Visual Cult Magazine is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Click here to learn more.
When looking back to the history of photography, as in many other fields and disciplines, it appears to be a higher population of men rather than women photographers. We are not here to question or scrutinize the historiographic methods behind it, but to give our two-cents to the unfair nature of how things have unraveled in time. And the best way we know for doing it is by sharing the names of the women photographers that have inspired us in the act of approaching social phenomena through our still brief careers as documentary and street photographers.
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879)
She was surely a pioneer, and her influence was so important that no one should refer to the history of photography without mentioning her work. Beyond being recognized as the first woman photographer, and living during a time in which making photographs was a slow and complex process, we find her to be quite inspiring for one single reason, her late-years involvement with the craft.
Julia Margaret Cameron began shooting photographs at the age of 48, debunking the myth that one can only become successful at doing something if starting at the age of youth. She made around 900 portraits during a period of 12 years, and her portraiture concepts had a lot to do with mythology, Christianity, and literature.
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864 – 1952)
Yet another pioneer in photography, she was all about depicting her southern heritage and culture through her photographs. From portraits to architectural shots, her work is a solid example of how a specific theme can be approached via several photographic genres. And since her photographic career lasted for almost half a century, we can see how a particular theme can also become a photographic. lifestyle.
Before becoming a freelance photographer in the 1890s, she learned about composition and lighting (photography) by taking photos of everything around her; family, friends, local figures and places. This is a strong reminder of how important it is for us photographers to never under-see our close surroundings; especially during these odd times. Our human nature draws us to dream about faraway places and exotic travelings, and we forget that our own hometown and land could be the “faraway” dreamed place of a distant photographer.
Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965)
It is quite hard to think about Dorothea Lange beyond her seminal and iconic photograph titled “the Migrant Mother”. But as you might be guessing, her commitment to the discipline goes beyond one photograph. Before Roy Stryker’s selected the photographers in charge of documenting the battle against rural poverty during the Great Depression in the United States thanks to the Farm Security Administration program under Roosevelt’s New Deal, Lange was already a solid photographer, with a strong interest in portraits.
She was the only woman in a group of 11 photographers in charge of documenting the activities of the FSA, and this experience led her to transform from a portrait photographer to one of the most important figures in photojournalism and documentary photography of the early twentieth century. After a quick review on her earlier work, it is no surprise that she had such an accurate eye for capturing the human condition in a candid yet truthful way.
The ultimate lesson she can still teach us today, is the importance of talking with people before framing a scene.
Tina Modotti (1896 – 1942)
From model and actress to a prolific photographer, she truly understood the deep meaning of expression in our human nature. Modotti’s life was strongly transformed after getting involved with the Mexican culture. There, she became an active communist, and slowly transitioned to an interesting dwelling between the artistic and the documentary works.
She created an important photographic archive of the broad social, intellectual and avant-garde culture in Mexico. Her work is considered to be a perfect stitching of politics and aesthetics regarding this country which became her own before dying at the age of 45.
Berenice Abot (1898 – 1991)
Personally, Abbott is a great inspiration when it comes to talking about translating our own vision into photographs. Beyond her exquisite portraits, she was fixed with documenting the urban scene as a whole living thing. Her photographic journey began when she was a studio assistant of Man Ray, and thankfully for us, she didn’t follow his surreal steps. Her images pursued reality in a direct way, giving her a distinctive voice from whom some might consider to be her mentor.
Thanks to her sincere gaze, the Art Project of the Works Progress Administration asked her in 1930 to document the tangible architectural progress New York City was enduring during that specific time. Beyond her photographic legacy, she gave us in 1941 one of the most important books on photography technique written so far, “A Guide to Better Photography”.
Margaret Bourke-White (1904 – 1971)
“You must let the camera take you by the hand, as it were, and lead you into your subject.” she said once, and what a deep lesson this is. She is best known for being the first western photographer allowed to document the Soviet industry during the USSR’s five-year plan, as well as being the first American woman to work as a war photojournalist.
Her most iconic photograph reflects what she meant by telling that wise statement we shared above. And this is the photo she took of Mohandas K. Gandhi in 1946 long after he was imprisoned in 1932. The photograph only happened after he was sure that she knew the deep importance behind the independence-related symbol of the spinning wheel. Therefore, we must listen to that advice, and learn more about the people before even turning our cameras on. By doing that, our stories will achieve that meaningful state that most of them lack during these days.
Lee Miller (1907 – 1977)
From modeling to war correspondent, Lee Miller is still a huge symbol of The Modern Photographer in a holistic way. Before getting involved with the conflict contexts of WWII, she had a close relationship with the surrealist movement of the 1930’s, and that particular gaze had a notorious influence in her way of documenting war, especially as a historical evidence.
The war left a huge psychological wound in her, and suffered severe episodes of clinical depression and what was known during those days as “shell shock”, which later became known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Meaning that social documentary photographers have some unresolved struggles when detaching from topics or themes.
After the years of war, with her husband and son, Miller bought Farley Farm House in Chiddingly, East Sussex, which later became a site of reunion for several artists from that time.
Hansel Mieth (1909 – 1998)
Focused on the everyday and the working class people in the 1930s and 1940s, her work offers evocative and emphatic images of the war in a broader, less violent and peripheral sense. Mieth’s legacy continues to offer important lessons to all of us interested in developing social documentary projects through photography nowadays. Specific topics can be approached or developed via different ways, and each photographer should feel invited to participate in the act of telling them with their own voice. And by bringing this sense of “uniqueness” we are not saying that everything should be new, fresh and extremely creative. We are just saying that topics should be researched in ways that allow us to talk about them through our own gaze.
Gerda Taro (1910 – 1937)
If there is one great woman photographer that history shouldn’t ever forget, Gerda Taro would be it. Therefore, I feel honored to give my two cents to that mighty cause.
Gerda Taro was the alias of Gerda Pohorylle, an undoubted pioneer of documenting war conflicts through photography. Moreover, she was also the partner of another great war photographer called Endre Ernö Friedmann, and together they gave life to the mythic character of “Robert Capa”, the quintessential figure of war photography. Taro is also known for being the first woman to unfortunately die while recording the war with her camera, at the curious young age of 27 years old.
Due to the joint venture, they published all their work under Capa’s signature, and the task of vetting her work is still a major problem. One mechanism that has been quite reliable for crediting certain images to Pohorylle and others to Friedmann is the format. It is known that she preferred to work with 6×6 medium format cameras while he rather used 35mm. But camera swapping was also a common practice, reducing validity to that “simple” method.
Helen Levitt (1913 – 2009)
There is a consensus among photographers about capturing humour, which in-between lines says that it is extremely difficult to achieve it, especially on the streets. Levitt is still highly known for moving seamlessly between black & white and colour. And she was a master at capturing humour on the streets, an impressive achievement of course (shooting colour and capturing humour both on the streets).
She has been named on many occasions as the most famous and least known photographer of her time. It was a pioneer in colour street photography, and even today there is a great debate about whether this discipline should be taken in colour or black and white. She was twice awarded with the Guggenheim Fellowship so she could explore her hometown, something that she flawlessly did in both formats.
Helen Levitt should be seen as a strong inspiration for all of us who have longed for traveling to far and exotic destinations in order to take beautiful photographs. Something which is true, but shouldn’t limit ourselves to exclusively shoot abroad. Our own close surroundings offer a great story that could be registered by our cameras in a meaningful and inspiring way.
Homai Vyarawalla (1913 – 2012)
From the streets to the major public scenes, she covered it all. Also known as Dalda 13, Vyarawala is still considered to be India’s first photojournalist, and thanks to her work we are able to reckon a particular moment in that country’s history, the struggle it suffered for gaining its independence from Britain.
She took her first photographs at the age of 13, and in 1970 she abruptly retired from the profession. Some have argued that it had to do with her husband’s death, and others about how she felt the profession was getting filled with photographers that had a very low ethical standard when shooting their frames.
If we stick to the second version of that debate, we can learn a deep lesson about how important it is that we keep ourselves aware of the implied responsibilities that using a camera comes with.
Rebecca Lepkoff (1916 – 2014)
We street photographers have long been without the talent and charisma of Rebecca Lepkoff. She participated in a photography program in the late 1930s, and in 1939, thanks to a brief dancing gig, she was able to buy a camera. She photographed her own streets for many years, and in 1950 she expanded her vision, focusing on Work and Leisure as social practices.
In 1947 she joined the long-gone Photo League created in 1936 by Sid Grossman and Sol Libsohn. As the years went by, she stood there watching and documenting them as living things. In 1970 she turned her camera to the uprising counter-culture that came from the late 1960s with the hippie movements.
It is usual to find common elements in her photographs, such as children, posters and business facades. Her photos are, in a way, a kind of demographic record of the streets of the Lower East Side.
Charlotte Brooks (1918 – 2014)
She is one of the many examples history has given us about the benefits the social sciences has given to photography as a whole. She first studied psychology, a career that allowed her to connect better with people in one way or another. Then, she learned about photography with the one and only Mrs. Abbott in the New School for Social Research. She also studied dance, so she definitely had a crave for creativity and expression, but eventually concluded that photography was her true passion.
From 1951 to 1971, she was a staff photographer for “Look” a general-interest magazine published every two weeks in Iowa, with a strong emphasis on photographs rather than written content and articles. During those 20 years, she was mainly assigned to provide images regarding “women oriented topics” like children, families, education, homes, food and other constituent parts of the idea about women during that time. Regardless, she always translated her own vision into them, building a solid statement that one can imprint its own voice into several topics, even when they are biasly imposed.
Dickey Chapelle (1918 – 1965)
Behind the pearl earrings, there she was. Fierce and intrepid, Georgette Louise Meyer, better known as Dickey Chapelle, was an American war photojournalist who unfortunately became the first female war correspondent to be killed in Vietnam, as well as the first U.S. woman reporter to be killed in action. There she captured the first photo of an actively involved American soldier severely wounded in combat.
Despite the high risks of getting close to war as she did, her commitment towards showing the cruel and violent consequences of these socio-political conflicts led her to where the stories were happening.
Marie Hansen (1918 – 1969)
After getting her Bachelor’s degree in journalism, she joined the newsroom of the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky. She was originally hired as a reporter, but for some reason she was reassigned as a photojournalist. Perhaps she was carrying a camera with her, or maybe there was just a lack of photographers in the journal at the moment. Regardless of the cause, the effect was a notoriously important photographer.
After that, she was hired by Life Magazine (she was the second female photographer to ever be hired by the magazine, just after Bourke-White), and within a month she produced a unique photographic essay on the training of the first women officers in the Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps.
Her legacy goes beyond photography, and is still teaching us about the importance of passionate research in order to produce meaningful series of photographs. She is highly known for her photos of political figures of the time, and her portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower taken in 1945 is still one of her iconic shots.
Marion Carpenter (1920 – 2002)
She is recognized to be the first woman to work as a White House press photographer, a very important role in politically discursive terms. She is also considered to be a figure in terms of breaking the gendered role stereotypes, and was always edgy about the condescending treatment from seasoned men photographers. She was very much against what we all now know as “Mansplaining”. Her professional career was possible thanks to her other nursing profession that came into a pause in 1944. Then, she moved to Washington D.C. where she joined the International News Photo (INP) syndicate as a special assignment photographer. Later on, in 1951, she moved back to her hometown in Minnesota, and continued her nursing career.
Very little is known from her beyond her years at the White House, but we can rescue a much valuable lesson from this brief recall. One doesn’t need to study photography in order to make something great with it. Photography is so chilled, that suffers no jealousy or whatsoever if we draw our lives towards other professions, passions and vocations. Therefore, we could be whatever we decided to become; and still make photography a fundamental part of our lives.
Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009)
Unlike many of the other photographers on this list, she wasn’t recognized as a photographer during her lifetime, but it was something that happened posthumously. Professionally, she worked as a babysitter for about 40 years or more, and took pictures during her free time. Therefore, we could say that she was a passionate street photographer, solely driven by the aesthetic experience of capturing moments with her camera, and that was it. She took more than 150,000 photographs, and has rewritten the history of street photography with her now-available images. Her work is a great example of how important it is to constantly review history.
Her photographs were controversially discovered by John Maloof, after purchasing a batch of items at auction, and they are considered to be of a “private nature” since she never showed them to the world. By mere luck, her work is now available for our learning and delight. We surely can make a longer debate towards the ethics of how her work became known to the world, or the odd curation decisions behind the publications that allowed all of us to know her as well. Said that, just like Carpenter and many other photographers throughout history, a profession has little influence in how important photography can become to someone’s life.
Letizia Battaglia (1935 – )
She is a photojournalist best known for her documenting some dangerous people from Palermo, aka the mafia, since 1971. Risking life in order to capture the truth seems to be a recurrent mantra among several photographers, and she is one of those big names related to that particular way of approaching reality. Although she wanted to become a writer, her editors were always asking about photographs, and that pushed her into learning the visual craft. At the age of 39, she became a serious photojournalist, and at some point the threats started to appear at her front door.
Her photos are now vivid records of that harsh reality, but they are also a heavy burden of pain. From the late 70s to the late 90s, the context in Sicily became increasingly bloody, especially in Palermo. Being committed to objectivity, this was a subject that darkly asked her to portray it. And despite having begun to take photographs perhaps at an age that many might consider advanced, her vision and aesthetics can be palpated in her photographs, even if they reveal the terrible nature of the human being. Her image of the arrest of Mafia boss Leoluca Bagarella in 1980 is one of the most iconic images Letizia has achieved during her career to this day.
Martine Franck (1938 – 2012)
She is primarily known for her 32 years career at Magnum, but her photographs are still a landmark in social documentary work. She was never comfortable with short-term assignments, and was always looking for more within a single theme or topic. She once said that perhaps her way of working had a lot to do with searching for a concrete answer on how life was supposed to be lived. Photography wasn’t about a quick touch-and-go, but about diving deep into particular social contexts until becoming one of them. According to her, Ireland gave her some clear answers about the importance of photography in her life. It allowed her to build strong relationships with the locals, and that was a great gift for her. Therefore, we all should see photography at a slower pace, especially in these highly accelerated times we live on today.
Laura Wilson (1939 – )
Her photographic career spans over 40 years today, and is one of America’s top photographers with a career that continues to this day. She has published four photography books, and it is this format that embraces her work the best. She began her career as a research assistant to Richard Avedon on his famous work “In the American West,” in which he completely shifted away from the celebrity glamour and focused on real people. This period lasted for 6 years, and it ended up having a huge influence on her work.
She has extensively portrayed this lifestyle through many ranches across Texas and Montana. Cowboys who stick to their own traditions and codes of conduct, it is these men who are part of her most important works. Another of her great projects as a photographer is “Hutteries from Montana”, in which she documents the life of an Anabaptist community similar to the Amish and Mennonites, which is characterized by being a highly conservative community with respect to its traditions.
She has a deep passion for Mexican identity, and has created several conceptual photographers related to life in and out of the theater. Although, she is best known for documenting a quite specific cultural topic in Mexico, Lucha Libre. This huge career around such a specific topic has enabled her to understand many aspects of what it means for a Mexican to be a professional wrestler, and with that particular way of working, she has also done some other interesting projects as well. Beyond the photographs, all of her projects have given her many things, and she loves experimenting with them too. She has approached her subjects with slides, infrared, and black and white film. Photography, for her, has always been a language that she can use to express her ideas and herself.
Isabel Hernández (1940 – )
She is widely known in the world of photography as Colita, and has been in contact with photography since 1961 when she started as a lab technician for photographer Xavier Miserachs. Consuming her work is really an aesthetic delight, and especially if you appreciate humor.
Thanks to Franco’s regime dissolution in Spain, she was able to photograph her native Barcelona in a more freer way, and she was finally able to focus on capturing Catalan identity without fearing for her life. This brought higher levels of democracy, which reached several social spheres, and Colita was able to collaborate with various magazines, which were fascinated with the lively and strident style that her photographs reflected at that time.
Mary Ellen Mark (1940 – 2015)
Although she was widely known for being a photojournalist and documentary photographer, her images go beyond the aforementioned genres. Her work was unlike any other news-related imagery, in which one could see an approach to reality that went beyond the depersonalized world of statistics. There is very little to add about this iconic documentary photographer, pretty much has been already said about her. She was highly committed to society, especially to people living in the limits of it. Her work saw the light thanks to publications in LIFE, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker and The New York Times, and was also a member of Magnum Photos for a brief period of time.
Graciela Iturbide (1942 – )
Like many great Mexican photographers, she had the nurturing opportunity of learning from the great Manuel Álvarez Bravo. She entered film school to become a film director, like most of the students who enrolled in that entity in those days. But then she discovered something that changed her life forever: photography. The images of Graciela have a special aura that makes explaining them in words very difficult and that is why consuming them is such an enjoyable thing to do.
She is vastly known for a particular photograph titled “Nuestra Señora de las Iguanas”, or “Our Lady of the Iguanas”. The photograph has become a huge symbol, not only in the Mexican region, but also in the diaspora. She is very closely involved with her subjects, and it is in a market of Juchitán where she met this iguanas saleswoman and asked her if she could do a portrait of her. The woman, whose name is Sobeida, quickly felt the nature and humanity of Graciela and happily agreed to be portrayed.
Today the image illustrates traffic signs, bottles of tequila, t-shirts, murals, and many other things. In this video you can learn more about her work, and learn the story behind her iconic photograph. The lesson left by her legacy is that one needs to completely involve into a community or a social group in order to gain people’s trust. She worked selling vegetables with the women at the market, and that gained her the local’s trust for her to document their everyday lives.
Susan Meiselas (1948 – )
Her visual education has allowed her to register harsh social realities in a human way; while still retaining a disturbing aesthetic, capable of raising several and uncomfortable questions about our human condition as a whole. All coupled with the ethical rigor that blurs her from the scene. Her career spans several decades; and her projects have always benefited from a slow approach.
The political-military conflicts in El Salvador and Nicaragua are still present in human memory when speaking of Central America. And linked to these themes, there are some iconic images that help to visually illustrate that particular moment in history.
Her involvement was always firm in terms of human rights and her support was always geared towards popular movements led by the oppressed classes. As a photographer she is characterized by being methodical; and in all her projects you can see the importance of research in the photographic discipline in general terms. This is the main input of her photographic strategy, which results in an efficient approach to the issue that she wants to highlight; allowing her to get what she needs.
Donna Ferrato (1949 – )
After showing us things that need to be seen, this image is a clear example of how important photography really is. In 1979, she began photographing the night scene around sex clubs in NYC, focused especially around the heady nightclub culture. This particular theme led her to establish close relationships with several people from certain social spheres.
In the photograph, we can see a clear example of domestic violence happening at the moment. We usually have access to the aftermath of such unfortunate events, but in this case, she was there to document it while in private, “behind closed doors”.
This single photograph triggered what became her main career focus, documenting the hidden world of domestic violence. Thanks to her efforts, many women have been able to overcome dangerous relationships, and many others have reached awareness thanks to them.
Cristina García Rodero (1949 – )
Her photographs are true windows to realities far from our own. Places from which we have a vague notion, but from which we still know very little. She was born in 1949 and took her first photograph at the age of 11. Her first interest was photographs like the ones she saw in French fashion magazines; however, her first serious photography job, at the age of 17, was different from what she was attracted to. The assignment was about covering the “Day of the Vow”, a popular festival in which she felt totally comfortable with.
“The celebrations that interest me the most are the rituals, because the rites are where the spirit of the people manifests itself in a richer way”. She said in one of her books, and this vision is evident when appreciating the high amount of images that portray religious customs, which happen to be very popular in Spanish small towns.
Despite her great fascination for her homeland, she has managed to insert herself (without losing her peculiar gaze) in several western and eastern European countries, as well as Latin America, Africa and the United States. When seeing her work outside of Spain, we can conclude that she is capable of entering and understanding the combustion of societies to the point of portraying them as a true local would see.
Catalina Martin-Chico (1969 – )
She is a French-Spanish photographer currently based in Paris, and got trained at the International Center of Photography (an institution led by Cornell Capa, Endre Friedmann’s brother) in NYC where she lived for several years. She is part of what is known in the world of photography as the “humanistic tradition of documentary and investigative photojournalism”. She works regularly in Yemen, and publishes her work in Le Monde among other mediums. She has also been recognized with several awards, and last year was nominated at the World Press Photo of the Year for this particular shot. Due to the intimacy and all the symbolic tensions, that was my personal favourite nominee during WPP 2019.
Paula Bronstein ( – )
First, she majored in photography, and after that she specialized in photojournalism when graduating in fine arts. All this solid educational background is palpable in some way in the particular overall aesthetic of her work. One of her biggest milestones was getting nominated for the Breaking News 2011 Pulitzer Prize, and her seminal book “Afghanistan: Between Hope and Fear” was published in 2016.
Following other great photographer’s foot-steps, Bronstein spends long periods of time documenting particular social contexts. Thanks to that determination, one can get a broader understanding of what happens inside the borders of countries that for many of us seem distant and unknown. She is one of those photojournalists with a high ethical framework guiding her way of doing things. Forher, if one documents something, then one also has the responsibility of helping those in front of the lens in one way or another as long as that help is not related to money.
For example, in Afghanistan, she usually returned to the places where heroin addicts were living, and she gave them fruit for them to eat. As an observer, she produces no-interference in the way things are socially done in the everyday lives, she makes no moral judgments to the quotidian dynamics, but that doesn’t restrain her from helping in some ways.
Lynsey Addario (1973 – )
She has been present in several socio-political conflicts and wars, and the continuous relationship with them has shaped Addario’s life in unimaginable ways. Her photographs document truth with a particular beauty, without ever sugarcoating anything of what she shots. 9/11 changed her early photographic steps, and nowadays is one of the few photojournalists with experience in Afghanistan.
She found a way for traveling with purpose, and that’s a very challenging yet regarding invitation to us. Her earlier work is a fantastic window for many of us street and documentary photographers to find inspiration in things near to us that deserve to be recorded in a truthful way.
Whatever we do, we must never forget the importance of building sincere and honest empathy towards the others. Just like she does in delicate and critical situations like when interviewing rape victims in the Congo, or photographing a fallen soldier with whom she had been embedded in Iraq, or documenting the tragic lives of starving Somali children. With her photographs, she makes us understand better such topics that the overall discourse has been selling it to us like “complex” or “barbaric” without giving us the slight chance of questioning it.
Stephanie Sinclair (1973 – )
As a photojournalist, she is known for gaining unique access to the most sensitive gender and human rights issues around the world. She has made an extensive effort for documenting the issue of child marriage and recurrent self-immolation practices, especially among young women, in several parts of the globe. In 2009, after her essay “A Cutting Tradition: Inside An Indonesian Female Circumcision Celebration” was published, her work gained a notorious recognition in several spheres of society as a hole. Later on, she published a photo series titled “Too Young to Wed”, where she examined how children continue to be forced into marriage in more than 50 countries around the world.
She has documented the defining conflicts of the past decade with a fearless persistence. Her widely published images of the occupation of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan refute characterizations of violence in anything but human terms. Her studies of domestic life in both developing countries and developed ones bring into sharp relief the physical and emotional tolls that entrenched social conventions can take on those most vulnerable to abuse. Her photographs mark an exchange of trust and compassion.
Cheryl Dunn ( – )
She is an American photographer with a high passion for showing the United States as it has rarely been done, in an ambivalently raw and playful way. She graduated from Art History in the 1980s, and at the time she decided to move to New York City. After that she began documenting the streets and their people; but more specifically, she decided to aim her lens to certain sectors of the society, to the less orthodox and independent; to the dissent of the time. Here she met artists, writers, graffiti makers, skaters, boxers, cyclists, activists and other characters far from the establishment of the socially expected.
Her documentary work can be divided into three main branches. Firstly, we have the work dedicated to street photography, in which her gaze restlessly documented what happened and is still happening around her. On many occasions you can see the everyday, but also portraits that are quite unexpected. Clear examples of this type of work are her series on Havana and Turkey, in which you can see a look full of surprise when faced with a culture different from that of the photographer.
Beyond that, there is one particular documentary work which possibly awakened Cheryl Dunn’s ambition for creating the piece of work for which she is most recognized today. This is not photographic work per sé, but a film; yet it honors photography in a very important way. The photographic work that may have started your documentary film Everybody Street is undoubtedly “People Taking Pictures”. This work focused to some extent on their own, shows people taking photographs, either in a domestic way or in a professional way.
Kitra Cahana (1987 – )
From the early age of 12, she began her journey as a photographer, and it did start in a quite serious way. During the early period of her career, her father commissioned projects for her to develop, and it is how from a very young age she started documenting the everyday conditions of the human being in a very significant way. Her father assigned her themes related to the positive side of humanity, like joy or compassion, and it was in this way that she began to perceive her environment in a very particular way.
She is an inexhaustible explorer of the social, with common themes such as subcultures, transportation and religions. Thanks to her father’s work as a rabbi, she was able to travel to various parts of the world. She has recently had the opportunity to document nomadic communities that transit the United States, thus recording a not so common face of the society of this country.
Her photographs reflect the great interest in humanity, and how we can be so vulnerable to certain social facts of the modern world, which forces them to live on the fringes of society itself. And despite having started with a great fascination for the positive, nowadays her work enjoys a high degree of objectivity, in which, in many cases, she shows situations that are already so linked to happiness.
Andrea Hernández (1990 – )
She captures Latin America, from a Latin American gaze. And this adds a whole different layer of complexity to the images produced in these regions of the world. As a National Geographic Explorer, she travels around the world capturing all the things that touch our social spheres in one way or another, from politics to health, from social inequalities to urban landscapes.
Sarah Blesener (1991 – )
She is a documentary photographer based in New York City, and curious for some, she studied Linguistics and Youth Development rather than photography. Again, social and human related studies usually return invaluable cultural capital that allows us photographers to see our surroundings in a different way. While studying, she worked as a photographer for the organization “Healing Haiti”, covering the events surrounding the 2010 earthquake.
In 2019, she was awarded with the world press photo prize for “Long-Term Projects, Stories”, a formidable category indeed. The work that she presented was this, and consists of 30 carefully selected photographs. In it, we can grasp the deep importance of photo-essays, and how the editing process (selecting the final images) ends up being the crucial stage of any committed photographer’s workflow.
Lists are always troublesome to craft. Many figures are left behind due to our own ignorance, and some others might not be seen as relevant to the reading eyes. This was a highly subjective grouping effort of female photographers that have impacted our whole vision of documentary and street photography. And beyond being a mere list, we tried to share the broad perspective behind each and every pick within it.
If you find that we missed some important figures, please share them with us in the comments below, and not just name them, tell us why she or they are meaningful figures to this particular visual genres!
LIKE WHAT YOU’RE READING? SUPPORT THE CULT WITH A CONTRIBUTION!
The Visual Cult is an against-all-odds effort supported by two photography enthusiasts who believe that there’s much more than pixels and gear. Our content relies on thoughtful research and aims to dig deeper into the meaning of photography in our contemporary world. By sharing our findings and insights, we’ve been able to nurture our readers’ passion for the craft. So far, we’ve been able to support the cult through our resources but this recipe is no longer sustainable for what we want this project to become.
Your contribution, no matter the size, transforms into:
– Higher quality researches – More articles to read and learn from – Insightful book reviews and interviews
– Upcoming documentary projects oriented to tell uplifting stories – The Visual Cult Podcast & Digital Magazine
Your Patreon, PayPal or Credit Card support is crucial for our aim to stay away from the pixels and gear. It is secure, and recurring donations can be cancelled at any time.
Thank you so much for your readership and support!