In the beginning of January, I had the pleasure of spending four days doing research in the archives at the Eastman Museum. During this time, I consulted two collections—the newly catalogued Leo Hurwitz Papers and some of Eastman’s own departmental files from its first film curator James Card. My interest in these collections stems from my research on American independent film distributor Thomas Brandon (1908-1982).
Although select women artists have long been recognized as playing integral roles in many of photography’s dominant histories, the number of women whose work remains underappreciated (or even unknown outside of niche circles) remains disproportionately high when compared to their male colleagues. The five women artists whose photographs are highlighted in this post work in a variety of modes—still life, portraiture, street photography—to make images that, despite being wildly diverse, are, I believe, of the highest quality and worthy of more widespread recognition.
As a historian of photography, I’ve always been grateful that the medium’s canon contains a relatively large number of women’s names when compared to the other visual arts. Anna Atkins and Julia Margaret Cameron are well-known characters in the story of photography’s first few decades, and Cindy Sherman and Annie Leibowitz are only a couple of the medium’s more recent stars. One reason for this may be that the invention of photography occurred in 1839—well into the modern age—whereas painting and sculpture are much older, by millennia. Still, the first famous woman artist that comes to my mind is Artemisia Gentileschi, who worked in the early 1600s. It is impossible to deny that most people would cite more men than women when asked to name famous photographers. Therefore, I thought I would mention five who, in my opinion, should be better known.
When asked if I could name five women artists, my immediate reaction was, “of course I can name five women artists,” and the long list began rolling in my mind. When asked to write a blog about five women artists my thought was, “but which five should I highlight?” I tossed around several ideas: women and the hand-made object; queer women; five women our collection would be incomplete without, or even five women our collection lacks! I kept coming back to five portraits. Each one with a story to tell, drawing me in.
Women photographers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were always outnumbered but never outshone by their male counterparts. Anna Atkins, Julia Margaret Cameron, Genèvieve-Élizabeth Disdéri, Frances Benjamin Johnston, Gertrude Käsebier—these photographers are but a few women celebrated for their outstanding contributions to the art of photography. Countless others worked tirelessly to advance the burgeoning field. Often these women labored in the busy studios of influential men or in the hushed solitude of their homes. Their work dazzles and intrigues me, even though most remain anonymous and their contributions to photography largely unacknowledged.
While not wanting to draw special attention to every single film created by a woman artist that is showing at the Dryden, we do believe that it is important to acknowledge the gender inequality itself. It is due to this, that we are celebrating International Women's Day with a screening of a brand new 35mm print of Maren Ade’s very first film The Forest for the Trees (2003). If you have seen her latest, Oscar-nominated Toni Erdmann, and if you agree that cinema only rarely achieves such levels of intellectual complexity and emotional intensity, then all I can say is that unless you come to the Dryden on Wednesday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m., you haven’t seen anything yet!
Cinema is, perhaps more than any other art form, a combination of performing and visual arts. As originally conceived, the George Eastman Award is to be presented to actors, directors, and cinematographers. Over the past twenty years, its recipients have, with one exception, been actors—gifted performers who are immediately recognizable because they are visible on screen. We have been neglecting the essential contributions of the visual artists behind the camera— cinematographers. Although a dozen cinematographers have received the award since the first ceremony in 1955, none has been honored in this way since 1976.
Join us throughout the month as we share a wide range of women artists relating to photography and film. Each week, one of our curators will share their list of five women artists on our blog, as well as films stills, photographs and facts about these incredible women using the hashtag #5WomenArtists on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This article, written by Jack Garner, was originally published as part of his Gannett News Service reviews, and is a segment from his book, From My Seat on the Aisle, which can be purchased in the Museum Store. Garner shared the segment with us in celebration of the upcoming George Eastman Award honoring Vittorio Storaro, and our screening of Apocalypse Now Redux (2001).
This guest post is written by Sammi Cohen, author and creator of The Soubrette Brunette, a vintage fashion blog. Sammi is a fan of Dutch Connection, and wrote a fantastic post about last year's display, so we invited her to share a little about her experience.
In their quest to bring natural-looking color to moving images, the Technicolor scientists had to concern themselves not just with dyes and cameras, but with all aspects of filmmaking and exhibition. One area that they explored was the film projector’s light source.
Richard Renaldi: Manhattan Sunday is officially open at the Eastman Museum. Learn more about the exhibition and its digital features that will allow you to immerse yourself within Manhattan Sunday, inlcuding an instagram takeover, sountrack to the series, and audio tour.
Eastman’s most regular vacations were his triannual trips down to Oak Lodge, his rustic hunting retreat in Halifax County, North Carolina. By 1917, Oak Lodge consisted of 2,500 acres “of wonderfully diversant rolling land, wooded with pines…and a great variety of hard woods.”
Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, Kodak made a huge announcement. Bigger than Super 8, bigger than the Ektra smartphone... They are re-introducing Kodak Professional Ektachrome Color Reversal Film again! The re-released film series will support 135-36x camera formats and be available at the end of 2017. The film stock has a distinctive look and was the choice of many photographers before it was discontinued in 2012. Because it is color positive, it generates a positive image that can be viewed or projected once it is exposed and processed, a benefit that makes it suitable for printing, scanning and projecting.
The Dryden Theatre is the George Eastman Museum’s venue for exhibiting motion pictures that represent the entire history of the medium. Few film theaters of its kind remain.
Spencer Churchill, a recent graduate of the two-year Masters program in film preservation from Selznick School at the George Eastman Museum and current staff member, shares the work he is doing to record and preserve films from the Indian Cinema Collection.
Beginning in early November each year, the George Eastman Museum fills with the smell of gingerbread, royal icing and candy. This year, we wanted to give those who can’t be here to smell the gingerbread and experience this local tradition a special treat from Scratch Bakeshop.
Today's blog post is authored by Ken Fox and Kelsey Eckert, project archivists in the Moving Image Department at the George Eastman Museum. In honor of the 101st birthday of Technicolor, they will be sharing behind-the-scenes stories and insights from the work they are doing to digitize the documents from the early days of the Technicolor Company.
With the recent launch of a new platform, more than a quarter of a million objects from the George Eastman Museum’s world-class collections are now accessible online at eastman.org/collections-online. You can search or browse our collection in ways never before possible. More objects from the museum’s vast holdings— including films and other objects from the cinema collection—will be added to the museum’s website on an ongoing basis.