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.