“It’s a joy to contemplate the photography of June Newton, a.k.a. Alice Springs. The Australian-born Springs is the 95-year-old widow of the provocative fashion photographer Helmut Newton, but that’s the least interesting thing about her.
Under Springs’s gaze, world-famous actresses like Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Rampling, and Audrey Hepburn look like people, not icons — conversational, intent, their eyes telegraphing depths beneath. Springs respects their beauty, but doesn’t accept it as a mask. There are shadows beneath Deneuve’s perfect features; Hepburn looks gorgeous, but her age….”
While preparing for an extensive documentary portrait photography project on Australian female creatives and innovators, I came across this article about June Newton aka Alice Springs published earlier this year along with a series of links to other articles about her and her work as a photographer and director of the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin.
“As revolutions go, this one got off to a quiet and unassuming start in the early 1970s. It was achieved slowly, one female photographer at a time, each hired by The New York Times for her talent with a camera and her desire to practice the best journalism possible.
The men who hired the first of those women quite likely weren’t thinking about altering the prevailing concepts of photojournalism. But over time, as more women were hired and gained acceptance, they began to push successfully for publication of images that were different, for the truths they saw in people and events, for assignments that had once been denied them and for assignments that had not been envisioned before….”
I attended the launch of the 2019 Loud and Luminous Exhibition by the Loud and Luminous collective of Australian women and non-binary photographers at Contact Sheet, “an education and mentorship space, a gallery and a co-working space” in the Sydney north shore suburb of St Leonards, located in a complex of creative spaces supported by TWT Developments, Building Hope Foundation and Brand X.
This is the first time I have encountered these organizations and there may well be some intriguing stories and documentary subjects to be found within them.
“As the #MeToo movement as shown, no industry sector is immune from the throes of gender inequity. In editorial and commercial photography, men still largely outnumber women, despite the fact that much of advertising and is geared towards a more feminine audience. However, the status quo may not endure much longer; photographers, producers and creative directors are fighting for change, either through personal endeavours or collective undertakings. Five photographers and art producers, in discussion with Heather Morton, explain why and how….”
“Tired of the marginalization of female photographers in the commercial world, Jill Greenberg decided to take matters into her own hands. The successful photographer, whose work went viral due to her set of crying toddler photos, has started the directory Alreadymade. The site serves to take away any excuses for clients who feel as though they can’t find talented female photographers for high-end commercial photo shoots by giving these talented women a platform.
Although women are responsible for 85% of consumer purchases, female photographers are passed over for the majority of entertainment shoots and advertising campaigns. This means that male photographers are shaping the way we see and perceive the world the majority of the time (up to 90%)….”
It is great to see that Jill Greenberg has added her reputation and energy to the fight for equal female participation and representation in the creative media with her Alreadymade. initiative but sad to see that, despite a long history of great photography by female photographers, the numbers continue to be so against that equality.
Some influential, inspirational female photographers in my past
While writing this article, I began compiling from memory a list of female photographers whose work has been crucial in shaping my own way of seeing since I first picked up a camera, and that list just grew and grew.
Growing up in an isolated little town in the uttermost west, I did not have access to other photographers or to museums or galleries and certainly never saw exhibitions of photography anywhere back then, but I could and did order books from lending libraries in other towns across the state via the state library system and occasionally managed to buy photography magazines, so my access to other people’s work was limited.
As I added names from memory, this list just grew and grew and it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Further information about these photographers and links to their websites and other sources are available at Wikipedia’s List of women photographers.
Ellen von Unwerth
Julia Margaret Cameron
June Newton née Browne aka Alice Springs
Mary Ellen Mark
Advancing Diversity – “The Advancing Diversity Honors, held annually at CES, is the media, marketing, and advertising community’s premiere event to recognize and honor best practices and solutions for advancing diversity and inclusion.”
Advancing Women Artists Foundation – “Myriad paintings and sculptures by ground-breaking women artists have been overlooked for centuries and many works are currently in need of restoration…. Recognize and support art history’s ‘invisible women’. They were artists against all odds, and their legacy is yours.”
Alreadymade. – “100% locally sourced, artisanal female content. Please bookmark this site so you can consider hiring a woman a bit more often-for now we are hoping to get the ratio closer to 20% since it is under 10%.”
Anonymous Was A Woman – “… an unrestricted grant of $25,000 awarded each year to ten women artists over the age of 40 and at a critical junction in their career.”
Daniela Federici – New York City-based Australian creative, director and fashion photographer.
FotoDocument – The Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award – “The Marilyn Stafford FotoReportage Award facilitated by FotoDocument and supported by Olympus, is granted annually to a professional woman photographer towards the initiation or completion of a compelling and cohesive documentary photo essay which addresses an important social, environmental, economic or cultural issue, whether local or global. The work should, in part, showcase positive solutions to any issues it raises in order to contribute to constructive photojournalism, in line with the aims of FotoDocument and the wishes of Marilyn Stafford.”
Free the Bid – “Giving a voice to women filmmakers in advertising film and TV.”
The Guardian – The fashion photography of Marilyn Stafford – in pictures – “As a freelance photojournalist based in Paris in the 1950s and early 1960s, Stafford covered fashion assignments from the established haute couture houses of the 50s to the birth of prêt-à-porter, moving to London in the 60s – where as one of a small number of female photographers she helped to pave the way for future women working on Fleet Street.”
“… These numbers reinforce the long-standing notion that male photographers receive better deals overall: including, but not limited to, assignments, wages, positions, and exposure. And it’s not even that women don’t make the effort. As the same study found, they do, in fact, do so more than their male peers: more of them are university educated, more engaged in social media, more versatile in terms of technology used, and more digitally savvy.
Which is why it can get irritating and exhausting every time news like a prominent camera brand announcing not one, not two, but 32 brand ambassadors, with literally all of them being male photographers comes out….”
Tish Murtha, one of Magnum photojournalist David Hurn’s first students at the famous School of Documentary Photography in Newport, Wales, in the 1970s, was one of the finest documentary photographers of her generation but, in the all-too-usual manner, was ignored by the photography establishment until recently thanks to the tireless efforts of her daughter Ella Murtha, The Photographers’ Gallery, Bluecoat Press, Café Royal Books and others.
The course at The School of Documentary Photography was unique in Britain at the time and produced many fine photographers, a couple of whom later moved to Australia.
Others went on to fame and fortune, while Tish Murtha seemed to have disappeared into the background after initial early successes and commissions, dying prematurely in 2013.
Given the way female photographers have tended to be ignored and forgotten, it is wonderful to see that Tish Murtha is finally receiving the recognition that she deserved so much in her lifetime.
“There’s Jayne Mansfield, striding through New York in a tight dress. There’s fashion designer Diane von Fürstenberg, reclining on a flight with a notepad on her lap. There’s lifestyle icon Martha Stewart, leading ducks round her property dressed in a denim romper suit. They’re all here, along with Susan Sontag, Nora Ephron and countless other celebrities, intellectuals and icons of the 20th century – and all of them women.
Susan Wood, the celebrated photographer who took these shots, found that her subjects all shared certain characteristics. “The first thing is intelligence,” she says. “The second is responsiveness. And they all had tremendous energy, joie de vivre, openness. They could understand things that weren’t quite said.”…”
“History confirms it – the first photobook was made by a woman, with British photographer Anna Atkins publishing Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843, a year before Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Still, many historians, including Allan Porter in his introduction to The Photobook: A History, dismiss Atkins’ work as “photographic prints” rather than photography.
“Unfortunately, this is far too often emblematic of the uphill battle women photobook-makers still encounter when we talk about their history,” says Russet Lederman, co-founder of 10×10 Photobooks. “As we conducted research for the How We See project, we discovered that although women photographers produce relatively equal numbers of photobooks to men, their representation in the higher-profile sectors was, and still is, disappointing.”…”