When you think about the masters of street photography, you probably think mostly of men. That is because, photography, like most things, has been a male-dominated field. At least, that is how it seems. Garry Winogrand, Lee Freidlander, Brassai, Eugene Atget, Robert Frank, Jeff Mermelstein, Alex Webb, Saul Leiter — those are some of the names that might jostle around in your head. Oh, and by the way, Helen Levitt and Diane Arbus, too — maybe Vivian Maier for good measure.
While Levitt and Arbus, true masters, are included in most mentions of the form, the point is that street photography has always been perceived through a mostly male lens. But it is 2021, and we can start looking at things a little differently, start broadening our conception. In my view, that is a good thing. The more perspectives, the better. Not only is that more inclusive, the last time I checked the world is made up of more than just people like me!
Which brings me to the point of today’s post. In March, the book, “Women Street Photographers,” was published (Prestel, 2021). The book was curated by Gulnara Samoilova and contains an introduction by Melissa Breyer. Both women are accomplished photographers in their own right. Samoilova is a former Associated Press photojournalist and World Press Photo winner, and Breyer’s photographic work has been featured both nationally and internationally in publications ranging from National Geographic to the New York Times.
“Women Street Photographers” also includes a foreword by the internationally acclaimed photographer, Ami Vitale. Vitale has worked across the globe creating some of the most compelling work, often focusing on social issues but even dipping her toe into the natural world, as evidenced in work she did early in her career in places such as the West Bank to recent work on pandas published in the pages of the National Geographic.
This new book shows that the long male-dominated domain of street photography is beginning to shift to include more and more women. No doubt this shift has been fueled by an increasing ability to bypass traditional “gatekeeping” by being able to take advantage of wildly popular electronic platforms by, you guessed it, Instagram.
Throughout more than 200 pages, “Women Street Photographers” showcases the work of 100 women, paired with statements about their work. The work includes everything from wryly captured images culled from the never-ending pageantry of life that passes by us every day on the sidewalk to personal expressions of joy. In short, it captures a vivid slice of life through the eyes and lenses of female photographers.
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