Diversifying the Discourse: Global Perspectives on Writing the Histories of Female Photographers, Part 2: New Approaches to Women's Camera Work, 1920–70s

AHA Session 118
Coordinating Council for Women in History 7
Friday, January 4, 2019: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Williford B (Hilton Chicago, Third Floor)
Julia Adeney Thomas, University of Notre Dame

Session Abstract

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.

In this panel each paper explores different angles on researching and writing histories of women’s participation in photographic practice. From the writings of well-known female photographers in Europe and the United States to the archives of small studio photographers in postcolonial India how did women make a name for themselves in their fields? In addition, panelists explore the barriers against the professionalization of female photographers in postwar Japan and the United States in the context of post-war rebuilding and the Vietnam War. From a global perspective, each paper seeks to interrogate why these histories have been consistently ignored or misremembered.