“It’s a man’s man’s man’s world,” is what James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome concluded in the sixties, about a world that is moulded to manly needs. It has been 50 years since then. Women now have equal rights, at least in the western world. Girls can go into space, run for president or become the boss of a billion dollar company. Yeah baby! Still, when it comes to art it sometimes seems like time has been frozen. Art history is still dominated by male artists, most museum exhibitions are about art made by men and the percentage of male curators is still much higher than their female colleagues. When it comes to photography, the situation seems to be the same. According to the Professional Photographer Magazine, that made a list of the most influential photographers of all time, only 15 out of the best 100 photographers were female.
Why? Aren’t there enough female photographers out there? No, that cannot be the reason, I can name many female photographers (dead or alive). Is the quality of the girls not as good as their counterparts? No, that can also definitely not be it. Come on people, it’s the 21st century. Something´s gotta change!
Time to make a list of the top female modern and contemporary photographers who, in my opinion, kick ass and have changed the world.
When looking at photography by female artists, portraiture seems to be one of the most dominated genres. So let’s begin our list with a few fab females who have made a name for themselves in this field:
1. Sally Mann became known for her intimate black and white portraits. Children in her photographs are beautiful and yet extremely fragile. Time magazine even named Mann (don’t let her name fool you!) America's Best Photographer in 2001. Well done Mann.
Sally Mann, Candy Cigarette (1989), Source: http://www.phillips.com/search/1/?search=sally%20man
2. Diane Arbus is a powerful lady who is mainly known for her photographs of people that can be seen as outsiders of our society.
3. Annie Leibovitz also became known for her dramatic and striking portraits. She is the photographer of the stars and became famous with iconic photographs she made for Rolling Stone Magazine and Vanity Fair.
4. The photographs of our Dutch hero Rineke Dijkstra are the opposite of Leibovitz glamorous photography. Dijkstra captures raw emotions in her portraits and shows life as it is. She is one of the most beloved photographers right now in the art world.
Not only portraiture, but also self-portraiture seems to be a common genre in female photography:
5. Francesca Woodman became famous for her square self-portraits. In her photographs, she explores issues of gender and self, looking at the representation of the body in relation to its surroundings.
6. Cindy Sherman made self-portraits in costumes, representing different female identities and is remembered for her feminist take on the art world.
Cindy Sherman, Untitled #96 (1981), Source: http://observer.com/2012/03/cindy-shermans-untitled-96-could-set-new-record-at-christies/
The streets have been a major inspiration on photographers:
7. Vivian Maier, a nanny with a passion for photography, became famous only recently after her death when 150,000 negatives with her street photography were discovered by an art historian.
8. Helen Levitt was also inspired by scenes she came across in the city. The photos she made in New York in the 40s show the daily life of people, the streets being their stage.
Documentary photography is one of the most powerful mediums and there have been a lot of women who had their cameras present at all times to capture what is happening in the world:
9. Ata Kandó travelled the world as part of the magnum collective and shot photos of Indians in the Amazon.
10. Nan Goldin can be remembered for her intense photo series about subcultures in which drugs use and violence are very common.
I could go on and on. The list is endless. There have been so many female influential super talents in photography art. At least some people and art spaces seem to be setting a great example. In the collection of the Public House of Art, 8 out of 13 artists are female, from the documentary, analogue photography of Prarthana Modi to Jenny Boot's awesome portraits, we've got it all covered. Who knows, in a few years time some of our female fine art photographers could be on a similar list to this... So…Who run the world? GIRLS!
Written by Freelance art writer Rosanne Schipper for The Public House of Art
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