Women Behind the Lens

In this post, we take a look at some of the brilliant photographers in the archive...


Lotte Meitner-Graf

Lotte Meitner-Graf’s portraits are alive with personality and character. Although often a fairly simple arrangement, the images all seem to tell you a story about the person.


Left-right: Leontyne Price (b.1927) (b/w photo); Lise Meitner (1878-1968) (b/w photo), Lotte Meitner-Graf (1899-1973)‚Äč; Alma Cogan (1932-66) (b/w photo). Lotte Meitner-Graf (1899-1973) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images


Meitner-Graf was an Austrian photographer. She moved to London in 1937 and was a successful portrait photographer. Often working from her studio in Bond Street, Meitner-Graf photographed many famous faces including Alma Cogan, Albert Schweitzer and Danny Kaye.



Dorothea Lange


Perhaps most famous for her image ‘Migrant Mother’, Dorothea Lange was an American photographer who documented the Great Depression and whose work became emblematic for the era.


Left-right: Destitute pea pickers in Nipoma, California, 1936 (b/w photo); Sharecroppers' families gathering needs for their 4th of July celebration, Mississippi, 1936 (b/w photo); Just arrived from Kansas for potato harvest, Oregon, 1939 (b/w photo). Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) / Private Collection / Bridgeman Images


Having started out as a portrait photographer, she went on to photograph and record struggling farmers and rural societies in America in the 1930s. For Lange, photography was not necessarily a creative outlet but a way to educate and inspire social change. Lange’s images highlighted the hardship these people faced and drew public attention to these forgotten families.


Berenice Abbott


Berenice Abbott was an American photographer, well known for her portraits of cultural figures but also her cityscape images of New York.


Left-right: Manhattan Bridge, Manhattan, 1935-38 (gelatin silver print); Waterfront, South Street, Manhattan, 15th October 1935 (gelatin silver print), Berenice Abbott (1898-1991). New York Public Library, USA / Bridgeman Images


Concentrating on the physical changes of the city, Abbott’s work documented structures and skylines and now provide a record of many areas and buildings in New York that have since been totally destroyed or transformed.  This work went on to form the exhibition and publication ‘Changing New York’.



Claude Cahun


Left-right: Self-Portrait, c.1927 (gelatin silver print) ; Self portrait, 1915 (b/w photo) / Jersey Heritage Trust, UK / Bridgeman Images; Self-Portrait, c.1927 (gelatin silver print), Cahun, Claude (1894-1954). Detroit Institute of Arts, USA / Albert and Peggy de Salle Charitable Trust and the / DeRoy Photographic Acquisition Endowment Fund / Bridgeman Images


Claude Cahun was a French photographer; whose shunning of gender norms was way ahead of time. Having been previously known as Lucy, Claude assumed the gender-neutral name around the age of 23. Cahun’s photographic works are largely made up of self-portraits. In these experimental and contemporary photographs, Cahun tended to take on different personas. The work often has a surreal quality which only makes them all the more fascinating – however, the work only earned notoriety 40 years after Claude passed away.


Tina Modotti


Tina Modotti moved to America from Italy when she was 16 and started her career as an actress and model. She moved to Mexico City in 1923 with her lover and mentor Edward Weston, where with Weston’s encouragement she quickly developed her passion for photography.


Left-right: Hands of the puppeteer, 1929 (b/w photo);  Worker reading El Machete, Mexico City, 1925 (b/w photo); Woman in Tehuantepec, Mexico, 1929 (b/w photo); Lane in Tehuantepec, Mexico, 1929 (b/w photo), Tina Modotti (1896-1942) / © Galerie Bilderwelt / Bridgeman Images


Inspired by the people of Mexico, Modotti and Weston opened a portrait studio in the capital city and quickly found a group of friends including artists like Frida Kahlo. Modotti captured the people and culture of Mexico in a range of powerful imagery. By 1925, Modotti had joined a communist organisation and the style of her work had started to shift, with her political views having a strong influence on her photography.


Lots more fantastic photography can be found in the archive, for example, the work of Jessie Tarbox Beals and Margaret Cameron.

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