Eastman Museum Blog

#5WOMENARTISTS: Five Female Photographers You Should Know, by Lisa Hostetler, March 31, 2017

As a historian of photography, I’ve always been grateful that the medium’s canon contains a relatively large number of women’s names when compared to the other visual arts. Anna Atkins and Julia Margaret Cameron are well-known characters in the story of photography’s first few decades, and Cindy Sherman and Annie Leibowitz are only a couple of the medium’s more recent stars. One reason for this may be that the invention of photography occurred in 1839—well into the modern age—whereas painting and sculpture are much older, by millennia. Still, the first famous woman artist that comes to my mind is Artemisia Gentileschi, who worked in the early 1600s. I know that there must have been other female artists and sculptors before her, yet socioeconomic realities and patriarchal customs buried their names more deeply in the annals of history, or worse, eliminated them. Fortunately for women who are photography lovers like myself, photography emerged at a time when women’s presence in public life was growing (though it still had a very long way to go), and the medium greatly amplified the recording and circulation of information, making women’s contributions less easily obliterated. Nevertheless, it is impossible to deny that most people would cite more men than women when asked to name famous photographers. Therefore, I thought I would mention five who, in my opinion, should be better known.

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