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.
If a census was to be made on photography, we’ll quickly recognize the notorious density of male photographers in the field. Women, on the other hand, have been less popular despite the great talent and commitment they have when talking about our beloved craft. We are mere photography lovers, and we don’t pretend to scrutinize the historiographic methods behind the legacy we’ve all grown towards.
But despite that fact, it is our task to counter-back a little bit about that oddly unfair nature of how things ended building up. And as you folks have already guessed it, the best way we know for doing something like this is by sharing the names of the women photographers that we, in our ignorant criteria, consider to be influential figures when it comes to producing art via the means of photography.
And just to be clear, we are not going to fall into that debate about if photography is an art or not. That, we’ll leave for another day. In simple terms, just like being able to write doesn’t mean that one could produce literature, photography isn’t a synonym of art. Instead, we think that it is a format in which artists are able to transmit their concepts with.
Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976)
She is one of the pioneers of straight photography and was also an avid member of the legendary f/64 group. After a deep dive into her legacy, one can find a style that developed in an exquisitely interesting way. Her earliest works had a huge influence from the pictorial tradition that photography kept dragging since the early days after it’s birth. By doing this, she fiercely changed her own paradigm of what photography meant to her, a situation that allowed her to render reality in an “objective” and “purer” way. While in front of her work, one can find a fascinating world of botanic and body studies combined with landscapes and intimate portraits too.
A curious fact about her life is that in 1909 she was awarded the Pi Beta Phi Graduate Fellowship, which allowed her to work at the Technische Hochschule in Dresden. There, she helped the photographic chemistry department find cheaper solutions for the expensive and rare platinum used for printing during the ages of WWI. This came with a price, and derived her into taking less pictures. But in 1910, she finished her studies with a paper describing her process for increasing printing speed, improving clarity of highlights tones, and producing sepia tones. Event which illustrates how photography can be enhanced in the back-end from photographers too.
Lousie Dahl-Wolfe (1895 – 1989)
Finding colour in photography nowadays is something common and even standard, but when she started experimenting with it in the 1940s and 1950s, it was a true novelty, especially in her genre, fashion photography. Fashion, a particular genre with a close relationship to art rather than marketing, was preferred to be made in black and white rather than colour. Her photographs are still relevant in terms of composition and design, and influenced the overall notions of elegance and beauty across the United States.
Beyond being a great photographer, Dahl-Wolfe was a true hero of colour, and imposed a huge influence in the titanic effort of shifting the aesthetic paradigm attributed solely to black and white as the format in which photography could produce art. But that passion towards colour didn’t deter her from producing exquisite photographs in monochrome. By 1958, she had published 86 front-pages and a bit more than 600 images in both colour and black & white in Harper’s Bazaar.
Aenne Biermann (1898 – 1933)
Like many of us today, she was a self-taught photographer that due to passion and effort made photography a central part of her life. But before that happened, she was an avid amateur mineralogist, and it was thanks to this other peculiar interest that she met photography in the first place. Examples like this are always surprising to find because they help into weakening the general discourse or wrong idea that one has to study a formal career in photography in order to become a serious photographer.
Making minerals her prime subject enabled her to combine two passions into a single craft, which later developed into a more complex artistic production. She perished at the young age of 35, but despite that, she is still considered as a prolific photographer today. Her early works settled the building blocks of a style which we could all agree on to call “direct”, and those images allowed her to become one of the major proponents of the New Objectivity in the 1920s.
Frances McLaughlin-Gill (1921 – 2014)
Inevitably, when thinking about fashion, Vogue quickly pops into our minds. And she was the first female photographer to become hired under a contract by this huge name from the industry. And beyond photography, she was also an extremely talented filmmaker.
The cinematographic eye enables photography to develop in a distinct way, and that surely influenced her overall aesthetic, which surely influenced several photographers that came after her. Even her husband Leslie Gill who was a photographer too. I have no proof yet no doubts that her work had something to do with the fact that he is now remembered for being one of the first photographers to work with color film.
Diane Arbus (1923 – 1971)
What else could anyone say about one of the greatest photographers of all times? Hardly anything new in fact, but still worth the try. She was a photographer that weighed out the balance a bit more in terms of visual paradigms. Photography has and is still, largely about capturing things that fit with the social norms of the beautines, the pleasing, the undeviated stuff.
Her fascination towards the devious enabled her to become closer to the socially marginalized and outcasted. Cripples, dwarves, giants, transgenders, nudists, circus performers and many other “surreal personas” which triggered her attention was a perfect subject for her camera.
When thinking about Arbus I always reckon Sylvia Plath, both for her works and young suicides. And there is another person that jumps into the scene when talking about her; and that’s because, perhaps, one couldn’t speak of Arbus if it wasn’t for the brave and passionate conviction of John Szarkowski which led him to curate the famous MoMA’s “New Documents” exhibition in 1967. A time in which documentary and street photography wasn’t still considered to fit within the boundaries of art. Here, he presented along with Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander a set of 94 black and white photographs (32 by Arbus, 30 by Friedlander and 32 by Winogrand), which officially elevated the craft to an art state.
Arbus is a true inspiration when it comes to environmental/everyday portraits and “getting close to people” mindset that is so important for the work I believe in. She has always been credited for having this amazing ability of separating the subjects from their context or their society, and if you want to have a sublime experience with her shots, I truly recommend this book to you. Also, if you are feeling a bit easy to inspire, you can also watch this quite-fictional movie about how photography became so important in her life. It is not a purely-biographical film, but is a nice story about Arbus indeed.
Hilla Becher (1934 – 2015)
This could be one of the very few places where you’ll find her name alone and without any link with her husband. She is vastly known for triggering one of the major aesthetics in contemporary photography nowadays, one that blends deadpan with the tradition of the direct photography developed in the mid-early twentieth century.
She is considered as a huge pioneering figure because when she started out, other photographers didn’t validate what she was doing. Later on, her legacy is deeply rooted in one of the most influential photography collectives known today, the Dusseldorf School of Photography. Which isn’t exactly a school but a group of photographers who studied at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf in the mid 1970s under her influence and guidance.
Her direct, somewhat objective and very much straightforward monochromatic photographs of water and cooling towers, coal tipples, gas holders, and other industrial structures are very well-thought products of documentary photography, design, and conceptual art.
Candida Höfer (1944 – )
Like many of the members of the Dusseldorf School, the Becher influence is rich and notorious in her work. With a specific interest towards interiors, her work offers a different look of what the pioneering couple we mentioned before started out with their typological work on industrial architectures. In 1968 she began working in newspapers as a portrait photographer and from 1970 as an assistant to Werner Bokelberg. She subsequently attended the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf between 1973 and 1982, where she studied film with Ole John and, from 1976, photography as a student of Bernd Becher. By showing her work in slide projections, she is considered as one of the first Becher’s disciples to use color.
Annie Leibovitz (1949 – )
Born in 1949 she is still one of the most important figures in the world of portraiture photography. Her passion towards light has led her to capture the most intimate and personal situations of her own life and several public figures across the globe. In her early beginnings, she got a huge inspiration and influence from other photographers during her time at the San Francisco Art Institute such as Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson; which are well known photography figures for their documentary and street work rather than portraits. Aside from these two greats of documentary photographers, she also got a great deal of influence from Richard Avedon.
But it was perhaps Susan Sontag, her partner until her death in 2004, the one who contributed the most to her photography. Not in the technical aspects, but in the concepts she developed, ergo intellectually. Leibovitz is currently considered to be the great photographer of the celebrities, and her productions have a fascinating conceptual component in them. Technically speaking, they may be simple in lighting, and without any major photographic resources, making the conceptual components in her images the most intriguing aspect of them.
In 2018 she raised a huge discontent in photographers due to an online course taught by her. These photographers were waiting for her to teach them how to take pictures as she does, but such an innate gift is very difficult to transfer as if it were a school lesson. Instead, she was all about the importance of the concepts rather than the technique.
Sally Mann (1951 – )
Very well known in the world of fine art photography with a particular love for large format, she centers in eerie aspects of life which dare the viewers with images that may feel odd to them. During a substantial amount of her career, her own family members have been the main protagonists of her work.
This is a highly recommended book in case you want to dig deeper into her style. It shows a very intimate side of her own children at early stages of their lives. Often nude while simply minding about their daily lives, some other times eating, sleeping, and playing. Among the most influential, this book has been also lauded as one of the great photography books of our time.
Nan Goldin (1953 – )
From the so-called Boston School, she is an American artist that has been credited for renovating the documentary photography through her visual narratives of the New York countercultural scene of the 70s and the 80s. Her work reflects a deep involvement with some specific social circles, which she photographs with a unique and intimate approach.
Deeply personal, candid and raw; her images are an accurate visual autobiography of herself, and her relation with those which have decided to trust her. She has had a huge influence from the fashion and editorial tradition developed by Helmut Newton and Guy Bourdin, as well as the art of photographers such as Diane Arbus, Larry Clark, and August Sander. Among many things, her peculiar self-portrait titled “Nan One Month after Being Battered” has helped illustrating the importance photography has as a tool of social complaint beyond photojournalism and visual documentation; especially about gender-related violence.
Martine Fougeron (1954 – )
Similar to Sally Mann, Fougeron turned her lens towards the lives of her children; but in a rather different kind of way. Dwelling between documentary and vernacular/domestic photography, she has registered the interesting years of the adolescence in a particular way. She easily fits within the so-called Youth Code approach, centering on the liminal phase between childhood and adulthood, “between the feminine and the masculine and between innocence and a burgeoning self-identity” (Fougeron). The images I’m referring to belong to a body of work titled “Teen Tribe 2005-2010”, which can be found here.
Another project of hers is “South Bronx Trades“, which aims to portray the Bronx according to her vision rather than the visual clichés associated with it. The project operates at several levels, from public to private art, also as documentary, and ultimately as an agent of social engagement. Her work is a great example of how long-term projects could be embraced. Something quite necessary given our highly accelerated times.
Cindy Sherman (1954 – )
She is a fundamental element of what I like calling the “Holy Trinity of Contemporary Photographers“. She is an important artist who has shown her work for more than three decades at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Her most famous body of work corresponds to a series called “Untitled Film Stills”, in which she represents, via her own portraits, a generous array of female related stereotypes reproduced in a subtle yet ideological way through movies during the decades of the 1950s and 1960s. The work is built of 69 photographs in which Sherman reenacted a particular aesthetic around gender that is still highly fixed in western civilization. In these self-portraits, she depicted the “standardized” female figure available through television and movies. She has stated that in some sort of way, she started getting away from herself thanks to these enactments. She also has recognized that she has become anonymous in her own work, and when she looks at her pictures, she no longer sees herself. For Cindy Sherman these aren’t self-portraits anymore, because she had disappeared within them. She portrayed things that were annoying to her while still complaining about female identity.
Beyond that, her latter work is an extensive re-examination of women’s roles in history and society. Her images are meant to be interpreted without previous biases. For her, photography has enabled her to express through role playing and dressing up. In the late 1980s early 1990s, she shifted her style and focused more on grotesque imagery, like the mutilated mannequins of her “Sex Pictures” in 1992.
Shirin Neshat (1957 – )
In exile from her home land, she is an important artist producing visual work which deals with gender and identiy issues, as well as politics in Muslim ruled countries. Through her work, she has been able to blend in a bitter-sweet relationship the dimensions of her personal life with the politics she complains to. She is also a filmmaker, and her movie Women without Men is something to see. You can also watch some of her work currently in the hands of the Gladstone Gallery, and hearing the statements from the artist herself is the best way to understand the purpose behind her photographs.
Lise Sarfati (1958 – )
Centered around youth (like some other photographers we’ve discussed so far, actually this is a great topic, we promise you folks well get to it too), she shows the tormenting moments of teenagers feeling like adults while still being restrained by their biological age.
While living in Russia, she photographed several young teenagers which were living under precarious and even marginalized situations due to social conflicts beyond their control. Young people living in the unknown while also forgotten, teens in constant decay and degradation. All of these had something in common though, the industrial territory they all shared among themselves. Her visual stories are great dystopian metaphors of the actual grim teenages are still living nowadays.
Francesca Woodman (1958 – 1981)
From her first self-portrait at the age of 13 to her own death at the early age of 22, she produced over 800 photographs which unveiled her eerie identity. Her portraits have been recognized for their unique vision and vast range of innovative techniques. They also have been subject of extensive semiotic studies by academic entities worldwide. Her parents, George Woodman and Betty Woodman, both plastic artists, now manage her archive. From the aforementioned body of work, 120 have been exhibited or published in some sort of way. Goodman got her first influences on art thanks to her parents, which structured not only her vision of the world, but also her way of thinking about it and her life.
Desiree Dolron (1963 – )
Following the pictorial tradition of nineteenth century photography, she is well-known for her moody portraits and storytelling conceptual work. But beyond that, she has a plasticity of her own, enabling her to richly dwell between a variety of styles and subjects. Her work also includes architectural and documentary photography. From meticulous post-productions to careful documentary frames, Dolron is capable of challenging our preconceptions towards genres and styles.
Throughout her career, she has researched and developed themes around the passing of time, the relation between finite and transcendent and the complexity and impermanence of the human condition. In her gallery one is capable of delighting with 10 radically different among them projects. One of the biggest lessons we get from consuming the aesthetic experience of her work is that particular styles are capable of restraining photographers. On the other hand, by juggling themes and styles, photographers are capable of allowing themselves to become more creative and innovative with each project they embrace.
Angela Strassheim (1969 – )
Research on social issues offers a huge amount of interesting and relevant topics for artists to develop concepts around them. Strassheim focuses on memory, family, religion, and female identity. And before turning to the fine art world, she trained herself as a forensic photographer and took crime scene, evidence, surveillance, and autopsy photographs. This experience is evident in the clinical precision of her current work, which ranges from psychologically fraught, carefully structured images of families, young and teenage girls, and domestic scenes to uncanny pictures of homes in which murders had occurred.
Her work has a huge influence from painters, parenting magazines, and news stories, as well as by her own youth experiences, especially those linked to the meaning of “being a woman”. In her own words, she photographs as “a way to grapple with the memories of my past that confuse me and have always disturbed my conscience.” And is an aesthetic example of how photography has the power of healing in some particular creatives.
Carla van de Puttelaar (1967 – )
With a particular focus around women and female body-identity, she photographs faces, and isolated body parts to complete body shots, and her work fits perfectly under what many would consider as artistic nude photography. However, her models have something in common, they are often porcelain skinned, something that becomes more evident due to her creative decision of putting her models against absolute black backgrounds.
Her passion towards the female body has drawn her towards flowers in recent years. And her gaze enables Van de Puttelaar to portray them almost as if they were human bodies themselves. Through her lens, she builds an awareness statement towards the sensitivity and the sensuality of skin. Same which she examines in detail, without forgetting about the shaping importance of the structures enveloped by the skin.
Rather than masking bodily idiosyncrasies, she embraces oddities by capturing every mole, bruise, crease, and imprint on the skin. For her, the female body is her endless source of inspiration. Showing us how a single element has the continuous potential of producing inspiration in our minds.
Julia Fullerton-Batten (1970 – )
Despite having a direct aesthetic quality in her work, she is one of the few photographers who recognize the importance of writing about their projects. For each of them, one can access the corresponding project’s statement, enhancing the overall reading experience from the viewers’ side.
She has admitted that much of her work has a deep autobiographical element involved, adding a deeper layer of complexity to each of the frames and projects she develops. She is known for using unusual locations and highly creative settings. Her productions are so meticulous that could easily resemble what one might expect from a cinema production stage.
Three particular projects that have always got my attention are “Teenage Stories” (2005), “Mothers & Daughters” (2012) and “Feral Children” from 2015. In the first project mentioned here, she centered around the social phenomena behind the transition suffered by girls while becoming women. In this project she “portrays the emotional dynamics of the female adolescent – her self-consciousness, mood swings, uncertainty and vulnerability; experiencing over time, changes in her body, psychology, her emotional and social identity.” In the following one, she develops on the complexities around the challenging relationships undergoing between mothers and daughters. And in the latter, based on stories worldwide, with single shots, she brilliantly recreates the life-stories of children growing up under very unusual circumstances.
And last but not least, amidst the COVID days, she also developed a visual project which focused around confinement and social distancing, while retaining a very human element, the stories of the people she was able to document via her particular portraiture style.
Juul Kraijer (1970 – )
She is one of those talented artists who found in photography a creative tool that allowed her to create art in the way she wanted it to be. And despite that, she doesn’t limit her creations to be expressed only through the wonders of photography. She is also known for her drawings, sculptures and video creations. Her work is regularly loaded with an eerie visual rhetoric that makes the viewers feel both fascinated and disturbed at the same time.
Although, her portraits have something in with each other. Like monochromatic decisions, undefined backgrounds, no particular hairstyles or dressing, no particular narrative hints, and gestures appear to be restrained and intensely concentrated; all of these enhance the timeless quality one experiences when contemplating her work. Thanks to all these shifts in the tradition of human body representation, she is able to create familiar images which are capable of producing memorably strange feelings or aesthetic experiences among the viewers minds.
Agnieszka Sosnowska (1971 – )
On rare occasions, like the ones with Woodman and Sherman, self-portraiture happens to be the core genre of a photographer’s body of work. Rather than a genre, they have usually been a creative outlet, or a result of sporadic self representation efforts. Sosnowska, has slowly transitioned from self-portraiture to the quotidian documentation of family, friends, and students. In a way, photography is the materialization of how she relates with the social world, from the individual self to the outer social layers that constitute her own, yet evolving, personal identity.
Beyond human elements in the frames, her photographs always include another important aspect of who she is, the natural world. The one which exists without human intervention. Her work develops around a metaphorical lyricism filled with strength. And in her better-known self-portrait projects, the surrounding environment is a character rather than a backdrop.
Elina Brotherus (1972 – )
In brief terms, her photographs apprehend reality in a direct way. Most of her work is autobiographical, and is an interesting example of how one can represent identity and inner feelings through photography without necessarily depicting oneself in the images. She works in long-term projects, which are loaded with a generous amount of self-portraits. However, she tends to combine the overall narrative of her essays with everyday findings (or happenings) and still-life photographs.
Her work has been features in numerous art and photography books and magazines. She has published nine monographs, most recently Playground, a limited edition hand-made box featuring 80 works from her exhibition at Serlachius Museum, Finland. She acknowledges that work follows life. She used to make autobiographical self-portraits in the very beginning of her career while still in art school. Then she approached 40, and the autobiography element emerged again.
Aino Kannisto (1973 – )
Following the tradition of several photographers that influenced her style, she is both the creator and actress behind her carefully planned staged photographs. As in literature, she perceives that the person’s behind the camera are similar to the narrative voices of those behind a story. Her photographs are fantasies in which she represents particular atmospheres or moods through the creative tool of fictional characters.
In her work, she excerpts brief emotional states from her life, and thanks to art she allows herself the creative joy of becoming the protagonist in the photographs she sets up, from costumes to make-up & hair, everything is open to her as a consumable field of experiences and more. Therefore, she carefully stages the environment where she photographs herself in an attempt to surpass the classic duality between the protagonist and the photographer in the frame.
Katja Tähjä (1976 – )
Blending the huge regards of social documentary photography with the creative nature of concept-based contemporary art, she represents stories from everyday life with a natural aesthetic that feels almost familiar and close to our senses. Perhaps her most important works to this day are two book projects on migrants living in Europe without residence permits, and immigrants being deported from Europe. Migration as a social phenomena is a huge topic, and thanks to the quotidian aesthetic of hers, it is easier to feel close to these people when compared to highly produced portraits or raw social documentation.
Over the course of many years, she has photographed children, women and men in various countries, helping the raise of public awareness about people living in mostly-unseen corners of Europe, away from the eurocentric discourse, and about those who have been expelled from the same territory as well.
Susanna Majuri (1978 – 2020)
Pushed to achieve a novel-like storytelling capacity with her photographs, Majuri’s work is an impeccable example of how still-images can transmit something deeper beyond its static nature. Her images often joyed of a notorious symbolic relationship towards ice and water. A visual element that convey the states of mind of her models, which typically were solitary & young faceless women.
Largely known for her magical and dreamlike photographs, her work could be interpreted as different places for several emotions. She wanted to express feelings like novels in literature does. She usually photographed strangers, because in a way or another, she felt a meaningful connection with them, and the main concept behind her visual creations was always dreams and the ephemeral.
Sevil Alkan (1979 – )
In a simple yet profound sentence, her photographs approach the complexities of everyday life scenes while waking up odd emotions with them. Some might consider her work to be street and documentary rather than artistic, but is her purpose self-awareness which places her into the conceptual realm that enables her to create art with the raw materials of the mundane and the quotidian. Happenings and ready-made artifacts stumble upon her lens, and despite her scarce publications, her works offer a refreshing view of what could be considered as a “globalized everyday”.
In Urban Animal, she strayed into a sphere of feelings she had never seen before; a heightened state of awareness that shed a brighter light on things which allowed her to grow a new visual bond with Istanbul and its people, animals and inanimate objects. And in Housewives, she entered the strange feminine world reproduced by a culture she felt to be so close, yet so far.
Elena Chernyshova (1981 – )
Instructed as an architect, she developed a keen eye for details and light. Photography came after, and is another great example of how passion overcomes professional instructions. In her way, photography helps her into researching the nature of daily life among different social and cultural pockets near her own hometown.
Some consider her work as documentary, and while this might actually be true, her vision makes the quotidian appear familiar and yet mysterious to the viewing eyes. And that particular aesthetic, fits perfectly into the overwhelming and complex world of the visual arts.
Her visual work aims to depict the impact of certain conditions on human activity, ways of adaptation and diversity of lifestyles in the context of environmental, political and economic changes.
Rita Anttila (1988 – )
With a limited production of work, her crave for light makes it an extremely interesting photographer from whom anyone could take a starting point towards visual expressions, especially if interested in the power of abundance of white. In her own words, she aims to depict a poetic awareness.
“The dialogue of ephemeral clarity of thought and massive ink black of materiality delivers the heart of my work. Through these personal aesthetics I search atonement for the yearning that feels endless. On this timeline past and present seem like manifestations that blend together. Love and loss cannot be perceived without each other. From this point of view, I make images to rebuild my wreck of memories and dreams. I follow a flash of desire that brings me no reason but solid of light.”
Death defines her perception of longing, it lingers in her chest and makes her memories decay. Isolation, loneliness, sadness and emptiness is what the extreme presence of color white resembles in her work.
Maia Flore (1988 – )
Surrealism is a word that makes me nervous, especially when it comes to visual art creations. In simple words, I define this idea as anything that could trigger amusement while still remaining extremely obvious to the eyes. Not fancy elaborations (fantastic) nor incomprehensible work (abstract, for example).
Despite personal life circumstances, she has found trust in the power of images to transmit messages beyond spoken or written language. Her photography is inspired by what she perceives as the boundaries between reality and unreality. “One way to challenge the mundane everyday is to reveal surprises within it”, she said once.
Slowly she has evolved from the eerie and dreamlike imagery to something more complex that challenges our perception of the strictly mundane. Consuming her most recent work feels like having a tight blend of William Eggleston with Chema Madoz in each frame, and it feels great.
Anna Reivilä (1988 – )
Dwelling between sculpture and visual registrations, she is considered more as a land artist rather than a photographer. Either way, her visual creations are worth watching, and prove that even the most ordinary elements (natural and human-made) can offer great sources of creative expressions.
Using ropes as lines is her form of drawing, creating interactions while making connections between the elements, she reinterprets the landscape. Her three-dimensional drawings are physically unstable, they exist only for the moment. By definition, they are ephemeral, and by that, perfect for our contemporary context of the liquid states of reality. Everything changes on an accelerated scale, and today’s statement will seem historical in a couple of hours from now.
Karine Laval (?)
Famous for both her extreme usage of color to express mood, and her obsessive (positive connotation) pursuit of spontaneity, she combines environmental, portraiture and architectural photography in a superb way. The venues she uses are vast and generous, and scope places such as Cuba, Argentina, France and Norway. And she tends to usually see water as a vehicle for transformation and self-reflection.
Technically speaking, she uses odd camera angles and paint-inspired color effects to fill in the gap between the visible nature and the often perceived unreal dimensions of life, in the context of leisure and exotic traveling. Most of her style is achieved by using cross-processing techniques while developing her films. This is, using a transparency developing chemical while working with color negative based emulsions or vice-versa. In other words, intentionally using chemicals that are not well suited for specific types of film. The trick here is that she has been able to master the extremely faulty and unexpected results of this developing process.
Eugenia Maximova (?)
For Eugenia, photography was a true emotional savior during difficult times in her life. After encountering it, she saw the power it has for expressing and communicating in a more universal way. In it, she found a new outlet of creative expression, for how she felt about both herself and her perception of the world around her.
Her journalistic background has influenced many of her projects, which has a lot to do with a very interesting yet not sufficiently explored human condition, the cultural relationships of human beings towards certain objects and materials. Or in simpler words, material culture.
Selvy Ngantung (?)
If you are interested in minimalist photography, or simply curious about what is and isn’t, then you should take a dive into Ngantung’s work. With an early inclination towards landscape and black & white, she finds an intertwining dialect between the mysteries of black and the pureness of white. Most of her photographs have been made possible thanks to the wonders of long exposure settings, enabling her to capture nature in an ethereal kind of way.
Marja Pirilä (?)
Back to the very basics of photography, she re-contextualizes the optical wonders of Camera Obscura, and uses light in all its beauty as a compositional element within the frame. This optical phenomenon is both simple and magical at the same time, and is older than photography, way older. The technique takes us back to the 4th century BC, and was widely used in painting as the prime material for posterior works.
Since 1996, this optical phenomenon has intrigued Pirilä, and has been using it ever since. By transforming spaces into “Dark Rooms”, she captures the dreamlike reflections of light and the merging of interior and exterior worlds. With the age-old method she scans the subconscious layers of our environments and mental landscapes.
Before embarking on photography she studied biology, and in the meantime of developing her master’s thesis, she became immersed for days on end in the world of flies and their metamorphoses. Something that changed her way of thinking after questioning how this world could be without these living creatures.
“In camera obscura, darkness, silence and slowness compel one to contemplate the world in a novel way, from new angles. When the space transforms into a ‘dark room’ it conjures up the core and magic of photography again and again.” That is when she reckons working with light, and not other material.
Eszter Sarah (?)
And last but not least, Eszter Sarah, a fashion photographer taking creativity to a friendly and digestible way. In general, her work feels honest while still delivering that challenging reading experience of conceptual work. One knows that something deeper is below the subtle visual elements she presents, but one simply can’t end feeling certain about them. Occasionally, she uses fruits and flowers; recalling the tradition of the classic botanical studies inherited by Edward Weston. And her portfolio keeps an organic balance between bright colors, and monochrome shots; delivering a fresh visual experience in every frame.
Lists are always a trouble to craft, especially when it comes to art related ones. A vast amount of figures had to be left behind due to ignorance, and resources like time and access. In addition, some of the mentions could not be seen as relevant to the reading eyes. This was a highly subjective grouping effort of women photographers that have influenced in one way or another a broader cultural field of artistic productions, only made possible thanks to photographic methods.
And beyond being a mere list of women photographers, here 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 you think she or they are meaningful figures to this particular visual genre!
Like what you are reading? Take a second to support us!
Your support, whether it’s contributing just US$1, is essential in our operating costs.
So thank you, dear reader, because we couldn’t do it without you!