Injustice is injustice and I'm just trying to be a cultural ambassador.
Ever since its invention back in the 19th 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 serious 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 thematic female photographers use differ from those of a male photographer. At a time 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.
Halla Ayla (Iraqi American artist and photographer, 1957-) is noted for her activism and is a champion of women's rights. Through her artwork, Ayla works to encourage peace between the Arab world and the West. She has been a photographic mixed media artist for over 30 years and combines photography with painting and collage. Halla was born in Baghdad, and grew up in Baghdad and in Beirut. She received a BA in Business from Sorbonne University in Paris, as well as an MA in Marketing and Business from the American College in London and Webster University in Geneva. She also undertook art classes at the College of Marin in California. Ayla lived between Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, before living in Europe for 15 years and finally settling in San Francisco. In 2002 she began working on a series of exhibitions called The Arab World Unveiled that focuses on the Arab world and aims to reveal the unique beauty and richness of the Arab culture and its people. By presenting an alternative visual perspective, Ayla hopes to alter limited perceptions about the region. Her desire is to create bridges of empathy and understanding between East and West. Another notable project of Ayla is Women Who Bear - a series of works about the beauty and dignity of the women in rural India. Her most recent mixed media collage focuses on the tribal regions of Africa and Oceania. Halla's work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in art galleries and museums around the world, as well as in private collections. Her works are on permanent display in the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The artist has been invited to speak to a variety of audiences about the Arab world, deflecting the damaging stereotypes that prevail about the region. She gave the keynote address at a Red Cross Annual Meeting where she spoke about the historic legacy of the Arabs and its impact on today's world. Ayla has also appeared on national and local radio and TV, as a champion for Arab art culture and humanity. A distinctive feature of Ayla's artwork is the use of Arab motifs, such as calligraphy and the geometric patterns of Arabesque. Much of her work is produced in series, with each series dedicated to a specific geographic region.
Flor Garduño (Mexican photographer, 1957-) was born in Mexico and studied Visual Arts at the Old Academy of San Carlos and Graphic Design at Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, in Mexico City. She was especially interested in her teacher Kati Horna's work throughout her course; Horna's personality, together with the magical and expressive dimension of her photography, had a strong impact on the development of Flor's work. She perfected her photographic skills through a couple of different focuses: by delving into printing processes like palladium platinum and by printing her photographic portfolios in silver on gelatin, and by working as an assistant in Manuel Álvarez Bravo's camera obscura. Garduño worked for the Secretary of Public Education under the direction of Mariana Yampolsky; thus, she visited the most remote rural areas of Mexico to find appropriate topics for bilingual literacy books. This experience gave Flor the opportunity to get to know her country and the life of her indigenous peoples while simultaneously helping her develop her own style. Since her youth, she sought the profound truth of the Mexican countryside, venturing into still life, the female nude, portraiture, and architecture, always in a perpetual search for the subtle boundaries of the imaginary; a portrait of the roots of magical cultures. The bridge between the present moment and the centuries that have passed lies in the eyes of those that have witnessed them - the water, trees, earth, and air. By incorporating these powerful natural elements in her photography, Flor evokes the presence of indigenous America's horizons and suns. The photographer makes her own rules, continually aiming to elicit some deep emotion. With the framework of her photography built, Flor perseveres in the task of taking photos that not only reveal, but rather capture a place of revelation. Photographer, passionate seeker and visionary of creativity, Garduño is an outstanding representative of the richness and diversity of Mexican photography.
Photography always shows aspects of things or of other people that you don't know of, that are revealed through the photographic process.
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.