Celebrating Women Photographers – Women’s History Month 2021

Celebrating Women Photographers – Women’s History Month 2021

For centuries, across specialties, women photographers have shown great mastery and passion for the art and study of photography.

The global community of women imagemakers is also often an inspiring force for good. From sharing supportive messages on Twitter to joining together for a charitable print sale with the International League of Conservation Photographers and educating the photo industry on the importance of ethical photographing practices, women photographers have carved out a virtuous legacy.

But it’s no secret — unfortunately the work of women photographers has not always been universally recognized or internationally appreciated. And there is still a lot of work to be done to see a truly inclusive, supportive and equitable photo industry across all genders.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we connected with a few PhotoShelter members who we’re proud to work with. These seven women photographers are offering their thoughts on representation in the photo industry and introducing us to the peers they admire most.

Cover photo by Julia Robinson

Julia Robinson

Alex Johnson holds four-month-old Mikayla Johnson in the car before driving to a relative’s house, also without power but with a fireplace, in Austin, Texas on February 17, 2021. Johnson and his extended family had been huddled together without power in their apartment but decided to move after two days of using their stove as the only heat source. Johnson is seen through a hole in the driver’s side window which shattered from the cold.

There has been a marked increase in visibility for women, LGBTQ, and BIPOC photographers over the past two years. There are more ways than ever for hiring editors to find/assign photographers with an eye towards diversity and representation with groups such as Women Photograph, Diversify Photo, and Indigenous Photograph. Despite these resources there is a lag in seeing real change. 

According to the Women’s Media Center’s 2019 report on the status of Women in the Media there are still large imbalances in gender across print, radio, TV, and online sources in numbers of bylines, disparate pay, management, and ownership positions. The news photography realm is even more male dominated than the broader news industry. The last year for which we have data shows a 70/30 male/female imbalance in photo/video staffs at newsrooms across the US. There is still a long way to go in changing these numbers and hiring editors should set goals and use data to track how they are helping to make equity the norm.

Who are the women photographers who inspire you?

There are so many. Danielle Villasana, Meridith Kohut, Melissa Lyttle, Lynsey Weatherspoon, Lisa Krantz, Tailyr Irvine, Alyssa Pointer, Daniella Zalcman, Sara Lewkowicz, Nina Robinson, Kathleen Flynn, Preston Gannaway, Kendrick Brinson, Erika Schultz… I can keep this up all day.

Alanna Airitam

How to Make a Country (2019)
14.75”w x 20.75”h 
Archival pigment print encased in resin floated in hand-welded 1.5 inch metal frame

I feel like we’ve come a long way with representation in the photo industry but we’re still only half way there. Chipping away at patriarchal inequalities takes a long time because our whole world depends on its existence –so it’s often two steps forward, one step back. 

I’ll know progress is being made when being a Black female photographer is no longer a box with a label that gets opened only in February and March. Photographers are photographers year round not only when it serves to diminish guilt or keep up appearances. 

What I’d really love to see in our future is real inclusivity and acceptance not based on whiteness or maleness being the default that the rest of us need to measure up to. I hope for a future where the photographic world isn’t cut up and divided into segregated boxes with labels but where photographs can be measured and appreciated solely on the basis of their qualities.

Who are the women photographers who inspire you? 

Lindsay Adler

This image is elegant because of its simplicity; one light and an elegant silhouette paying attention to the details. This was created as part of my one-light tutorial guide to teach photographers that more gear is not required for an outstanding image!

When I first moved to NYC 15 years ago there were a tiny number of women photographers in the industry. Sure, there were a few that I looked up to but they definitely were such a small percentage of the whole. When I began reaching out to photographers to assist, I was met with resistance. I heard things like “I only hire male assistants because they can lift more,” or “my wife prefers that I don’t hire female assistants.” It felt like the cards were stacked against me, since assisting is a key step for learning and making connections. 

Today things are changing and there are certainly more working photographers, but the numbers are still highly skewed. One NYTimes study showed that 93% of commercial photographers are men as of a couple of years ago. When I hire assistants I always lean more heavily into hiring female and POC assistants to help ensure their opportunities. Their voices and vision have a place in this industry. 

Who are the women photographers who inspire you? 

Jennifer Leigh Warner

Now more than ever women are joining the nature photography industry. There are more opportunities available for younger women to learn and improve their skills. However the gap in gender diversity when it comes to full time professional photographs is still very wide. Older white males still tend to make up the majority of the industry. Fortunately, in recent years more professional women photographers are taking it upon themselves to help close those gaps. 

With programs like Girls Who Click, which is a non-profit organization founded by Suzi Eszterhas which encourages teenage girls to consider a career in conservation photography through free workshops hosted by professional nature photographers, such as myself, the next generation of women photographers can have role models in the industry that look like them and that they can relate to. My hope for the future is that we will start to see more diversity in photographers and visual storytellers. 

Who are the women photographers who inspire you?

Suzi Eszterhas, Melissa Groo, Morgan Heim, Jaymi Heimbuch, Jen Guyton, Katie Schuler, Dawn Wilson, Christina Selby, Krisztina Scheeff, Karin Saucedo, Carla Rhodes and Kika Tuff just to name a few!

Julia Wimmerlin

Editorial portrait of an American serial entrepreneur Stacey Pennington, founder of “Trouvé by Stacey” – a studio brand for vintage furniture, shot in Etoy, Switzerland in February 2021.

I find that despite photography being historically a predominantly male industry, we can observe a breakthrough of female visionary photographers. I think the most representative genres to see it are fashion/portrait and documentary/travel photography.

The current fashion photography industry has been created solely through the male eyes, giving it a very straightforward interpretation. The appearance of women fashion photographers broadens and deepens the industry as a whole giving ways to new trends. 

We can see a similar story in documentary/travel photography. On top of historical reasons, safety is often another challenge for a woman photographer – for example, in certain places a woman travel photographer is much less safe than a man. But I can see more women photographers making it to the top and once again broadening the perspective of visual storytelling. 

I can only hope that this trend continues and accelerates, allowing the spectators to see a diverse interpretation of the world.

Who are the women photographers who inspire you?

Elizaveta Porodina, Elina Kechicheva, Marta Bevacqua, Joana Choumali to name a few in the art/portrait/fashion world and Christina Mittermeier, Evgenia Arbugaeva, Ami Vitale, Marina Koryakin in the documentary/travel/wildlife world

Lauren Grabelle

Dustin in The Womb: I not only love this photo but loved collaborating on it with Dustin while on an editorial assignment for Pacific Standard which sadly folded the last day of a 3-day shoot. Dustin sustained a traumatic brain injury from a car accident when he was 16. For the past few years he has worked twice a week on two Flathead Valley farms as part of the Montana Care Farms program that connects farmers with disabled adults, veterans and seniors, allowing their participation in the daily routines of farm life which provides these adults with social support, meaningful work, and time in the natural world. This portrait was chosen to be part of the awards annual American Photography 36.

I struggled terribly in the 80’s and 90’s with sexism in the industry but never gave up. I just shifted my focus to weddings and dogs where I didn’t need to answer or be judged by anyone but myself and my clients. It saddens me so to know that young women today are STILL dealing with the same issues and shockingly with some of the same people that made me give up on a photojournalism career. I was even told recently by a well-known woman in the industry that because I couldn’t deal with all the sexism that perhaps I wasn’t strong enough to be a PJ! Ugh. I really hope to see a future where everyone is actually judged solely on their ability and allowed to shine.

Who are the women photographers who inspire you? 

Agnieszka Sosnowska (@agnieszka_photographs) who is living a life similar to mine in an even more remote location, has the deepest empathy that shows through her lens, and has the courage to put herself in the frame.
Alexis Pike (@alexispike) who is a powerhouse of a woman and photographer and has been seen rightly wearing a “Boss Lady” necklace.

Lisa Godfrey

While we found themselves spending more time at home than ever before during 2020, many felt it was the right time to get that dog they always wanted. Dogs bring companionship, unconditional love, joy, and an excuse to leave the house. Shot for a Philadelphia Magazine cover story on the many puppies and dogs Philadelphias added to their families during the pandemic. 

I’ve worked in the photo industry my entire career. I started freelance assisting in the early 90s, working for mostly male photographers. I could count on one hand the number of women in the role at the time. There were few women photographers, the two I had the most contact with were food photographers. I see more and more women photographers in all genres, but the glass ceiling still exists in some places. As there are more women creatives in decision making roles there are more opportunities for women. I’d like to see the representation of women expand, we’ve made advances but there is still some work to be done. 

Who are the women photographers who inspire you? 

Christina Gandolfo – I adore her animals but I LOVE LOVE her portraits. Her work has a sense of humor.  Felicia Perretti – who has inspired me to become more active in the photo community- I love her work too, I’m always telling her “thanks…now I’m hungry.” I am also inspired by the sense of light and calm in Greta Rybus’s images.

Who are the women photographers you admire? Let us know on social! Tag @photoshelter on Twitter and let us know. Then head over to our Instagram to see more photos from these talented PhotoShelter members

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This article was written by

Jeremy is the Content Marketing Manager at PhotoShelter, dedicated to connecting with our creative community and sharing inspiring stories.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Katey Jane Andrews at 6:27 am

    Funny how a male photographer is just a photographer yet a female has to have the label female photographer?

    I didn,t know when I turned my hobby into a business and working as a photographer that buying camera kit would mean I get death threats, being outcasted, stalked and calling in the police.

    Landscape photography is terrible but nowhere near as bad as wildlife and birders well let’s not go there. I m not sure where on the camera box doesn’t state men only.

    So that’s what often happens to me, I gather you will hide this like you did in my last post. The truth is often the most painful thing a person can handle.

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