The names of some landmark women photographers, Lisette Model, Dorothea Lange, and Margaret Bourke-White, to name three, may not only ring familiar but also prompt clear visual associations of now iconic images shot by each. Other names such as Zaida Ben-Yusuf, Thérèse Bonney, and Hansel Mieth, may be less familiar. Yet, they all, and another twenty or so peers, are groundbreaking and boundary-extending women photojournalists found within the recently completed set of biographical essays, resource lists, bibliographies, and representative examples of their photographs in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room site.
The Women Photojournalists site brings together years of work by Beverly Brannan, Curator of Photography. Beverly explains the circumstances that first sparked her series on women photojournalists:
While preparing an overview of P&P collections, I realized that women had played a more prominent communications role during the Second World War than seemed to be appreciated by those studying the era. This work lead to the exhibition that profiled a number of these players in Women Come to the Front.
The array of four photos below leads off with Helen Johns Kirtland, “A Woman on the Battle Front,” who worked as a correspondent during the First World War for Leslie’s Weekly Newspaper. Kirtland is joined by Dorothea Lange, Toni Frissell, and Esther Bubley, three women who photographed a variety of World War Two events.
Beverly recounts events following the Women Come to the Front exhibition:
A bit later, I received a staff award, a Krasnoff Billington grant, to expand the timespan both backwards and forwards to include the twenty-some women featured from the late 19th century to today in the Women Photojournalists site. This resource, in turn, has led to their inclusion in the Musée d’Orsay’s exhibition Who’s Afraid of Women Photographers? and expanded research into the contributions of women photographers.
The three photographs below are by Marilyn Nance, Charlotte Brooks, and Brenda Ann Kenneally — three women who’ve continued in the spirit of their predecessors.
Through the Library’s collections and Beverly’s explorations, we can appreciate the many and varied contributions of generations of women photojournalists.
- Read about the lives of the women profiled within the Women Photojournalists site.
- Step on up to the online exhibition Women Come to the Front.
- View photographs by Esther Bubley, Dorothea Lange, Louise Rosskam, and Marion Post Wolcott, found within the collection of Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives.
- The Library of Congress is fortunate to have major holdings by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952), one of the first American women to achieve prominence as a photographer.
And don’t forget WWII FSA/OWI photographer, Marjorie Collins who captured the women war workers in very poignant ways – she has an incredible photo-documentary on the “Grimm family” in Buffalo, NY that I use to teach teachers about using primary sources in the classroom…
Thank you, Heidi. I failed to mention Collins in context of the women photographers represented in the FSA/OWI Collection. It is my oversight alone, and not Beverly’s as you’ll find Collins included in the Women Photojournalists site. I regret my error, especially in light of Collins’ eye and ability at visual storytelling, as you point out as exemplified in her series of photos of the Grimm family.
Brava, Beverly, for completing a monumental project that will be a wonderful resource for years to come!
Bravo, Jeff, for a terrific blog and selection of images!
Is there a way to see full size images of the three photos at the bottom of this post?
The work of more recent and current photographers is not accessible in larger views (and thus larger file sizes) outside of the Library’s facilities as a precaution against violating the creators’ copyrights. You may well find that some work by each of the three photographers in that lowest panel — Nance, Brooks, Kenneally — by following links in the respective ‘Resources’ page for each woman that accompanies her ‘Biographical Essay.’ Some university libraries and larger public libraries will hold illustrated books by or about the photographers as listed in the ‘Bibliography’ sections within ‘Resources.’ A third method entails some library research to see photos that appeared in print publications such as Brooks’ work for LOOK Magazine. The effort is well-warranted, in my view, to see the work of gifted photographers in photojournalistic context.