21 Iconic Female Photographers Throughout History

Updated: Mar 23, 2021

March is international women's month so let's celebrate with some of history's most iconic female photographers.

Anna Atkins

Anna Atkins (1799-1871), an English botanist and photographer, is considered to be the first female photographer in history, creating cyanotypes, and is thought to be the first person to publish a book illustrated with photographic images. She was inspired by creator of negative-positive photographer, Henry Fox Talbot.

Anna's amazingly detailed cyanotype photographs were created using light exposure and a simple chemical process.


Dorothea Lange

Best known for her Depression-Era photography, Dorothea influenced the development of documentary photography whilst humanizing the events and stories of the Great Depression. Dorothea created portraits of displaced farmers during the Great Depression, which mainly took place during the 1930s.


Gerda Taro

Gerda Taro, a German Jewish photographer is known for being the first female photojournalist to die whilst photographing the front line of war. During the Spanish Civil War, Gerda unfortunately was killed at the age of 26 in 1937. Whilst her photography may be overshadowed by other Spanish Civil War photojournalists, including her husband Robert Capa, Gerda will still be remembered as a feminist hero.


Claude Cahun

Born in 1894 as Lucy Renee Mathilde Schwob, Claude was a French queer photographer adopted the pseudonym Claude Cahun in 1917. Best known for self-portraits, Claude broke the traditional concepts of gender roles, saying: "Masculine? Feminine? It depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me."


Nydia Blas

American photographer, Nydia Blas is known for her work exploring the identities of black women and girls. Nydia concentrates solely on this series due to her concern of the lack of representation for black women in the visual arts.


Jill Furmanovsky

British photographer, Jill Furmanovsky, is famous for her rock photography, including images of Oasis, Bob Dylan, Amy Winehouse, Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Rolling Stones, and more. Jill began her photographic career in 1972 and has built up a huge archive of amazing photos.


Carrie Mae Weems

Best known for her photography, Carrie is actually considered to be one of the most important contemporary artists working in audio, text, fabric, installation video, and digital images. She gained her fame in the early 1990s with her iconic photographic project entitled The Kitchen Table Series.


Angela Nicholson

More famous for the work she does to empower other female photographers than for her own photography, Angela Nicholson is known for being the founder of the online female-only community SheClicks. She is also co-founder of Camera Jabber - which is a photography news, reviews, tips, and techniques website - and co-director of Squeezy Media Ltd.


Julia Margaret Cameron

This 19th century British photographer was considered to be one of the most portraitists of her time, with her soft-focus images of famous Victorian men and for her images depicting characters from mythology, Christianity, and literature.


Ylla

Ylla, a Hungarian photographer, was thought to be the most proficient animal photographer in the world by the time she died in 1955. Ylla - or Camilla Koffler - was a pioneer of the photographic genre of capturing animal expressions.

"“She is, I think, the outstanding animal photographer.” Julian Huxley



Lee Miller

Starting out as a New York fashion model in the 1920s, Lee Miller moved to Paris and made a new start for herself as a fashion and fine art photographer. This photographer is also famous for her bathtub photo - taken by David Scherman - where she bathes in Hitler's bathtub after his death is announced.


Annie Leibovitz

American portrait photographer, Annie Leibovitz, is best known for her intimate portraitures of celebrities. Her photo of Yoko Ono and John Lennon - her most famous image - is the last every photo of John Lennon as he was killed hours later.


Nan Goldin

Nancy "Nan" Goldin, an American photographer, is known for her images that explore intimate moments, LGBT bodies, the HIV crisis, and the opioid epidemic, with her most notable work being The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.


Cindy Sherman

Self portraitist, Cindy Sherman, is known for her portraits depicting herself as various characters in many different contexts. Cindy is said to be a "contemporary master of socially critical photography". She is also a key figure of the "Pictures Generation", which consists of American artists who came to "artistic maturity and critical recognition during the early 1980s.


Rineke Dijkstra

Rineke Dijkstra, a Dutch photographer, is the 2017 Hasselblad award winner, also having been awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society and the 1999 Citibank Private Bank Photography Prize. Rineke is famous for her impressive portrait series. Her beach portraits from the early 1990s consist of images of young people on the beaches of the USA, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Gabun, and the Ukraine.


Diane Arbus

American photographer, Diane Arbus, produced black and white photographs of "unusual people". She dedicated her photographic talents to normalising "marginalized groups and highlight the importance of proper representation of all people."


Sally Mann

Sally Mann is widely known for her large-format, black-and-white photographs. Starting out taking photos of her children at a young age, Sally moved on to landscapes portraying death and decay. Her photos are often considered controversial or disturbing.


Susan Meisalas

Documentary photographer, Susan Meisalas, has been associated with Magnum photos since 1976, and became a full member in 1980. Susan is best known for her photographs from the 1970s of war-torn Nicaragua and American carnival strippers.


Helen Levitt

Helen Levitt is known for being the least-known photographer of her time and also the most celebrated. Helen was a street photographer hoping to "break down injustices" and demonstrate that children would play with each other regardless of background, unaware of the crime-ridden and prejudice world around them.


Petra Collins

Canadian artist, photographer, fashion model and director, Petra Collins, is known for her dreamlike photography full of feminist characteristics. Petra's coming-of-age portraits give a voice to the "experience of female adolescence."


Mary Ellen Mark

American photographer, Mary Ellen Mark, is known for her photojournalism, documentary photography, portraiture, and advertising photography. Her most iconic images being of the people who were "away from mainstream society and toward its more interesting, often troubled fringes", which includes a photo of a young girl standing in a pool whilst smoking.


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