Review by Alison Stieven-Taylor
Often the quotidian is overlooked by photographers, the pursuit to cover important political and social happenings seemingly more important or glamourous, as photographer Ami Vitale points out in the introduction to the new book Women Street Photographers.
Yet as the 100 photographs in this publication edited by Gulnara Samoilova reveal, the everyday is anything but ordinary. In fact, seen through the eyes of 100 artists, representing 34 nationalities, the everyday is fascinating, surprising and evocative.
Samoilova is originally from Russia and now based in New York. A specialist in documentary and conceptual photography, in 2017 Samoilova established the Women Street Photographers Project, an Instagram feed and annual exhibition that is designed to both elevate and celebrate the genre. Since its inception, the Project has featured 250 women street photographers, literally giving audiences a global view of street photography today.
In curating the hardcover book Women Street Photographers which is published by Prestel, Samoilova drew on the work exhibited in past shows as well as that posted on the Instagram feed. It was a challenging process to narrow the collection down to 100 artists and 100 pictures as she explains.
“I feel like we could make 100 books and just begin to scratch the surface of all the incredible photographers working today! I chose the works I found most exciting, compelling, and ground-breaking in terms of their approach to street photography.”
“For me, it’s ultimately about a combination of aesthetic and emotional responses to the work, things that move me as a person and an artist. I’m searching for images that resonate on several levels at the same time, so that the formal and narrative qualities of the work combine seamlessly and allow us the pleasure of looking for the sheer joy it brings. To me, that is the magic of street photography.”
Women Street Photographers spans 31 countries and features work by a diverse cohort, from young artists in their twenties to those in their seventies. Samoilova says, “I wanted to include a broad mix of work from contemporary photographers, both established and emerging from all around the world.”
Photographer Melissa Breyer’s essay provides an historical context to the book’s collection and introduces the reader to some of the women who have paved the way: Marianne Breslauer, Alice Austen, Vivian Cherry, Martha Cooper, Mary Ellen Mark, Susan Meiselas, Vivian Maier and Graciela Iturbide amongst others.
The layout sees each photographer afforded a double page: on the left-hand side the artist provides context for the image on the facing page. The pictures are treated with respect, the reproduction of the images and the high quality of the stock underlining the significance of this volume. Importantly, the printed book lends permanency to the transience of digital photography.
Drawing inspiration from diversity, Women Street Photographers breaks free from the homogeneity that can afflict renderings of popular visual culture allowing us to see through new eyes.
Women Street Photographers edited by Gulnara Samoilova © Prestel Verlag, Munich · London · New York, 2020.
224 Pages | 9 x 9-3/4 | ISBN 9783791387406
Women Street Photographers website: https://www.womenstreetphotographers.com
Gulnara Samoilova website: https://www.gulnara.com