Female Gaze?

“I have had to go to men as sources in my painting because the past has left us so small an inheritance of woman’s painting that had widened life….Before I put a brush to canvas I question, “Is this mine? Is it all intrinsically of myself? Is it influenced by some idea or some photograph of an idea which I have acquired from some man?”

Georgia O’Keefe

For an interview with Georgia O’Keefe visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYwKRVJaNEA

What is feminism?

Some people have found it helpful to think about the history of the feminist movement in terms of first, second and third waves. Broadly speaking, these are:

  • First wave – from the formation of the National Women’s Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1867 to full female enfranchisement in the UK in 1928.
  • Second wave – from the feminist movements associated with the American civil rights movement of the early 1960s to equality legislation in the UK in the 1970s.
  • Third wave – from the 1980s to the present day, more about social and political change than legislative change.

Feminist art and design

Guerrilla Girls

Hannah Höch (1889–1978)

Tamara de Lempicka (1898–1980)

Frida Kahlo (1907–54).

Martha Rosler

Visit the links below to discover more about feminism and feminist art:

  • What were the social and political conditions that made these artists communicate in the ways they did?
  • How is this demonstrated in their work?
  • How did these artists establish their own artistic

Feminist photography

Chapter 6 of your course reader (pp.292–96).




!! To be updated with discussion of whether there is such a thing as ‘women’s photography’. As opposed to just photographers who happen to be women.


List of women photographers by country



Some early women photographers did do serious topographical work in the late nineteenth and early 20C:

  • Evelyn Cameron,
  • Laura Gilpin,
  • Frances Benjamin Johnson
  • Elizabeth Ellen Roberts

Artistic photography, continuing the ‘genteel’ occupations for lady sketchers and watercolourists, was also conducted by:

  • Anna Atkins
  • Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Lady Hawarden
  • Lady Elizabeth Eastlake

But their work  was more closely aligned with the family album, documentary and performance, rather topographic.  (ibid, p.188).
Feminist discourse since the 1970s has rejected the monopoly of the male gaze and articulated the female point of view in relation to the landscape. Social and technological developments have also made serious photographic excursions into the landscape considerably more accessible (Wells, 2011, p.189). A number of female photographers have, in one form or another, engaged with feminist politics in relation to the landscape and the concept of nature, as well as the male gaze.
For interesting feminist and other modern approaches  see:

  • Helen Sear’s series Grounded (2000), in which she digitally combines photographs of skies with images of animal hides photographed at a museum.
  • Jo Spence subverts classical depictions of nude female figures within idealised settings.
  • Elina Brotherus
  • Karen Knorr
  • Susan Trangmar
  • Sian Bonnell
  • Barbara Kruger
  • Joan Fontcuberta Bodyscapes (2005) employ three-dimensional imaging software used for military  applications to render landscape images of close-up photographs of his own body.



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