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Phenomenal books on women photographers

Posted on 26 Jun 2023

From unmissable monographs to soaring surveys, these books explore the work of some of the world's best female photographers, including trailblazers like Vivian Maier and Lee Miller, and contemporary powerhouses like Alex Prager and Mona Kuhn.

Face In The Crowd (2013). * Crowd #2 (Emma), 2012. © Alex Prager. Courtesy Alex Prager Studio and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.

1. Breathing Space: Iranian Women Photographers

Breathing Space by Anahita Ghabaian Etehadieh is a remarkable look at Iran through the lenses of 23 women photographers, at a moment in history when Iranian women are fighting for their rights with courage and determination. Exploring a range of photographic styles and genres, these practitioners record the past and present upheavals of their homeland as well as tackling subjects such as the nature of memory, the tension between tradition and modernity, and the scars of conflict and loss.

2. A World History of Women Photographers

A World History of Women Photographers is a magnificently illustrated showcase of the work of 300 photographers from all over the world who have used the camera as an extraordinary tool for emancipation and experimentation.

3. Women Photographers: Pioneers (Photofile)

When women began working as photographers in the second half of the 19th century, the rules of the medium had not yet been codified and experimentation was the order of the day. Women Photographers: Pioneers is a compact survey of pioneering women photographers at the dawn of the medium.

4. Women Photographers: Revolutionaries (Photofile)

As global tensions rose and the Second World War began, many women photographers found themselves under threat or forced into exile. Others worked as war reporters or documented the aftermath of the conflict, but a great number found new creative energy and an increased engagement with political themes. Women Photographers: Revolutionaries surveys the work of some of the best female photographers of the mid 20th century.

5. Women Photographers: Contemporaries (Photofile)

With the rise of feminism, women photographers conquered the mainstream, with an increasingly commodified art world now viewing them simply as photographers and not merely a novelty or subcategory. Women Photographers: Contemporaries is a compact survey of women photographers from 1970 to the present day.

6. Firecrackers: Female Photographers Now

Firecracker, established in 2011 by Fiona Rogers, is an online platform dedicated to supporting female photographers worldwide by showcasing their work. Building upon those foundations, Firecrackers: Female Photographers Now brings together photography that encompasses an eclectic variety of styles, techniques and locations.

7. Vivian Maier

When Vivian Maier’s archive was discovered in Chicago in 2007, the photography community gained an immense and singular talent. Vivian Maier is a full-career retrospective, bringing together key works from throughout her life.

8. The Lives of Lee Miller

Beautiful, bewitching and an exceptionally good photographer, Lee Miller was one of life’s adventurers. Published to coincide with the release of the film Lee, starring Kate Winslet as Lee Miller, The Lives of Lee Miller is a biography described by the Sunday Times as ‘a fascinating revelation of an adventurous and protean spirit.’

9. Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive

Alex Prager is a photographer and filmmaker whose elaborate sets and complex staging draw on a rich cultural heritage of cinematic style, informed by street photography, to produce work that is unerringly memorable. Alex Prager: Silver Lake Drive is the definitive monograph on this truly original image maker.

10. Anja Niemi: In Character

Anja Niemi: In Character is the first career retrospective by one of the most exciting talents working in contemporary photography, whose work has emerged as a distinctive force within the venerable tradition of conceptual self-portraiture.

11. Helen Levitt (Photofile)

Brooklyn-born photographer Helen Levitt was an assistant to Walker Evans and a friend of Henri Cartier-Bresson, but forged her own path with fierce independence. Helen Levitt (Photofile) is a compact survey of her street photography.

12. Sophie Calle (Photofile)

Sophie Calle (Photofile) is the perfect primer on the acclaimed French artist whose work is distinguished by its use of arbitrary sets of constraints and frequent depictions of human vulnerability.

13. Mona Kuhn: Works

Mona Kuhn: Works is the first retrospective by one of the most respected and widely exhibited contemporary art photographers at work today. Remarkable and intimate, Kuhn’s images offer a glimpse into the psyche as it’s expressed through the human form.

14. Julia Margaret Cameron: Arresting Beauty

An engaging introduction to the work and the world of pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, Arresting Beauty presents more than 120 images from the V&A’s collection, the largest holding of Cameron’s photographs in the world. Exploring her unique artistry, this book reaffirms her position as one of the most innovative and influential photographers of all time.

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The endlessly adventurous life of Lee Miller

‘I keep saying to everyone, 'I didn't waste a minute all my life’’. From Vogue covers and Surrealist balls to a friendship with Picasso, Lee Miller’s remarkable and remarkably varied life included careers as a photojournalist, photographer, and model.

The enigmatic life of Vivian Maier

'She photographed Frank Sinatra, shoeshine boys, and a toddler with tears coursing down her cheeks. She photographed a fur coat, a pearled neck and a drunken brawl... All of this with a humanity, clarity and compositional force.'