Need-to-Inform. The Pioneering Women Photographers who Helped Shape Their Art

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

How Anne Brigman, Imogen Cunningham, Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange and Ilse Bing forged path for others to follow in Pictorism, documentary and avant-garde photography ill-starred with works.

The firts half of the 20th century was. time of extraordinary change in the field of photography, By 1940, the Museum of Modern Art had established the first department of photography in an American museum, reseting the importance of the art form in the eyes of the world.

The names of many male photographers have been written into the history of the period as important drivers of change. But the women who worked alongside them were just as significant, establisihing careers in their own right and creating images that redefined how modern photography might look.

These five photographers developed powerful voices that helped to shape the history of the medium across a 50-year period.

She was one of the original members of the Photo-Secession movement in North America



Anne Brigman (1869-1950)


Was a San Francisco based Pictorials photographer known for her mysterious and poetic compositions of female figures in natural landscapes. One of the first women to photograph nudes in such settings, she made images that emphasised the universality of nature.

Her most famous images were taken between 1900 and 1920, and depict nude women in primordial naturalistic contexts.

Some recounts a story supposedly told to her firsthand that on one of the voyages Brigman fell and injured herself so badly that one breast was removed. This story was never confirmed by Brigman or anyone else, but by 1900 Brigman stopped traveling with her husband and resided in Oakland, California.

The couple separated before 1910 and she lived in a cabin on Thirty-Second Street with her dog Rory, a dozen tamed birds, and occasionally with her mother.

Brigman´s photographs frequently focused o the female nude, .dramatically situated in natural landscapes or trees. Many of her photos were taken in the Sierra Nevada in carefully selected locations and featuring elaborately staged poses. Brigman often featured herself as the subject of her images, such as Soul of the Blasted Pine, for which she received the Birmingham Photographic Society´s first silver metal. Many of her other photos used her sister as the nude model. After shooting the photographs, she would extensively touch up the negatives with paints, pencil or superimposition.






Imogen Cunnigham (1883-1976)


Imogen Cunningham was a true was a true master of the photograph medium, capturing a variety of subjects- from botanical studies and nudes, to industrial landscapes and protraits- in images that were praised for their evocative use of light and attention to detail.She was a member pf the California- based Group 1/64, know for tis dedication to the sharp focus rendition of simple subjects. Her first photographs in 1906.were portraits taken with a 4 -by-5 inch format camera. She began to study and understand the chemistry behind photography while paying for her tuition by photographing plants for the botany department.

Cunningham in the 194s, turned to documentary street photography, which she executed as a side project while supporting herself with her commercial and studio photography. In 1945. Cunnigham´s pictures retained a subtle romanticism and sensitivity that set work apart. Todays, she is regarded as one of the greatest female photographers.

,