Florence’s Alinari Archive Delves Deep Into the History of Underknown Women Photographers


Nearly 200 years ago, two new methods of image-making debuted within weeks of each other in 1839: the daguerreotype, direct-positive photographs where images were burned directly onto silver-plated copper plate, in France and the calotype, the original photographic negative in the form of silver chloride–sensitized paper, in England. Together, their inventions—by men who held the patents and usually also restricted access to the equipment necessary to make them—hailed the inception of photography.

Nonetheless, women have been professional photographers—and among the medium’s fiercest innovators—since its invention, though, their names, contributions, and work tend to be lesser known, like Bertha Beckman, famous for being the first-ever professional woman photographer. Recent efforts have been made to correct photography’s male-dominated canon, including the 2021 survey exhibitions, “The New Woman Behind the Camera,” which debuted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before traveling to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. That same year, the Museum of Modern Art in New York received a major gift of 100 works by women photographers aimed at “unfixing the canon.”

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