Photography is one of my favorite mediums, and unlike many other art forms dominated by men, female photographers have played a crucial role in shaping and helping photography to develop. From the photojournalism of Margaret Bourke-White to the movie stills of nonexistent films by Cindy Sherman, female photographers continue to seize life as it's lived in the world and in the mind.
"During her unique career, Bourke-White was torpedoed in the Mediterranean, strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island, bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of the Chesapeake when her chopper crashed. She was the first Western photographer to document Soviet industry after the revolution, to create a travelog of Czechoslovakia and other Balkan states just before Hitler moved in to ignite World War II, and to be stationed in Moscow just before Germany bombed its former ally.
Aggressive and relentless in pursuit of pictures, Bourke-White had the knack of being at the right place at the right time. For example, she interviewed and photographed Mohandas K. Gandhi a few hours before his assassination in India. And she was the only American photographer in the Soviet Union in 1941 while the battle for Moscow raged. Alfred Eisenstaedt, her friend and colleague, said she was great because there was no assignment, no picture that was unimportant to her. She was also credited for starting the first photo lab at Life. " — Gallery M
Best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), Lange's photographs put a human face onto Great Depression with images like her iconic "Migrant Mother" (1936), which graces the cover of Dorothea Lange: The Critical Years She was a huge influence on documentary photography.
As interested in the formalism of her subjects as she was in their humanity, Cunningham was particularly interested in the human body and flowers.
Along with Gary Winogrand, Walker Evans and other midcentury New York Street photographers, Helen Levitt documented life as it was lived on the streets of New York, as whimsical in her approach as the children she photographed. One of the pioneers of color photography, Levitt died this year at the age of 95, but remains a towering 20th-century photographer.
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If you've seen The Shining, you know where director Stanley Kubrick found inspiration for the creepy twins who appear out of nowhere in that massive hotel. For Arbus, who once said, "Freaks are the true aristocrats," it was the odd, the imperfect, the outcast who interested her. Rebelling against the plastic conventions of the '50s, when she began taking photos, Arbus led the way for other dark, American visionaries like director David Lynch.
Nan Goldin's documentary photography revealed a gritty, subcultural side of New York City in the '70s and '80s. One of her most notorious self-portraits depicted her bruised and swollen face after she'd been beaten by a lover. Her favored subjects were gay, drug-using, violent and hard-living, but she often bathes them in a golden (Goldin?) light of affection and love.
In Immediate Family, for which she is best known, photographer Sally Mann focuses on her children, all of whom were under 10 at the time. She often chose to depict childhood in an unsentimental light, fraught with danger, fear, and sexuality. Charged with child pornography, Mann defended her work by saying that what she showed was “natural through the eyes of a mother, since she has seen her children in every state: happy, sad, playful, sick, bloodied, angry, and even naked.”
Former fashion model turned fashion photographer, German-born Ellen von Unwerth is the lighter, more feminine side to fellow German, the late Helmut Newton's darker, sadism-tinged erotic photography.
In Untitled Film Stills, photographer and subject Cindy Sherman appropriates the look of movie stills for an imaginary '50s neorealist film, imitating famous actresses who never existed. Through her body of work, Sherman's various masks refer to images we're familiar with while they take us to a fantasyland of her own making.
British photographer Corinne Day made Kate Moss a household name when she decided to photograph the recently discovered exotic beauty at age 14 in the '90s.