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Photography's Impact On the Image of Women

Prior to the invention of photography in the early 19th century, the only images one could have of oneself were paintings, drawings or sculptures; objects not easily affordable for most.  Photography made it possible for people to have inexpensive representations of themselves and loved ones.  It also made possible the development of our modern media, including the advertising and entertainment industries. 

Beginning with Louis Jacques Daguerre and his daguerreotypes, and later George Eastman's creation of the Kodak camera, photography made it possible to archive the birth of the modern era.  Here are some examples of photographs created by early women photographers: 



  My grandchild Eugene's Boy Archie
By Julia Margaret Cameron - 1865

 Laura Adams Armer,

 Allen Sisters, Louise Rogers
pulling Mabel Brown's hair. 1896


Before the Kodak camera, having one's picture taken was a formal event.  You went to a studio and you were posed for a picture, which could take quite a bit of time.  The photographs above though seem more relaxed than many "studio" photographs from the same period.  Do you think that the gender of the photographer effects the tone and composition of a photograph?

Here are some examples of the work of 20th century women photographers.  Are the images beautiful?  Can you tell that these photos were shot by women?  What are they referencing or commenting on?  Who holds the power in these photos:  the subject, the photographer or the viewer? 



 Imogene Cunningham

 Margaret Bourke White

 Lissette Model

 Diane Arbus


Click here to go to the Univ. of Vermont's  interactive site -  This Is Not Sex: A Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose.  It may change forever how you look at at photographs and advertisements!

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