History confirms it – the first photobook was made by a woman, with British photographer Anna Atkins publishing Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843, a year before Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Still, many historians, including Allan Porter in his introduction to The Photobook: A History, dismiss Atkins’ work as “photographic prints” rather than photography.
“Unfortunately, this is far too often emblematic of the uphill battle women photobook-makers still encounter when we talk about their history,” says Russet Lederman, co-founder of 10×10 Photobooks. “As we conducted research for the How We See project, we discovered that although women photographers produce relatively equal numbers of photobooks to men, their representation in the higher-profile sectors was, and still is, disappointing.”
“From the 1890s through to just after the Second World War, modern artist couples forged new ways of making art and of living and loving,” Jane Alison, head of visual arts at London’s Barbican, says. She’s putting the final touches to Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde – a mammoth endeavour that examines how the work of individual artists and writers was shaped by the relationships they embarked on with each other.
The show spans painting, sculpture, literature, dance, music, architecture and photography, and includes ephemera such as personal photographs and love letters alongside artworks. It’s also far from a cursory look at the history of art’s favourite romantic pairings. The likes of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, or Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, have their part to play here, but so do lesser-known affiliations, from Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore to George Platt Lynes, Monroe Wheeler and Glenway Wescott, whose enduring ménage à trois turned their travels around Europe into an intensely fruitful creative experience.
Photographs of a woman holding her baby, two shoppers, a drum majorette, and a child from a remote village in Sierra Leone have all been shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize this year. The prize winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the NPG on 16 October, with the overall winner receiving £15,000 and other cash prizes awarded to the shortlisted photographers at the judges’ discretion.
Two of the images were shot in London, with Max Barstow behind a striking photograph of two women in a busy shopping street in the city centre. The image comes from his series Londoners and in it, he says, his aim has been to “make unposed portraits with the intensity of images made by great studio photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn”.
Early 20th-century surrealist photographer Claude Cahun (1894-1954) and contemporary artist Gillian Wearing come together in The National Portrait Gallery’s ambitious new exhibition, Behind the mask, another mask. The exhibition includes 100 works by the two artists who, despite being separated by 70 years, have “extraordinary links” according to curator Sarah Howgate, in an interview for the March 2017 issue of BJP. “Although their trajectories as artists are markedly different, many parallels can be drawn between their work,” she says. The exhibition – the result of a “light-bulb moment” at a round-table meeting of NPG directors – addresses themes of gender, masquerade and performance through images that often involve the artists dressing up and wearing masks to portray a character or communicate a message. In an early Cahun self-portrait the photographer is dressed as a ‘dandy’, for example – a young man with a shaved head and a neatly pressed black suit, complete with a handkerchief tucked into the breast pocket. The show explores “Cahun’s transformation from young girl to gender-neutral figure”, explains Howgate. Cahun, a contemporary of Man Ray who was born Lucy …