Walking 18

‘…the reliable value of putting one foot in front of another.’ 

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Walking 17

‘…the city’s potential for suspicion, curiosity, and surveillance…’

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Walking 16

‘We are not at home in the streets of our cities.’

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Walking 15

‘…urban walking elicits unpredictable social encounters.’

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Women in Photography 2

I said on the 26th that some histories of photography pay the contribution of women scant attention.  Really, that was just an impression and not backed up by any evidence, so I thought I’d look a bit more carefully at four books: A Concise History of Photography, Helmut and Alison Gernsheim (1965); Photography – A Concise History, Ian Jeffrey (1981); History of Photography, Peter Turner (1987); and The Genius of Photography, Gerry Badger (2007).

I went through each book and noted whether the photographs used to illustrate the text were credited to a man or a woman.  Overall men received 724 credits (89%) and women 91 credits (11%).  There are variations across the books: Gernsheim 4.4% women; Jeffrey 7.4%; Turner 13.3%; and Badger 19.4%.  I think this proves my point. It also reveals two trends: there is a greater appreciation of the role of women in the medium; and there is more engagement by women as practitioners.  Do more recent histories show a continuation of this trend?  (Note: We achieved 26.1% in ‘Photography – The Telling Image’.)

Where human figures appeared in the pictures 56% were men and 44% women.  For every credit to a woman photographer 3.4 women were depicted; and for every credit to a man 0.5 men were depicted, suggesting that women are disproportionately the subjects – of the male gaze.

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Fen Landscape: Rampton

Cow Lane, Rampton

Walk of contrasts along Cow Lane yesterday: fly-tipping and a skylark singing; smooth blue sky and dark furrowed fields; and a flail cutter violently attacking hedges and a flickering flock of lapwings.

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Women in Photography

Pilgrims inside a hospital during Hajj. © Newsha Tavakolian

The story of Merci Lack and The Dig (blog 17th February 2021) is a reminder of how until comparatively recently women as photographers have been forgotten, ignored or written out of the history of the medium:  they make only brief appearances as practitioners in two concise histories of photography on my bookshelf (Gernsheim, 1965 and Jeffrey, 1981). (Women as the subjects for photography are quite another matter, of course.).  What is unforgivable about The Dig in replacing two women by a man is that it comes at a time when the balance is being redressed, in both historical perspectives and current practice.

Women Photographers by Boris Friedwald (2018) and Women Photographers by Clara Bouveresse (2020) are two examples of the shift in recognition and understanding.   A charity, Hundred Heroines, established following an initiative by the Royal Photographic Society, says, ‘We have a vision: the universal acknowledgement of photographic heroines past, present and future. Our mission is to achieve this’ (hundredheroines.org).

Jonty Pentelow, Vicrage Garden Guyhirn,1929, Margaret-George

The latter has been a stimulus to do something we’ve been thinking about for some time: running a course for U3A Cambridge on women in photography.  In the course Photography – The Telling Image (see post 16th February 2021 and previous dates) we wanted a more balanced perspective, but of the credited photographers whose work was show men still outnumbered women three to one.  This arose in part from the way the course included the historical background to the way photography has developed and been used. So, a course focusing on women behind the camera seems a logical next step.

Photo 51, x-ray diffraction image, Rosalind Franklin, 1952

How should we structure this?  It must be to tell the untold story:  there is more to women in photography than Julia Margaret Cameron, Dorothea Lange, Lee Miller and Annie Leibowitz.   And what are the individual stories?  How did Doreen Spooner get to be the first woman to work as a staff photographer on a Fleet Street newspaper?  Should Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin, scientists using photography, be included?  Are there enthusiastic amateurs whose work now forms the basis of important historical records? (Yes, Merci Lack!)  What’s the role of women in high street studios?  And for a Cambridge audience, who are the local ‘heroines’?

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Walking 14

‘He wanted to speed into the future at 60 m.p.h.; I wanted to walk there.’

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Walking 13

‘…walking can be a form of self-avoidance…’

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Classical Contrasts 25 – Julius Caesar

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Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman, who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus and Pompey … Continue reading

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Walking 12

‘And then even the places I once knew intimately, I’ll walk over them again and know them in a different way.’

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Walking 11

‘…the vascular network of imagination…’

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Fen Landscape – Cottenham Lode

20th February: sunshine, blue sky and a mild south wind; skylarks singing over North Fen; the first Brimstone of the year, half flying, half blown, across the garden;  sunset at half past fine.  Signs of spring – reasons to be cheerful.

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Classical Contrasts 24 – Hermes

This gallery contains 4 photos.

The ancient Greek god of travel, trade and trickery, messenger of the god he conducts the souls of the dead to Hades.  Invented the lyre; symbols the caduceus and winged cap and sandals.  Son of Zeus and Maea Figures: Hermes … Continue reading

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Walking 10

‘Learning to see meant not being able to look away…’

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