Diversifying the Discourse: Global Perspectives on Writing the Histories of Female Photographers, Part 1: Mining the Archive for Missing Perspectives, from the Late 19th Century to the 1920s

AHA Session 93
Coordinating Council for Women in History 5
Friday, January 4, 2019: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)
Vanessa R. Schwartz, University of Southern California
Women Photographers, Institutional Practices, and the South Kensington Museum
Erika Lederman, Victoria and Albert Museum and De Montfort University
Missing Perspectives: German-Jewish Women Photographers in Palestine/Israel
Anna Sophia Messner, Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich

Session Abstract

This multi-session workshop brings to light women who were involved in the professional practice of photography, while addressing the practices of writing history that have contributed to the continued denial of women’s lived experiences with photography.

Reaching across geographic location and time period, the presenters propose methods to re-think and re-write the history of photography to ask how it changes when photographic narratives are approached from the perspective of the women in the field. As we recover the participation of these women, the papers here will begin to understand the gendering of the practice of photography and why we (as a field) continue to see the women professional photographers as producing work for reasons that are necessarily “other” from male counterparts.This includes acknowledging the contribution of women photographers who operated and collaborated in commercial photographic studios, worked for museums, formed transnational networks, navigated the demands of shooting war photography, as well as those who took photographs of home life. Each paper takes its own angle on a particular gendered photographic practice, the miss-memory of the history of photography, or the othering of women within photography circles. We bring to light the stories of female photographers to intervene into the practices of writing history and understand how we can move forward and examine long-held assumptions on the limitations of women in the field.

From a focus on female entrepreneurs who individually or collectively ran their own studios in 19th and 20th century Britain and the United States to the female photographers who made an impact on institutional collecting practices and the transnational work of German-Jewish photographers, each paper in this panel approaches the archive as a source for new perspectives on evaluating women’s camera work.