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Open Air Class in Manual Training onboard the Southfield, Bellevue Hospital, New York City. Photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals, between 1900 and 1920. //

Women Photojournalists

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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.

Page from scrapbook showing photograph of street vendors at an open-air market in Taxco, Mexico.
Market Scene, Taxco, Mexico. Photograph by Eleanor Butler Roosevelt, 1949.

Open air class in manual training on the boat SOUTHFIELD at Bellevue Hospital, New York City
Open Air Class in Manual Training onboard the Southfield, Bellevue Hospital, New York City. Photograph by Jessie Tarbox Beals, between 1900 and 1920.

Photographs illustrating article by Grover Cleveland show him fishing.
President Grover Cleveland Tying a Fly while out Fishing. Photograph by Zaida-Ben Yusuf, as published in The Saturday Evening Post, October 19, 1901.

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.

Three images relating to battles near the Piave River, Italy during World War I. Images show soldiers marching; a YMCA car among the ruins of a town near the Piave River; and Helen Johns Kirtland being shown recently captured Austrian trenches by Italian troops.
A Woman on the Battle Front [detail], near the Piave River, Italy. Photographs by Helen Johns Kirtland, staff correspondent, published in Leslie’s Weekly Newspaper, Aug 24, 1918.

San Francisco, Calif., April 1942 - Children of the Weill public school, from the so-called international settlement, shown in a flag pledge ceremony. Some of them are evacuees of Japanese ancestry who will be housed in War relocation authority centers for the duration
Children of the Weill Public School, from the International Settlement, in a Flag Pledge Ceremony, San Francisco, Calif. Photograph by Dorothea Lange, April 1942.
[U.S. soldiers resting among ruins of building, with soldier lying on plank in foreground, on the Siegfried Line, Rhone Valley, German Front]
U.S. Soldiers Resting among Ruins of Building on the Siegfried Line, Rhone Valley, German Front. Photograph by Toni Frissell, February 1945.

Arlington Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Decorating a soldier's grave in one of the Negro sections on Memorial Day.
Decorating a Soldier’s Grave in One of the Negro Sections, Memorial Day, Arlington National Cemetery. Photograph by Esther Bubley, May 1943.

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.

Photograph shows two members of the White Eagles of the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans, wearing elaborate costume.
White Eagles – Black Indians of New Orleans. Photograph by Marilyn Nance, 1980.

Cuban Singer La Lupe Performing in New York City.
Cuban Singer La Lupe Performing in New York City. Photograph by Charlotte Brooks, April 1970.

Photograph shows Michaela Ruberts carrying a plate of pears in the kitchen of their home five years after Hurricane Katrina.
Michaela Ruberts, Covington, Louisiana. Photograph by Brenda Ann Kenneally, August 2010.

Through the Library’s collections and Beverly’s explorations, we can appreciate the many and varied contributions of generations of women photojournalists.

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Comments (5)

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

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