I think that things evolve, that there are no real resolutions or solutions to things. My desire is for people to think about things and feel things.
Laura McPhee (1958-)
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 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 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.
Laura McPhee (American photographer, 1958-) was born in Manhattan and grew up in central New Jersey. She earned her BA from Princeton University and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and is currently a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She is noted for her stunning large-scale landscapes and portraits of the people who live and work in them. She is currently working in the desert west of the United States where she is chronicling visual stories about time, both geologic and human. These stories contemplate the unintended consequences of humanity's attempts to control and manage nature and how we use the earth and to what ends. Through McPhee's eyes, these stories are a meditation on our material lives and on climate change. The images depict our paradoxical approaches as we at once protect, alter, and extract from the land. McPhee is the recipient of a number of grants and residencies, including a Fulbright Scholars Fellowship for work in India and Sri Lanka, and a residency in Idaho from the Alturas Foundation. She was also awarded a New England Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship. Her work has been widely exhibited in both the United States and abroad. She has been a part of exhibitions at several institutions and has had solo shows at The Boise Art Museum, Benrubi Gallery, Gail Severn Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts, and many others. Most recently, her work has been exhibited at the Yale Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a part of the exhibition Eye on the West: Photography and the Contemporary West and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as part of the exhibition Ansel Adams in Our Time. McPhee's publications include No Ordinary Land (Aperture, 1998); River of No Return (Yale University Press, 2008); Guardians of Solitude (Iris Editions, London, 2009); Gateway: Visions For An Urban National Park (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011); The Home and the World: A View of Calcutta (Yale University Press, 2014). Most recently, she was included in a series of books published by Kris Graves Projects entitled LOST.
Mitra Tabrizian (British-Iranian filmmaker and photographer) was born in Tehran and studied at the Polytechnic of Central London in the 1980s. Her photographic work has been exhibited and published widely and is represented in major international museums and public collections. Solo museum shows include Tate Britain (2008). She has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Iranian pavilion (2015) - was awarded the Royal Academy's Rose Award for Photography (2013) - and was selected as one of Hundred Heroines: Celebrating Women in Photography Today, launched by the Royal Photographic Society (2018). Tabrizian's most recent short film/video art The Insider (2018) was made in collaboration with the Booker Prize Winner, Ben Okri, commissioned by the Coronet Theatre to accompany Albert Camus' The Outsider, adapted for the stage by Ben Okri. The screenings include the British Museum (2019) and Smithsonian Institution, Washington (2020). Her latest photographic book Off Screen is published by Kerber Verlag in 2019. Her critically acclaimed debut feature Gholam (British/Iranian film, 2017) had a successful theatrical release in the UK. Mitra is currently developing her second feature The Far Mountains with BFI. She is also a professor of photography at the University of Westminster, London. Her photographic work, which is generally presented in series, is the result of meticulously composed scenes that construct enigmatic narratives with no apparent link.
I'd always been interested in class divisions in Tehran. They were severe. I started taking pictures. But you take pictures of the poor, and then what? Do you put them on a wall? Gradually I became familiar with critical theories, with how you read an image. I realised that regular documentary work might not necessarily be the answer.
Mitra Tabrizian (1959-)
We will continue talking about female names that left their mark on 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.