Ever since its invention back in the 18th century, photography has been documenting life. At the same time, it focuses on inviting audiences to a rather subjective world while trying to be taken seriously as an art form. Photography has always been considered a male dominated profession, but luckily things are changing. Scholars, writers, bloggers, photography students and enthusiasts have been giving due to the female pioneers of the field. Most of them were always standing and/or hiding in the shadows, oblivious to how much they could acclaim and accomplish. Arguably, the technique, concepts and themes female photographers use, differ from those of male photographers. When most women were convinced that their place was in the kitchen and certainly not in the dark room, there were those who were struggling to surpass their male counterparts and work towards gaining respect and recognition for their work.
Miyako Ishiuchi (Japanese photographer, 1947-) began experimenting with
photography at the same time as one of the most renowned generations in
Japanese photography. She began her career by photographing her hometown Yokosuka, which had been transformed – during the post-war period – into one of the largest American naval bases in the Pacific. Ishiuchi spent more than 10 years documenting the American presence, while charging her work with a subjectivity combining both personal and political awareness. Miyako has been producing photographic collections since the late 70’s and she herself admits that they are “totally personal. My very own skin, born in the darkroom.” In 1976, she organized an all-women photography exhibition and in 1979, she won the Kimura Ihei Award
for her photo album Apartment and her exhibition Apaato. Ishiuchi’s work consists of grainy prints and bold subject matters. In the early 90’s she began taking close-ups of older people’s bodies and, most recently, she started addressing themes of skin, clothing and time. Her book Hiroshima (2008) honours the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Her book Frida: Love and Pain (2012) was produced after an invitation by the Frida Kahlo Museum. Miyako has exhibited her work in Japan, the United States and Italy and has been awarded many local and international awards. She prefers shooting bodies and personal belongings than locations and her aesthetic is distinctive and apparent in all of her work.
Maryam Zandi (Iranian photographer and author, 1947-) was born and raised in Iran and studied Law and Political Sciences at the University of Tehran. She began her photographic career in 1970 and was awarded with the first prize of the Ministry of Art and Culture’s national photography competition. Two years later, Zandi joined the Iranian national TV-Radio as a photographer and then went on to work for local magazines and other publications. Her interest for social documentary photography led her to cover the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Her first significant project (Chehreh-ha: Portraits) is a series of portraits, which sadly remains incomplete to this day, because of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and her trip to France (1986-89). Her first photography book was published in 1982; it portrays Turkmens of Iran and it’s a study of the Iranian ethnic group. Zandi returned to Iran in 1989 to resume her
Chehreh-ha project which is still ongoing after 26 years. By now, it’s become an extensive photography archive of famous and influential contemporary Iranian elites in the fields of literature, arts, architecture and politics. Maryam has published more than 10 photography books, including a collection of the Iranian Revolution incidents. She has been collaborating with a graphic designer since 2000 and together they have published over 80 different types of artistic calendars in an attempt to improve the imagery culture and photographic taste of the Iranian people. In 2005, Zandi was amongst those selected by the Society of Iranian Photographers to establish the National Iranian Photographer’s Society. In 2009, she was elected as the first chairwoman of the board, but resigned in 2013. In 2010, she refused to accept the First Degree Medal of Art by the President of Iran, to protest
against lack of freedom and professional dignity of photographers in Iran at the time. Later that year, she received an independent award as the most influential photographer in the Social Documentary Photography Festival for supporting the rights of Iranian photographers. She won the same prize again in 2014. Zandi is still active, designing and making glassworks and holding exhibitions. She is considered one of the most active, dynamic and influential photographers of Iran.
We will continue talking about female names that left their mark in photography and about contemporary female photographers who are still to emerge. There are a lot of female photographers out there deserving of praise and we can only hope to cover as many of them as we can. Please, follow this space to find out more.
i've started to think lately that perhaps i really am suited to photography. that's the
potential of photography: to be freer and freer, to do things with ever more freedom.