Photo by Francis Benjamin Johnston
Poem “To My Friend” from Jessie Tarbox Beals to Frances Benjamin Johnston Christmas 1934.
CREDIT: Jessie Tarbox Beals Photographs
1896-1941; item description, dates. PC 60,
folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute,
Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
Early on, the most common way for a woman to become a photographer, was to marry a male photographer. Constance Fox Talbot, the first known woman photographer was the wife of Henry Fox Talbot (a pioneer in the field in the 1830’s.)
In the late 19th century, Francis Benjamin Johnston defied Victorian norms and became one of the first female photojournalists. Johnston also pushed boundaries in her personal work, exploring role-play. Her “Self-portrait”(circa 1890) was taken when bicycles and pants was taboo for women.
Female photographers in the early 20th century typically shot studio portraits or fashion. But during WWII, some pioneering female photographers disregarded those norms & used their talents to cover WWII.
While photography has became more accessible (51% of all visual artists today are women) few have become well-known – including Diane Arbus, Dorthea Lange, Annie Leibovitz, Cindy Sherman, and Sally Mann. On a 2014 list of the most expensive photographs of all time, Cindy Sherman was the only female amongst 14 men. Telling.