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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
The history of photography has been sadly overlooked by many. It’s difficult to realize that the quick recordings of life, the selfies, and touristy shots, all made on cell phones, were once a matter of planning, heavy equipment, unreliable lighting, and waiting for the film to be processed before studying the end result. Photography, as we know it today, is much more random and spur of the moment. When considering photography, there continues to be an ongoing debate as to whether or not it’s art. That argument aside, when we discuss the history of photography, usually the first names that pop up are male photographers. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, there were many renowned female photographers, dating right from the beginning of photographic history. Gertrude Kasebier, Alice Austen, Bayard Wootten and so many more – and these are only the female American photographers! Indeed, there are some amazing women in this world whose work is sadly underappreciated. The contribution of these historic women portrays another side of life behind the camera. Considering that “photography is about seeing, sharing that vision, and recording the smallest of things for the next generation,” it is small wonder that the subject and portrayal of images reflects a startling view of humanity that only a woman could portray.
Maria Ausherman’s book, Behind the Camera: American Women Photographers Who Shaped How We See the World, is a compelling and fascinating look at women who spent their lives capturing life on film. Like so many other female artists, female photographers were forced to choose between what society expected of them and what they felt driven to pursue. Their stories are both heroic and compassionate. The author, also a photographer, has taken a selection of sixteen female American photographers and told their stories, complete with examples of their work, allowing their photographs to tell their own unique stories. The stories are woven together with intricate care and the reader follows the history of photography as seen through the eyes of the women who were photographers and very good at what they did. The stories are told with compassion and care and are certainly inspirational. This is a well-crafted anthology of women photographers.