Women Photographers
Photo by Gertrude Kasebier


Gertrude Kasebier
Portrait of Lucian
Swift Kirtland,

The advent of Pictorialism in the second half of the Nineteenth century was seen as the first attempt to bring photography into the realm of fine art. Pictorialists used a painterly approach, often manipulating their images by hand. The attempt to create painterly photographs was intentional, since painting has for centuries been established as a fine art.

Pictorialism attracted many early photographers including Gertrude Kasebier, Alice Boughton, and Anne W. Brigman. Many photographers were attracted to Pictorialism for its romanticism and sentimentality, ideas which touched all the arts at this time.

Photo by Alice BoughtonAt the turn of the century Pictorialism would give way to the Photo Secession, a group of photographers whose purpose was the elevation of photography to a fine art.

The group sought to bring photography into its own aesthetic, moving it further away from the realm of painting.The group began to stress purity in their photography, thus turning away from painterly approaches like hand manipulation. Kasebier, Boughton, Brigman, and Bessie Buehrmann would become members of the Photo-Secession group, marking a significant transition in the thinking of photographers of this period. (At left: Alice Boughton, Untitled, circa 1900).

The group was founded by Alfred Stieglitz, one of the biggest champions of fine art photography. Stieglitz was -- to some extent -- supportive of women photographers. It was said that at one time one-fifth of the members of the Photo-Secession group were women.

Gertrude Kasebier, a founding member of the Photo-Secessionists, was one of the first professional women photographers and well-known within the field of photography before joining the group. Her work called upon the early Pictorial ideals of romanticism and sentimentality; her use of light and color and the softening of sharp lines added to this effect in her photographs. She worked primarily in portraiture and is possibly the most renowned women photographer within that genre.

All images are copyright by the artist or by UC Regents, 1999, all rights reserved.
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