Five female photographers to know

The world of art , like many others, is historically dominated by male characters. In  photography , however, there are many women who have distinguished themselves for their creativity and ability to excite.

We have already talked about the legendary Vivian Maier, the nanny from Chicago whose photographic talent came to light only after her disappearance, but there are many reporters whose fame has reached us. From Gerda Taro to Dorothea Lange, here are five photographers to know.

Julia Margaret Cameron

Born in Calcutta in 1815, the daughter of an officer of the East India Company and a French aristocrat, she discovered photography when she was nearly fifty, thanks to a gift from her daughter. Specializing in portraits, in her studio (housed in a former chicken coop) she posed the subjects in a theatrical manner, a feature that helped to classify her among the first exponents of so-called staged photography . Not only. Her particular portrait technique slightly out of focusit conferred a mysterious and ethereal aura to all its protagonists, another distinctive trait that led her in the space of a few years to establish herself as one of the most popular photographers in Victorian London. Among the intellectuals of the time, Charles Darwin, Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning paraded in front of her lens. However, she had to give up her passion after a few years of activity, in 1875, when her transfer to Ceylon prevented her from continuously obtaining photographic material.

Beatrice, 1866 Julia Margaret Cameron


Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Margaretta Nutzhorn (the surname Lange acquired from her mother) was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1895, but her life took place above all in San Francisco, where she landed as a young man. Determined to study photography, despite having a leg disability caused by polio, she attended Columbia University in New York with Clarence H. White , while collaborating with several studios. After a trip around the world, she settled in California in 1918. She soon detached herself from the pictorialist photography, which was fashionable at the time, she preferred to focus on a neutral and documentary style , portraying the hard life of the American popular classes, among the unemployed, homeless and peasants. Among the most important shots of her, The migrant mother, portrait of a female mother of seven children, immortalized in 1936 near a field of peas and fully entered among the icons of photography. Devoted to truth and photography as a tool of social testimony, Lange collaborated with the War Relocation Agency of San Francisco and the Office of War Information , bearing strong testimony to the impact of World War II on American society. In 1947 you collaborated in the creation of the Magnum agency .

Migrant Mother, California, 1936 dorothea lange migrant mother

Gerda Taro

Her name is inevitably linked to that of Robert Capa , companion in life, fight and photography, but Taro is also known for being the first war photojournalist to disappear on the field, at the age of 27, killed by a tank during the Spanish Civil War, in 1937. Born in Stuttgart to a Polish Jewish family, Gerda Pohorylle, at a very young age, joined the socialist movements, escaping prison after being she was arrested for anti-Nazi leaflets in Leipzig, where she had gone to study. Her meeting with the Hungarian AndrĂ© Friedmann, whom we all know today as Robert Capa (it was she who invented the pseudonyms for both) took place in Paris. He taught her everything she knew about photography and, very soon, she Gerda she had nothing to envy him in terms of her photographic skills. Together they decided to follow the developments of the war in Spain on the ground. He was supposed to be there when she died and it seems he never recovered from losing her. She, however, although seriously injured, he fought for a whole night for his life, only worrying that his cameras weren’t broken. Today she is remembered as one of the greatest photographers ever and her story is collected in arecently released novel , The Girl with the Leica , by Helena Janeczek (Guanda editions).

War orphan eating soup, Madrid (1936/1937), Gerda Taro

Letizia Battaglia

An Italian could not be missing from the list of photographers to know: Letizia Battaglia, Sicilian, born in 1935, is known above all for her documentary activity of mafia crime scenes , during the years of lead in Palermo , which helped bring the attention and to denounce the atrocity of those events. But Battaglia was not only “the photographer of the mafia”: her photos, often in black and white, depict the city of Palermo in its various facets, traditions, neighborhoods, streets, gazes – especially of women and children , the misery of everyday life and the splendor of architecture, together with the faces and relations of power.

Letizia Battaglia- The girl with the ball, La Cala district.  Palermo, 1980

Diane Arbus

Born in 1923 in New York and of Russian origin (the girl’s surname was Nemerov), Arbus is recognized as the ‘ freak artist’ , due to her passion for the strangest characters in society. The artist, a pupil of another great photographer, Lisette Model, loved to portray human beings in their diversity, highlighting how these strange subjects felt perfectly at ease in their shoes, instead placing the viewer in a state of restlessness. Among his best-known photographs, Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, a portrait of a child who, with his head bent, a strange expression on his face and his arms unnaturally stretched at his sides, holds a toy grenade in his hands ; Identical Twins, depicting two twin sisters, Cathleen and Colleen Wade, equal in every respect except for the expression, one sad and the other happy; and Jewish Giant at Home with His Parents in The Bronx, which portrays Eddie Carmel, a man affected by gigantism and employed in a circus, with whom Arbus had formed a close friendship.

Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, Diane Arbus
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