Trailblazing Female Photographers

Annie Leibovitz, Beauty and the Beast


Annie Leibovitz (1949-)
Leibovitz is considered one of America’s finest photographers. Her celebrity
portrait photos, often featured on the covers of Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair,
feature quirky, dramatic and iconic poses that often reveal character. One of her
most notable is the iconic photo of the naked John Lennon, curled up with Yoko
Ono. It was shot just a few hours before he was killed outside his apartment. Leibovitz says she hates the word “celebrity” explaining that, “I’ve always been
more interested in what they do than who they are.”


Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971)

Margaret Bourke-White, Buchenwald

Bourke-White portrayed the harsh realities
of war, including images of Nazi
concentration camps. Best known as the first American female war photojournalist, she was allowed to work in combat zones during World War II. She was called “Maggie the Indestructible” because she was torpedoed in the Mediterranean,
strafed by the Germans, stranded on an Arctic Island, bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of Chesapeake Bay when her helicopter crashed. She traveled with General George Patton to the Buchenwald concentration camp and later recalled, “Using a camera was a relief as it interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me.”

• Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015)

Mary Ellen Mark, Children’s West Indian Day Parade

Mark was a street photographer who documented the social struggles and issues of the time. She made her name photographing Vietnam war protesters, the women’s liberation movement and the transvestite culture.
She established strong relationships with
her subjects, living with patients in a women’s security ward of a state
hospital and prostitutes in Bombay, India. She published 18 books and was director of photography for more than 100 movies.
I feel an affinity for people who haven’t had the best breaks in society,” she said. “What I want to do more than anything is acknowledge their existence.”

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)

Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother

Lange was an American documentary
photographer known for recording the
faces of the Great Depression. One of
her most recognized works is of Florence
Owens Thompson called Migrant Mother.
Lange said that the desperate mother of
seven told her the family had been living
on frozen vegetables from the fields and
birds killed by the children. As a result of
Lange’s photos, the government rushed to
the migrant camp to prevent starvation. In
2003, Lange was posthumously inducted
into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

• Diane Arbus (1923-1971)

Diane Arbus, Mexican Dwarf

Arbus’ portraits took on a distinctive look
in the early ‘60s when she worked for
magazines such as Esquire and Harper’s
Bazaar. Her subjects were actors, writers
and activists, but the overall look was
often somewhat strange. She also created
portraits of the not so famous: street
people, giants, dwarfs, transgenders, circus
performers and others, then thought
ugly or surreal. In 1967, the Museum of
Modern Art presented her works as a medium that emphasized the pathos and conflicts of modern life. She committed suicide, but through her art, managed to give a platform to the marginalized.


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