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.