We’ve put together a list of 25 female photographers whose art will inspire and amaze you.
Photography is not only a men’s field, but female photographers still have a hard time making their way in the industry. We are here to highlight how many excellent women have left their mark in the photography world.
In no particular order, here’s our list of 25 female photographers. Their creativity and vision will have you take a moment and look twice at their pictures.
1. Nan Goldin
Nan Goldin (September 12, 1953) is a photographer from the US. She started her photography career by focusing on the post-punk new-wave music scene in Boston. Between 1979 and 1986, she created her most important body of work, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency.
These images portrayed drug use, violent, aggressive couples and autobiographical moments. She sees it as a diary that she would let people read.
Her images are often shown as a slideshow rather than a typical exhibition of prints. The main themes of her work are love, gender, domesticity, and sexuality. She often photographed using available light.
2. Corrine Day
She was the first to take images of Kate Moss in her teens. She took pictures for British Magazines such as The Face and I-D, and American Vogue.
When she decided to leave the fashion world, Day turned to documentary photography. She focused on her friends who were habitual cocaine users.
She documented her own struggles after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, which she died from.
3. Sophie Calle
Calle (born 9 October 1953) is a French photographer and artist who started her photographic journey in Venice. She followed a man around the city over a few days. Everywhere he went, she followed and photographed him like a private detective.
Her most notable work is The Hotel series where she worked as a chambermaid. This is where she photographed inside the rooms, focusing on the guests’ items.
Her work looks at human vulnerability and examines identity and intimacy.
Gillian Wearing (born 10 December 1963) is a conceptual artist from Birmingham, UK. Her work includes photography, video and text. Wearing’s most notable work is Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say.
Signs is a street photography project, focusing on portraits of strangers she met in London. She approached each subject with paper and pen and asked them to write their thoughts down.
Each of the subjects wrote something that changed her perception of them. Her work looks at individuality and how people see themselves.
5. Diane Arbus
Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July 26, 1971) was an American photographer focusing on marginalised people. The focus was on transgender people and circus performers, such as dwarves and giants.
She began her career in the commercial world. From photographing items in a department store to creating studio images of models.
She soon got fed up with this role and moved on to street photography. She worked on assignments for Vogue, among others. Her work is inspired by Richard Avedon and Weegee.
In 1972, she became the first photographer included in the Venice Biennale.
Deborah Copaken (born March 11, 1966) is best known for her war photography and documentary photographic journalism.
She was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard. To follow her photographic dream, she moved to Paris in the late 80s.
Knocking on the doors of French photographic agencies got her an assignment. She photographed the Mujaheddin, who were freedom fighters at the time.
From there she found herself in Moscow, Zimbabwe, and Amsterdam. In Romania, she documented conditions of state-run orphanages.
She left the business as she portrayed other photojournalists as vultures. She found distaste preying on the unfortunate. Copaken is also a famous writer and published several novels.
There is no other female portrait photographer as famous as Annie Leibovitz. Throughout her expansive career, she photographed Demi Moore, The Queen and more notably John Lennon on the day he wa shot and he died.
Annie was born on October 2, 1949, in Waterbury, Connecticut.
She started as a staff photographer for Rolling Stone magazine. This helped her hone her specific style.
She once said, “A very subtle difference can make the picture or not.” Her style is unique and recognizable and many of her photographs became iconic evergreens.
8. Vivian Maier
Vivian Dorothy Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) has become one of the most famous street photographers of the last few years. Her work was discovered after her death, hidden in huge suitcases.
She was prolific in capturing street photography. Photography was her hobby and she worked as a nanny full-time. She kept her passion for photography a secret for her entire life.
Thanks to the finder of her hundreds of thousands of negatives, her work has been shown across many countries.
A documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, was created to try and find more information about this secretive photographer.
No other female photographer covered the dust-bowl period of America as much as Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965). Her portraits of impoverished people through one of the harshest periods of depression are harrowing.
Her work was on assignment for the Farm Security Administration. The images she created influenced the development of the documentary style.
Even after high-school, and not yet owning a camera, she was determined she would become a photographer. For the 15 years before the great depression, she was a studio photographer.
10. Cindy Sherman
Cindy (born January 19, 1954) is a New-Jersey born photographer who specialises in conceptual portraits. Sherman shoots alone in her studio. She takes up several roles as director, author, make-up artist, hairstylist, wardrobe mistress, and model.
She shoots self-portraits that focus on social role-playing and sexual stereotypes.
In the mid to late 90s, Sherman began to work with fashion, creating concepts for runway shows as well as ads for numerous labels.
11. Candida Höfer
Höfer (born 4 February 1944) is an interior architectural photographer from Cologne, Germany. Technical perfection and a conceptual approach characterize her work.
Höfer focuses on cultural and institutional spaces like libraries, zoos, and opera houses. She often excludes human elements from her scenes.
A famous photo series of hers is the Zoologische Gärten from 1991. In this work, she captures the strangeness of zoos, highlighting how odd is to see animals in man-made cages.
12. Hilla Becher
Hilla Becher (2 September 1934 – 10 October 2015) and her husband, Bernd, worked collaborativelyly. They are best known for their photographs of industrial buildings and structures.
These images are often organised together in grids.
She studied photography in Potsdam. This is also where she gained her apprenticeship. Together they began working as freelance photographers for the Troost Advertising Agency in Düsseldorf. Here, they concentrated on product photography.
This conceptual duo influenced Andras Gursky and Candida Höfer, among others.
Sam Taylor-Johnson (born as Taylor Wood, 4 March 1967) is an English photographer who concentrates on fine-art photography. She attended Goldsmiths University and is part of the Young British Artists group.
She is best known for her series Crying Men, which features many of Hollywood’s celebrities crying. This series includes portraits of men such as Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Sean Penn and Robin Williams.
Currently, she focuses on directing. Her first feature film is Nowhere Boy, a biopic about the childhood of John Lennon.
Cunningham (April 12, 1883 – June 23, 1976) was an American photographer best known for her nudes, botanical and industrial architecture photographs.
She was a member of the Californian Group f/64. This group was known for its dedication to the sharp focusing of simple subjects.
After graduating university with a degree in chemistry, she began working for Edward S. Curtis. Here, she learned about portrait photography and helped in documenting American Indian tribes for the book The North American Indian.
Later, Imogen turned to street photography. In 1945 Ansel Adams invited her to get a position as a faculty member for the art photography department at the California School of Fine Arts.
15. Gerda Taro
Gerda (1 August 1910 – 26 July 1937) was a war photographer, the companion and professional partner of photographer Robert Capa. Like Capa, she also died photographing the front lines of war.
Gerda Taro is claimed to be the first female photojournalist who has died while covering the frontline in a war.
Taro was born in Stuttgart and emigrated to Paris in 1935 after escaping antisemitism in Germany. She met Endre Friedmann (Capa) there. During this time, she worked for the Alliance photo agency.
Her career was short but had a huge impact on war photography and photojournalism.
16. Sally Mann
The American Sally Mann (born May 1, 1951) is among the most famous female photographers. She is best known for her iconic large-format, black-and-white photographs.
She started by photographing her young children. She turned to landscapes later on in her life.
Her landscapes were photographed using a 100-year-old large format camera. She captured her images on wet plate 8×10 inch glass. This process allowed Mann to show and manipulate flaws in the images.
She has published many books of her work and still exhibits today.
17. Zoe Strauss
Zoe Strauss (born April 1, 1970) is an American street photographer who joined the photographic group Magnum. Her images around Philadelphia depict the struggles of daily life.
Zoe Strauss: Ten Years is her most notable exhibition. She describes it as “a narrative about the beauty and difficulty of everyday life.”
The series of 54 images show her documentary and street photography of her travels.
Her work looks at themes of an odyssey, journey and homecoming.
18. Martine Franck
Martine Franck (2 April 1938 – 16 August 2012) was a documentary and portrait photographer from Belgium.
She was a member of Magnum Photos for more than 32 years. She studied in Madrid and Paris and turned to photography because she had no talent for writing.
After coming back from her travels in the far-east, she assisted photographers at Time-Life. She also freelanced for Vogue and Life among other magazines.
In 1980 she joined Magnum photos (an agency founded by Capa), becoming a full member in 1983.
19. Kunié Sugiura
Kunié is a Japanese photographer, multimedia artist and painter who was born in Nagoya in 1942. She moved to America in her 20s.
Her medium was the photogram. She used these to capture flowers and creatures of the sea. Both living and dead.
She is pursuing the connection between photography and other media. Her work often captures time and light and results in a mixture of abstract and concrete.
20. Shirin Neshat
Shirin Neshat (born 1957) is an Iranian visual artist who lives in New York City. She uses photography, film and video as her media.
Her artwork focuses on the contrasts between the West and Islam. It also has themes of femininity and masculinity and bridging the spaces between these opposites.
Her strong light contrasts mirror these strong thematic contrasts. Text, in the form of Persian calligraphy, is also common in her portraits.
21. Tina Modotti
Tina (August 16, 1896 – January 5, 1942) was born in Italy but emigrated to the US when she was 16. She tried to enter the world of the motion picture industry in Los Angeles while keeping her bohemian lifestyle.
Instead, she became a fine art photographer. By 1921 she had moved to Mexico to open a studio with Edward Weston.
22. Gisele Freund
Gisele Freund (December 19, 1908 -March 31, 2001) is among the most famous women photographers of our history. She was born in Germany but moved to Paris when the Nazi party gained power.
Gisele was a photojournalist, known for her documentary photography and her portraits of artists and writers. She experimented with Leica Camera and with Kodachrome, and she developed a unique, candid-like portrait style.
She took the first coloured portraits of André Breton, Virginia Woolf, Paul Valéry and many other artists.
She became the President of the French Association of Photographers and also took the official portrait of the French president, Francois Mitterrand.
23. Rineke Dijkstra
Rineke Dijkstra (born 2 June 1959) is a photographer from The Netherlands. She is living and working in Amsterdam. She received many awards, including the Hasselblad Award and the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society.
Her career started with taking corporate portraits and pictures for annual reports. Today, she focuses on single portraits and often turns them into series.
Her subjects are often standing alone in the frame and facing the camera. She likes to capture the vulnerable side of her models.
One of her most famous work the Beach Portraits (1992–1994) photo series. It consists of life-sized colour photographs, depicting young teenagers in bathing suits.
This photography series brought her international attention and fame.
Margaret Bourke-White (June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971) was a documentary photographer from the US. She is known as the first female American war photojournalist.
Moreover, she was the first foreign photographer allowed to take photographs of Soviet industry under the Soviet’s five-year plan. She became a legend in photography world due to her importance.
Her passion for photography started as a hobby and was supported by her father who loved cameras. She started to study herpetology at Columbia University but this only increased her interest in photography.
She began with architectural and commercial photography and then moved on to photojournalism. She travelled a lot for work and she was the first woman to be permitted to work in combat zones during WWII. She also worked as a photographer during the Korean War.
“The woman who had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean, strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island, bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of the Chesapeake when her chopper crashed, was known to the Life staff as ‘Maggie the Indestructible.”
Margaret died from Parkinson disease at the age of 67.
Hannah Reyes Morales is a photojournalist and National Geographic Explorer from the Philippines. She focuses and documents the stories people tell themselves during hard times.
She photographed human trafficking at sea in the Philippines, documented war drugs in her hometown and reported on forced marriages in Cambodia. Hannah shares intimate stories of people who know what true suffering is.
She received several awards and was a National Geographic Grantee in 2019.
These ladies are only a few of the many more outstanding female photographers. Looking at their biography and work, we can all agree that women deserve to be praised in the photography industry as well. Girlpower!