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“Women actively participated in every significant photographic movement and school of the twentieth century. […] As a young historian I discovered that a little digging in any period yielded important women who had been exhibited and published locally, nationally, and internationally. Women’s representation and the acknowledgment of their contributions declined or disappeared only when later historians evaluated a movement. The more general the compendium, the less likely women were to be well represented.”

Anne Tucker’s foreword for Reframings: New American Feminist Photographies

Kate Wilhelm of Peripheral Vision has put together a thoughtful post about the exposure, visibility and success of female photographers in the industry. Wilhelm’s main contention is the standards that exist in photography are male standards, a set-up particular to photography and not seen, as such, in other visual arts. I think she might be on to something.

I think photography (particularly fine art) is aggressively contested and often antiseptic, emotionally detached photos win over. I am not saying women have the market on emotion, but I do think female photographers might be attracted to subjects other than the cold observations that tend to dominate.

We seem to welcome softness, expression and emotive content in painting, but we either balk or yawn at the “sentimental” use of bokeh, lens flare, and golden hour dreamscapery in photography. I guess I worry that photography can be a cynical practice (?)

Photography has become synonymous with detachment and I think men are more comfortable celebrating detachment … Je suis désolé … I argue that solitary aesthetics, pursued by men in photography, have influenced the judging standards across the entire discipline.

Wilhelm provides these stats, which are her own observations, counts but a good start for discussion.

500 Photographers has only covered 17 women out of the 94 photographers it’s so far covered. That’s 18 percent.

Image Makers Image Takers has interviews with 20 photographers. Five of them are women. (Incidentally, it was edited by a woman.) That’s 25 percent.

The photograph as contemporary art, by Charlotte Cotton, discusses 219 photographers, give or take a few. 91 of them are women. That’s 42 percent.


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