Celebrating female photographers

By Elliot Brennan 30 May 2011
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Numbers of female photographers are growing, and their unique perspectives are adding much to the field.

ENGLISH BOTANIST AND PHOTOGRAPHER Anna Atkins (1799-1871) is widely regarded to be the first female photographer and one of the first people to publish a photographic book. The daughter of the secretary of the prestigious Royal Society in England, she was broadly exposed to scientific enquiry and new technologies.

It was a rare insight for a woman in the all-male world of science of the time. As a result she met with William Fox Talbot, one of the early inventors of photographic technology. In 1853 she published a book with 389 photograms of British algae. Anna was one of the founders of photography, displaying both its scientific, explanatory and aesthetic qualities.

Today her legacy is alive, and stronger than ever before. From hobbyists to professional photographers, the art of photography is increasingly gender non-descript; today women equal, if not outnumber, men in the profession.

Female photographers were few during the century after Anna Atkins’ ground-breaking photographic work. Yet in the last 50 years women, armed with a multitude of lenses and cameras, have changed the trend.

In a professional world so often dominated by men, female perspectives are finally being realised. And what is a photograph other than one’s own perspective captured?

The female perspective on photography

In Australia, in recent years, female photographers have grown in number and their representation in the mainstream media and commercial photography is bringing new insights, new subjects and new techniques.

Following the success of the 2009 Melbourne event ‘Celebrating Women in Photography’, the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) is re-forming the exhibition in Sydney of the images of 27 exceptional Australian female photographers.

“We are seeing an increasing number of women enter the profession and these images are testament to the outstanding work by female photographers in this country,” says AIPP vice president Kylie Lyons.  “Each of the stunning images has received a gold award at the Canon AIPP Australian Professional Photography Awards – the most coveted awards in the country,” she adds.

Included in the exhibition are photographers Kate Geraghty (who has won a the Nikon-Walkley Press Photography of the Year award), Karen Gowlett-Holmes (an acclaimed underwater photographer) and 83-year-old Ruby Spowart, who has many of her images archived in the National Gallery of Australia, Queensland Art Gallery and Griffith University Art Collection amongst others.

The exhibition is at the Art Est. Gallery in Leichardt, Sydney until June 21, 2011.