I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Women Street Photographers
Image above by Elisabeth Neudorf, form the Series Super Pussy. Sometimes we get limited by the smallness of our minds and the narrow ways in which we see definitions. If I think of landscape photography, if I google landscape photography, I come up with something bloody awful with pictures of lakes and sunflowers. Same thing happens if I google fashion photography. The most awful dross comes up. And the same thing (with one or two exceptions) happens for street photography. It's a shocker. But I love landscape in its more complex forms. It tells you something about the land and how we live it, and the best work involves touch and sound and darkness and beauty. And I love fashion when you escape the constrictions of a narrow definition. It's the same with street photography once you get away from the limited perspective so many people have, myself included. I remember going to see the Open City exhibition of street photography a few years back. It had Klein and Frank and Moriyama in there which was great but it went way beyond that to include Wolfgang Tilmanns, Philip Lorca diCorcia, Nikki S.Lee, Catherine Opie and Susan Meiselas. The criteria was location and a forward looking perspective, not a restricted view to the past. Age, gender, and ideology were secondary to being interesting and making interesting work. It felt very free and open and I loved it so much. A short while ago, there was a post on Facebook about the lack of women street photographers. I thought about this and wondered who you could include. I could think of a few people but not so many. So I put up a post on Facebook and a whole bunch of names suddenly came forward. What was interesting was the sheer range of perspectives that were being expressed. While people like Elizabeth Neudorf and Amy Romer look at the power structures of the street and how they connect to gender, class and migration, others take a more conceptual view. Still others look at community and collaboration, some are voyeuristic and then there are those with more traditional view. A lot of the time street photography is decried for having too male a perspective, for its voyeurism and lack of ethics. But there are women who have a voyeuristic approach too, and for me some of the most interesting work is in-your-face and quite confrontational. I still think a lot of people find that difficult to handle and try to limit what people can photograph due to their own gender based prescriptions of what photgraphy should be. They do it with age, and race and ideology too, and it always limits what you can photograph and what you can see. The great thing about the responses on the Facebook post was the openness, freedom and delight of the respondents. There wasn't a generic closedness about what street photography could be. Anyway, here are some of the photographers who got mentioned - it's not exhaustive (Diane Arbus and Helen Levitt aren't in there for starters). Some are classic street, some the street definition might be stretching it a bit, for some an interaction with public spaces is only one aspect of their work, but so what, who cares (not me), some are advancing photography in public spaces into new and exciting areas. And this is just a small cross section. There are fantastic women street photographers out there. And for more on women street photographers, go to Petapixel here and the Guardian here.
And that's it for now. I'm sure there are many, many more from different parts of the world. So do feel free to post additional links in the comments. Thanks to everybody who made a suggestion and apologies to anybody I missed out.