing over 800 pictures of Aboriginals within the area. The physique of labor is taken into account to be essentially the most important Argentinian document of its time.

“Images has given me nice happiness,” mentioned Stern in 1992. “I discovered quite a bit and [said] issues I wished to say and present”.

Ylla (1911 – 1955)

Ylla photographing a toucan. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia – ©Pryor Dodge on the English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (]

Animal photographer, Ylla (Camilla Koffler) initially studied sculpture below Petar Palavicini on the Belgrade Academy of Superb Arts, shifting to Paris to proceed her research in 1931.

Working as an assistant to photographer Ergy Landau, Ylla started photographing animals on vacation. Inspired by Landau, Ylla began exhibiting, opening a studio devoted to pet pictures shortly after.

Ylla’s first main e-book, Petits et Grands was printed in 1938. That very same 12 months she collaborated with British evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley for his e-book Animal Language.

Throughout 1941 Ylla immigrated to the USA. She opened a brand new studio in New York, photographing a miscellany of animals from lions and tigers to birds and mice.

In 1955, Ylla fell from a jeep whereas photographing a bullock cart race in India. She was fatally wounded. Her New York Instances obituary learn that Ylla “…was usually thought-about essentially the most proficient animal photographer on the planet.”

Olive Cotton (1911 – 2003)

“Teacup Ballet” by Olive Cotton. Picture courtesy of Wikimedia

Describing her course of as “drawing with gentle”, Olive Cotton’s Teacup Ballet has change into synonymous together with her suave command over gentle and shadow.

After learning English and Arithmetic at college, Cotton pursued pictures by becoming a member of childhood-friend Max Dupain at his studio in Sydney.

Moreover helping Dupain, Cotton additionally perused her personal work. Cotton and Dupain have been married briefly and he or she ran the studio in his absence in the course of the struggle. She was one of many few skilled ladies photographers in Australia on the time.

In 1944, Cotton married Ross McInerney, shifting to a property close to Cowra, NSW. Cotton gave up work as an expert photographer till 1964 when she opened a small photographic studio.

Within the early 1980s, Cotton reprinted negatives she had taken over the previous forty years or extra. The ensuing retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 earned her recognition as a key determine within the growth of Australian pictures.


It’s inconceivable to cowl the sheer variety of ladies which have embodied the tenacity and creativity of a photographer’s spirit in a single article. With this piece, nevertheless, I hope to have encapsulated a few of the resolves of the generations of ladies who’ve formed photographic historical past. And though we aren’t all the way in which to attaining equality but, due to the feminine photographers of the previous and current, we’re quite a bit nearer than we was.


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