Leading Ladies of the Lens: A History of Women Photographers

Women had to struggle for acceptance in professional photography for a long time. But women have played an important role in the history of photography from the very beginning. There were true women pioneers of photographic technology in the 19th century. In this blog, we will look at women who have made history with their unrivaled photography.

List of Top Lady Photographers of history

  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Dorothea Lange
  • Claude Cahun
  • Lee Miller
  • Francis Benjamin Johnston
  • Anna Atkins

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879)

Julia Margaret Cameron was born in England and she considered one of the best photographers of the 19th century. Possessing a subtle aesthetic taste, she has created many pictures of famous people. Her work has been a model of Victorian portraiture for almost two centuries. Julia Margaret Cameron was 48 years old when the camera fell into her hands. But in the short 11 years of her photography career, Julia has achieved a lot. While working on the portrait, Julia aims to understand the person she was photographing, to look into his soul. The photographic camera for her was a tool with which the artist not only captured the faces of people but also tried to show their character.

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965)

In 1995, Dorothea Lange was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. She suffered from polio at the age of 7 which permanently weakened her right leg. As a result, she walked with a limp for the remainder of her life. However, physical defects did not affect her persistence and love for photography. With her talent and hard work, she finally made herself an influential and status photographer. Some of the most stunning photographs from the 1930s were taken by Dorothea Lange. She took photography classes at Columbia University. After graduation, she opened a her studio in San Francisco. 

Affected by the Great Depression in the early 1930s, the streets were crowded with all kinds of suffering people. Dorothea Lange began to take the camera to the street to shoot. She felt that as a street photographer, she was more energetic and even happier. The photo, taken at the height of the crisis, in 1936, became a symbol of this crisis, as it caused a wave of indignation after publication. Her photographs of Dust Bowl refugees attracted the attention of government agencies and she was eventually employed by the Farm Security Administration is also known as the (resettlement administration).

Claude Cahun (1894–1954)

Claude Cahun was a poetess, literary critic, actress, activist of the “surrealist revolution”, and a talented photographer. The real name of Claude Cahun was Lucy Schwob and born in Nantes to a wealthy Jewish family. She studied philosophy and art at Oxford, after which she moved to Paris with her half-sister Susanne Malguerbes. Where she began publishing critical essays and stories in various magazines.

Since 1914, Claude Kahun has taken a great interest in photography. Her favorite genre was artistic photography, and she herself was the main model. Claude took thousands of poses in front of the camera, put on various costumes, acted out a myriad of images. She deliberately focused on narcissism, showed her individualism, her “mania for exclusivity.” Contemporary art criticism believes that her sexuality is guessed in the works of Claude Cahun, that “most homosexual people will immediately feel a kindred spirit in her, having seen at least some of her self-portraits”

Lee Miller (1907-1977)

Lee Miller, who was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, was named Elizabeth when he was baptized. Her father Theodor was an engineer who loved photography. At the age of 19, she became a popular fashion model, flaunted on the cover of Vogue, and posed for Edward Steichen. From 1929 she was an assistant, muse, and model for Man Ray in Paris. At the age of 30, she became close to Picasso, who painted her portrait. At 38, she posed for a famous photograph in Hitler’s bathroom.

In 1929, when she came to Paris again, Lee Miller decided that she wanted to be a photographer herself, and she would study photography with Meng Ray. It’s hard to find a more versatile photographer than Lee Miller. During her life, she managed to work as a fashion model, act in films, travel around half the world, and open her own photo studio. At the same time, Lee did not strive to be a celebrity. She just enjoyed the process of filming and discovering new facets of herself. Thanks to her natural talent, Miller easily took pictures filled with lively emotions. 

Francis Benjamin Johnston (1864 – 1952)

Francis Benjamin Johnston was born in Grafton, West Virginia but she moved with her family to Washington in 1875. Where her father worked for the Treasury Department, and her mother (Frances Antoinette Johnston) was the Washington correspondent for the Baltimore Sun newspaper. After graduation, Francis studied drawing and painting for two years at the Académie Julien in Paris. Francis started photography about 1888, under the direction of Thomas Smiley at the Smithsonian Institution Frances Benjamin Johnston was one of the official photographers for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

About 1895 she opened her own studio and. specialized in portrait photography Johnston quickly gained a reputation as a professional and became, among other things, an unofficial White House photographer. Frances was fond of photographing architectural structures. She captured many decaying historical buildings, for which she received the title of honorary member of the American Institute of Architecture. Works by Francis Benjamin Johnston are on display in museums and posted on the website of the US Library of Congress.

Anna Atkins (1799–1871)

Anna Atkins was an English scientist and illustrator, but best known as a photographer. Anna was born on March 16, 1799, in the family of a member of the Royal Scientific Society, John George Children. Her mother died immediately after giving birth and her father took up her upbringing. She used the photographic cyanotype process to photographically document the leaves and flowers of plants. Anna was the woman who published the first-ever book illustrated with photographs.

In her first artistic career, she assisted her father in translating more than 200 scientifically accurate illustrations, in order to translate “Jean-Baptiste Lamarck” published in 1823. The “British Algae Photography” was the first book specifically illustrated with photographs, and it was also the first application of photography in science. This book was made her a well-known female photographer. 


It is difficult to cover the sheer number of women who have embodied the tenacity and ingenuity of a photographer’s spirit in a single blog post. With this blog post, however, I hope to have captured some of the resolves of the generations of women who have influenced photographic history. And I also hope that the stories of these incredible female photographers will motivate and inspire you. Now, chase your goals or dreams. So, one day, your name can appear on the list like this!

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