21 Key Women Photographers You Should Know

Famous Women Artists

Women have been part of the photography world since Constance Talbot took and developed photographs in the 1840s. These women made a name for themselves as artists through their work with photography. They're listed alphabetically.

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Berenice Abbott

A view of storefronts on the 420 block of Lenox Avenue, Harlem, New York City, 14th June 1938. There is a barber shop, a beauty school, an auto school and a deli.
Harlem storefronts, 1938. Photo by Berenice Abbott. Museum of the City of New York / Getty Images

(1898–1991) Berenice Abbott is known for her photographs of New York, for her portraits of notable artists including James Joyce and for promoting the work of French photographer Eugene Atget. 

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Diane Arbus Quotes

Photographer Diane Arbus poses for a rare portrait in the Automat at Sixth Avenue between 41st & 42nd Street in New York, New York circa 1968
Roz Kelly/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

(1923–1971) Diane Arbus is known for her photographs of unusual subjects and for portraits of celebrities. 

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Margaret Bourke-White

US photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White at an exhibition
McKeown / Getty Images

(1904–1971) Margaret Bourke-White is remembered for her iconic images of the Great Depression, World War II, Buchenwald concentration camp survivors and Gandhi at his spinning wheel. (Some of her famous photos are here: Margaret Bourke-White photo gallery.) Bourke-White was the first woman war photographer and the first woman photographer allowed to accompany a combat mission.

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Anne Geddes

(1956– ) Anne Geddes, from Australia, is known for photographs of babies in costumes, often using digital manipulation to include natural images, especially flowers. 

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Dorothea Lange

Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. Photograph.
GraphicaArtis/Getty Images

(1895–1965) Dorothy Lange's documentary photographs of the Great Depression, especially the well-known "Migrant Mother" image, helped focus attention on the human devastation of that time.

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Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz with camera during the Rolling Stones Tour of the Americas, 1975
Annie Leibovitz during the Rolling Stones Tour of the Americas in 1975. Christopher Simon Sykes / Getty Images

(1949– ) Annie Leibovitz turned a hobby into a career. She's most famous for celebrity portraits which have often been featured in major magazines.

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Anna Atkins

Portrait of Anna Atkins, albumen print, 1861

Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

(1799–1871) Anna Atkins published the first book illustrated with photographs, and has been claimed to be the first woman photographer (Constance Talbot also vies for this honor). 

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Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron photographs
These are photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron, including a self-portrait lower center. Getty Images

(1815–1875) She was 48 years old when she began working with the new medium. Because of her position in Victorian English society, in her short career she was able to photograph many legendary figures. She approached photography as an artist, claiming Raphael and Michelangelo as inspirations. She was also business-savvy, copyrighting all her photographs to be sure she'd get credit. 

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Imogen Cunningham

Imogen Cunningham
Larry Colwell/Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

(1883–1976) American photographer for 75 years, she was known for pictures of people and plants. 

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Susan Eakins

Susan Eakins portrait
Portrait of Susan MacDowell Eakins by her husband Thomas Eakins.

Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

(1851 - 1938) Susan Eakins was a painter, but also an early photographer, often working with her husband. 

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Nan Goldin

Nan Goldin at Poste Restante Exhibition, 2009
Sean Gallup / Getty Images

(1953 - ) Nan Goldin's photographs have depicted gender-bending, the effects of AIDS, and her own life of sex, drugs and abusive relationships.  

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Jill Greenberg

Jill Greenberg Presents Her Exhibit 'Glass Ceiling: American Girl Doll' And Billboard For LA, 2011
Jill Greenberg presents her exhibit "Glass Ceiling: American Girl Doll" and Billboard For LA, 2011. Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

(1967–) Canadian born and raised in the U.S., Jill Greenberg's photographs, and her artistic manipulation of them before publishing, has sometimes been controversial. 

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Gertrude Käsebier

Photographs by Gertrude Käsebier
Photographs by Gertrude Käsebier. Getty Images

(1852–1934) Gertrude Käsebier was known for her portraits, especially in natural settings, and for a professional disagreement with Alfred Stieglitz over considering commercial photography as art. 

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Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger portrait
Barbara Alper / Getty Images

(1945–) Barbara Kruger has combined photographic images with other materials and words to make statements about politics, feminism, and other social issues. 

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Helen Levitt

Gallery showing Helen Levitt's photos
An exhibit on Helen Levitt at Gray Gallery.

 Gray Gallery / Wikimedia Commons / CCA by 2.0 Generic

(1913–2009) Helen Levitt's street photography of New York City life began with taking pictures of children's chalk drawings. Her work became better known in the 1960s. Levitt also made several films in the 1940s through 1970s.

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Dorothy Norman

Photograph of Dorothy Norman by Alfred Steiglizt

Sotheby's / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain


(1905–1997) Dorothy Norman was a writer and photographer -- mentored by Alfred Stieglitz who was also her lover though both were married -- and also a prominent New York social activist. She's especially known for photographs of famous people, including Jawaharlal Nehru, whose writings she also published. She published the first full-length biography of Stieglitz.

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Leni Riefenstahl

Leni Riefenstahl in 1936
Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

(1902–2003) Leni Riefenstahl is better known as Hitler's propagandist with her filmmaking, Leni Reifenstahl disclaimed any knowledge of or responsibility for the Holocaust. In 1972, she photographed the Munich Olympics for the London Times. In 1973 she published Die Nuba, a book of photographs of the Nuba peple of southern Sudan, and in 1976, another book of photographs, The People of Kan

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Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman in a black jacket
WireImage / Getty Images

(1954–) Cindy Sherman, a New York City based photographer, has produced photographs (often featuring herself as the subject in costumes) that examine the roles of women in society. She was a 1995 recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She's also worked in film. Married to director Michel Auder from 1984 to 1999, she's more recently been linked to musician David Byrne.

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Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson at 2011 Brooklyn Artists Ball
Rob Kim / Getty Images

(1960–) Lorna Simpson, an African American photographer based in New York, has often focused in her work on multiculturalism and race and gender identity.

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Constance Talbot

Fox Talbot's Camera
Spencer Arnold / Getty Images

(1811–1880) The earliest known photographic portrait on paper was taken by William Fox Talbot on October 10, 1840 – and his wife, Constance Talbot, was the subject. Constance Talbot also took and developed photographs, as her husband researched processes and materials to more effectively take photographs, and thus has sometimes been called the first woman photographer.

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Doris Ulmann

Darkroom Still Life by Doris Ulmann; platinum print, 1918
GraphicaArtis / Getty Images

(1882–1934) Doris Ulmann's photographs of the people, crafts and arts of Appalachia during the Depression era help to document that era. Earlier, she had photographed Appalachian and other Southern rural people, including in the Sea Islands. She was as much ethnographer as photographer in her work. She, like several other notable photographers, was educated at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School and Columbia University.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "21 Key Women Photographers You Should Know." ThoughtCo, Feb. 22, 2021, thoughtco.com/women-photographers-3529945. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2021, February 22). 21 Key Women Photographers You Should Know. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/women-photographers-3529945 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "21 Key Women Photographers You Should Know." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/women-photographers-3529945 (accessed March 31, 2023).