A World History of Women Photographers, with Luce Lebart and Pauline Vermare


Women photographers take center stage in this week’s show in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. We reveal the blind spot of photo history in a chat about the book A World History of Women Photographers, with photo historian and co-author Luce Lebart and contributing writer Pauline Vermare.

Gracing the pages of this book’s 500-page heft are images and stories behind 300 women photographers, spanning photo history and geographic reach. Listen in to learn about the exhaustive process Lebart and co-author Marie Robert undertook to find this range of talent and then commission essays from 160 women writers and curators. We also discuss how the position of women within photography has changed over time and across cultures. There are fresh discoveries to be made by even the most ardent photography devotees, as illustrated by the many photographer names and related resources we mention during the episode, also listed below in our show notes.

Guests: Luce Lebart and Pauline Vermare

Above photograph © The National Museum of Iceland, Reykjavik

Sponsored by

courtesy of Thames & Hudson, Book Cover Image © Angele Etoundi Essamba
courtesy of Editions Textuel, Book Cover Image © Pushpamela N.
© Isabel Muñoz, Untitled, from the series "Bam," 2005
© Rita Ostrovska, My husband Alik with our son Sasha, Bila Tserkva,…
© Victoria Ivleva, Dosimetrist Yuri Kobsar climbs radioactive debris…
Sigriður Zoëga, Women on the Banks of the Lake, 1915. © The National…
© Nil Yalter, Turkish Immigrants, 10th Paris Biennial, 1977. Courtesy…
© Graciela Iturbide, Our Lady of the Iguanas, Juchitán de Zaragoza,…
Anna Atkins, Alaria esculenta, from Photographs of British Algae:…
© Pamela Singh, Tantric Self-Portrait in Jaipur #18, c. 2000–2001…

Episode Timeline

  • 4:17: Luce Lebart describes the editorial statement behind the book A World History of Women Photographers as a manifesto to complete a history that already exists.
  • 10:14: Back stories about women working as picture editors, art directors, designers, and art buyers in the photo industry trenches, with male photographers as hunter-gatherers in the field.
  • 13:32: The international network behind the research for this book. Which came first—the contributing writers or featured photographers?
  • 21:21: The matter of women photographers who stayed in the shadow of a master or did not receive equal recognition as her spouse.
  • 26:45: Avoiding the pitfall of a western-centered approach in the geographical representation of photographers selected for the book.
  • 30:56: Additional book projects and databases of women photographers.
  • 33:44: Episode break
  • 34:38: Pauline Vermare describes differences between France and America in each country’s respective approaches to photography.
  • 38:36: Vermare discusses the Japanese women photographers she wrote about for the book.
  • 45:00: American photographer Nancy Burson’s stature as a forerunner of current trends for AI generated photographs.
  • 49:40: How A World History of Women Photographers encourages questions of readers, inspiring Vermare to create a forthcoming book on Japanese women photographers.

Guest Bios:

Luce Lebart is co-author, along with Marie Robert, of A World History of Women Photographers. A photography historian and curator currently based in Paris, she is a researcher for the Archive of Modern Conflict, a collection and publishing house in London and Toronto. Lebart served as director of the Canadian Institute of Photography from 2016 to 2018 after spending five years directing the collections of the French Society of Photography in Paris.

Pauline Vermare is a French photography curator and historian based in New York. A contributing writer to A World History of Women Photographers, she was formerly the cultural director of Magnum Photos in New York as well as a curator at the International Center of Photography and the Museum of Modern Art. From 2002 to 2009, she worked at the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, in Paris.

Stay Connected:

A World History of Women Photographers English language edition: https://www.thamesandhudsonusa.com/
A World History of Women Photographers French edition: https://www.editionstextuel.com/

Luce Lebart Website: https://lucelebart.org/
Luce Lebart Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lucelebart
Luce Lebart Twitter: https://twitter.com/lucelebart?lang=en
Mauvaises Herbes (Weeds) exhibit: https://www.cpif.net/

Photo Europea Photo Festival: https://www.fotografiaeuropea.it/fe2023/en/concept-2023/

Pauline Vermare curated Kunie Sugiura Exhibit at Alison Bradley Projects: https://www.alisonbradleyprojects.com/
Recently curated exhibition of Northern Ireland photos by women photographers: https://photomuseumireland.ie/
Co-curated exhibition of 10 contemporary Japanese women photographers: https://matterport.com/
Recent interview on Pauline's Japanese women photographers project: https://www.truthinphotography.org/

Women Photographers mentioned in the podcast:
Anna Atkins - United Kingdom, 1799 - 1871
Amilie Guillot-Saguez -1810, France – 1864, Algeria
Constance Talbot - United Kingdom, 1811 - 1880
Julia Margaret Cameron - 1815, India – 1879, Sri Lanka
Alice Seeley Harris – United Kingdom, 1870 - 1970
Clara Sipprell - 1885, Canada – 1975, United States
Tsuneko Sasamoto – Japan, b. 1914
Tokyo Tokiwa – Japan, b. 1930
Claudia Andujar - Switzerland, b. 1931
Yildiz Moran - Turkey, 1932 - 1995
Sara Facio - Argentina, b. 1932
Hilla Becher - Germany, 1934 - 2015
Abigail Heyman - United States, 1942 – 2013
Nancy Burson - United States, b. 1948
Lesley Lawson – South Africa, b. 1952
Marilyn Nance - United States, b. 1953
Pushpamela N. - India, b. 1956
Pior Arke - Greenland, 1958 - 2007
Angele Etourdi Essamba - Cameroon, b. 1962
Dina Templeton - United States, b. 1969
Zanele Muholi – South Africa, b. 1972

Databases featuring Women Photographers:
WOPHA, Women Photographers International Archive: https://wopha.org/
Women Photograph database (and new book): https://www.womenphotograph.com/
10x10 Photobooks: https://10x10photobooks.org/
Fast Forward: https://fastforward.photography/

Host: Allan Weitz
Senior Creative Producer: Jill Waterman
Senior Producer: Mike Weinstein
Executive Producer: Yermy Weiss
Editorial Director: Shawn C Steiner


Mr. Weitz brought up the point that many photo editors were female, but that they often did not use female photographers nearly as much as male ones.  I can think of two possible reasons why this was so in the "old days."  One, the female/male stereotyping of those times was that females were more "artistic" and males more "scientific." Since photographic processing was a "science-based" activity, females were steered away from it, leaving the field largely to the males because of the bias considering photography as more of a documentary-scientific activity than an artistic one.  And that brings up the second point, photography wasn't really considered an "art form" by many back then, so it did not fall into the category of society's definition of "typical" female roles.

Hi Matthew, thanks for your comment about our Women in Photography episode. You bring up an interesting point about the split perception of photography as an art vs a science. This has definitely been a contributing factor in the unequal balance between men and women working as professional photographers over the years. Yet, the fact that women outnumber men in various photo industry support roles, from photo editors and art buyers to agents and reps, etc, is a separate factor not limited to the old days, it continues to this day, at least based on my experience. I've always found this to be a rather curious aspect of the photo world, which has less to do with the difference between art and science as distinctions between organizational and administrative activities/skills and what Pauline Vermare referred to as hunter / gatherer pursuits. Thanks again for taking the time to write in, as well as for listening to the B&H Photography Podcast!