TrailerBlazers of Light

Women of the “Silent Generation” who paved the way

TrailerBlazers of Light

Women of the “Silent Generation” who paved the way

This site has been developed to acknowledge the accomplishments of women photojournalists during the film era, decades before the advent of digital cameras and photography.  Also referred to as the, “The Silent Generation,” it refers to a time when a few courageous women first entered the photojournalism work force and simply did the work without fanfare but with steely determination. They worked side by side with men on a daily basis at newspapers, magazines, wire services, and photo agencies. They reported from foreign war zones, the streets of our towns and cities across America, and everywhere in between.

They were a generation of courageous and fearless women who embraced all that came with the job. For many, the work always came first.

They were a generation of courageous and fearless women who embraced all that came with the job. For many, the work always came first.

Today, the digital revolution has transformed many aspects of our lives, and photojournalism seemed like a cohesive, global community, but that hasn’t always been the case. The practice of photojournalism was formed in the United States and Europe. These traditions were formed in an era decades before selfies, the social media humble-brag, and relentless self-promotion. It was a so-called ‘silent era’, not because the photographers lacked ego or business sense,  but because the path to success was based on the images one made and the stories they told. Photographers were rewarded for telling the subject’s story, not their own. The letter “I” was nowhere to be found in their captions banged out on manual typewriters.

Today, there’s a gap in knowledge about the women who worked as photojournalists or editors for decades during the labor-intensive ‘film era’ and those coming of age today. A general disregard for history is also why this list was created.

This knowledge gap can be partially explained by the lack of availability of older, film-based archives. Much of this work has not been scanned, so it simply isn’t available to view online for researchers or students. In many cases, the photographers themselves don’t even have access to their own work. There is a gigantic archive of great and historic work sitting in the basements or store rooms of newspapers, wires and photo agencies. Some of this work was only known on a regional basis as it was originally created for a regional readership. Much more of this work has been forgotten or lost, as people or newspapers die or were sold off.  Because of this knowledge gap, today’s digital generation appears to be re-framing conversations and ascribing pioneer status to one another without realizing, knowing or caring about the history of women in our profession decades and decades ago.  As a result, the danger is that institutions appear to recognize two categories of photojournalists today: those that have been practicing for the last 10-20 years in the digital era or those that are dead. Missing from the conversation are all those who produced seminal work and paved the way for today’s photojournalists.

This LIST was developed in response to several published misleading quotes that has been circulating the last few years. This List struck a chord in the industry as many had felt relegated to history and otherwise forgotten. This is a snapshot of women photojournalists and editors from the film era. 

Most of the names here are American photojournalists or those who worked for American-based publications, photo agencies and news wires. There are some international photojournalists listed as well. Mainly those who received reputable awards or grants. Included are some iconic names outside of the U.S. but by no means all. Some would be considered documentary photographers but their work does lean more towards photojournalism.

The names included were primarily offered by others. It is not a definitive list but one that relies on the knowledge and recollections of a range of seasoned photojournalists and editors that are still very much alive and among us. There are presently 520 photojournalists and 249 picture editors listed. Trailblazers for the next generation.

Photojournalism also has deep roots and a rich history in America.

Photojournalism also has deep roots and a rich history in America.

The term “photojournalism” was first coined at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1925.  The first professional photojournalism program — The Missouri Photo Workshop — was founded by the venerable Clifton C. Edom in 1949. It continues to teach and train photographers to this day.

The first news photographer on this list is Frances Benjamin Johnston, who worked for Acme News Service. She was born in 1864 and had a career which lasted over 50 years. Jessie Tarbox Beals. was hired by the Buffalo Inquirer in 1901, which made her the first woman staff photographer at an American newspaper. She prided herself on her “ability to hustle” and her tenacity in overcoming gender barriers in her profession.

Along with the more famous names like Dorothea LangeEve Arnold, Dickey Chapelle, and Margaret Bourke-White, there were many lesser known staff photographers hired at newspapers across the country. Edna Murray went to work for Newsday, and Evelyn Straus was hired by The Daily News in the 1940s (as their male counterparts went off to war). Straus stayed on until her retirement in 1972.

Lee Rosenthal (Dorothy Lee Walch), wife of Joe Rosenthal, (who took the iconic WWII image of U.S. Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima), also filled a vacancy created by men going off to war. She got a job at the News Cal Bulletin in San Francisco. Oral history tells us she rode a motorcycle she called “Pogo” when working because of gas rationing. “I’ll get on my pogo stick!,” she’d tell her editors when given an assignment.

Marion Carpenter was the first woman listed in the University of Missouri Pictures of the Year awards in 1946. She was also the first female White House photographer. She traveled with President Harry Truman for the International News Photos syndicate.

Remarkably, there were 13 women photojournalists who worked before the 1970s at the Louisville Courier Journal (according to longtime director of photography Tom Hardin). These included Martha Holmes who went on to work for Life Magazine.

Great photojournalists of the modern era, Pam Spaulding and Melissa Farlow also came out of the Louisville Courier Journal’s farm system. Great picture editors, Sandra Eisert and Cheryl Magazine worked at the Louisville Courier Journal early in their careers.  

Mary Morris Lawrence, started as an Associated Press staffer in 1936 and went on to work for Life, Look and Mademoiselle. Louise Ozelle Martin, captured daily life in Houston’s black community, which include the Houston Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King Jr. Just two of the lesser-known photographers whose amazing stories are all but lost to us. 

With the '60s the modern era of photojournalism commenced. Camera technology changed as photographers started to embrace 35mm cameras, and photographers became more mobile. A handful of women, such as, Marilyn Newton, Ulrike Welsch and Margaret Thomas, were hired by newspapers to work as staff photographers. At the same time, photographers like Catherine Leroy, Sahm Doherty- Sefton and Mary Ellen Mark started to work for magazines as freelancers. Starting in 1963, Doris Derby immersed herself in documenting the Civil Rights Movement. The seeds were planted, the road ahead was paved for us all by these pioneers.

By the '70s, the women’s equal rights movement was charging along at full steam.

By the ’70s, the women’s equal rights movement was charging along at full steam.

In response, there was a big push at large, metropolitan newspapers to hire women as career photojournalists. The smaller papers around the country followed suit in the early '80s.

These two decades saw a significant increase of women photojournalists working in American newspapers, magazines, wire services and photo agencies. They worked alongside their male counterparts in every environment a photojournalist could be found. Many were the first females to ever work in the photo department of their newspapers. Or at least they don’t recall a woman who came before them in that capacity. Quite a few of them --as their talent and reputations grew -- moved up the newspaper chain, working at bigger and wealthier papers across the country. 

A large number of women joined the workforce in newsrooms as well, not just as photojournalists, but as editors and reporters. All of these women were trailblazers in the field.

It’s important to remember, that in 1970, there were 1,748 daily newspapers in the United States and picture magazines like Life and Look were still thriving. Today, those magazines are gone and there are only 1286 (as of 2016) daily papers remaining. Those remaining are a shadow of their former selves in staff size, resources and circulation. 

In the '70s, some of the more well-known names working in American newspapers were: Stormi Greener, Betty Udesen, Judy Greisedieck, Stephanie Maze, Janet Knott, Pauline Lubens, Melissa Farlow, Lynn Johnson, Susan Biddle, Mary Lou Foy. They anchored women in the photojournalism profession. Many of these women later went on to work for prestigious magazines. In the '70s, the talents of these photojournalists did not go unnoticed by the photo agencies and many found homes with them, such as: Jane Evelyn Atwood, Rina Castelnuovo, Wendy Watriss, Maggie Steber, Annie Griffiths, and Diana Walker.

At this same time, Marilyn K. Yee and Wendy Maeda were the first Asian female staffers. Ruby Washington and Dixie D. Vereen, became the first female African-American newspaper staffers (Ruby Washington would be named a NYT staff photographer after first working for years in the photo lab). Teresa Zabala in the late '70s (and later Marta Lavandier in the 80s) might be among the earliest Hispanic Americans on a newspaper staff.

Finally, the '70s brought Kathy Willens, Marcy Nighswander, Lynn Sladky, and Sue Ogrocki, to the wire services. The women who entered photojournalism in the '70s were the anchors of the industry. These women lit the torch, and the torch was passed to the women photojournalists who came along in the 80s. 

In the '80s, women expanded their presence in the field and worked to elevate their craft.

In the ’80s, women expanded their presence in the field and worked to elevate their craft.

Readers hungered for in-depth storytelling of events happening around the world and newspapers, magazines, wire services and photo agencies worked hard to fill that demand. Increasingly the photojournalists capturing these stories were women in many instances on stories only women could access. Social issues, wars, famines, news events of all kinds, were covered by a crop of hard-charging, fearless women, who were best described as warriors because they had to be. 

There was no place on the globe that these fearless women did not travel to, often without a writer or a fixer; no story was deemed too dangerous. Sometimes they worked embedded within the official system designed to corral press coverage. Yet their independent mindset, often encouraged them to work unilaterally outside of embeds. A partial list of these undaunted photojournalists include: Carol GuzyAlexandra Boulat, Alexandra Avakian, Yunghi Kim, Wendy Sue Lamm, Dayna Smith, Paula Bronstein, Heidi Bradner and Corinne Dufka. By example, Dufka, badly injured in Sarajevo, during the ‘93 Yugoslav conflict, recovered from wounds sustained only to persevere and return to cover Africa for Reuters. Kim was held hostage in Somalia in 1992, and after being rescued, she recouped for two days before returning to finish her job in Somalia. If there was any doubt about Kim’s abilities, the hostage saga would put those doubts to rest. On complex and extended-length stories, these women were especially adept at taking on issue reporting, making it less complex and more relatable to the reader: Karen Kasmauski, Brenda Kenneally, Joanna Pinneo, Jodi Cobb, Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer, Suzanne Kreiter, Michelle McDonald, April Saul, Beth B. Nakamura, and Lori Grinker, to name a few.

Readers hungered for in-depth storytelling of events happening around the world and newspapers, magazines, wire services and photo agencies worked hard to fill that demand. Increasingly the photojournalists capturing these stories were women in many instances on stories only women could access. Social issues, wars, famines, news events of all kinds, were covered by a crop of hard-charging, fearless women, who were best described as warriors because they had to be. 

There was no place on the globe that these fearless women did not travel to, often without a writer or a fixer; no story was deemed too dangerous. Sometimes they worked embedded within the official system designed to corral press coverage. Yet their independent mindset, often encouraged them to work unilaterally outside of embeds. A partial list of these undaunted photojournalists include: Carol GuzyAlexandra Boulat, Alexandra Avakian, Yunghi Kim, Wendy Sue Lamm, Dayna Smith, Paula Bronstein, Heidi Bradner and Corinne Dufka. By example, Dufka, badly injured in Sarajevo, during the ’93 Yugoslav, recovered from wounds sustained only to persevere and return to cover Africa for Reuters. Kim was held hostage in Somalia in 1992, and after being rescued, she recouped for two days before returning to finish her job in Somalia. If there was any doubt about Kim’s abilities, the hostage saga would put those doubts to rest. On complex and extended-length stories, these women were especially adept at taking on issue reporting, making it less complex and more relatable to the reader: Karen Kasmauski, Brenda Kenneally, Joanna Pinneo, Jodi Cobb, Joanne Rathe Strohmeyer, Suzanne Kreiter, Michelle McDonald, April Saul, Beth B. Nakamura, and Lori Grinker, to name a few.

By the time the '90s arrived, the mold was set. Women, had now firmly established their themselves in the industry.

By the time the ’90s arrived, the mold was set. Women, had now firmly established their themselves in the industry.

Many of them began basing themselves outside of the US. A partial list includes the following: Cheryl Hatch, Radhika Chalasani, Natalie Behring, Kael AlfordMariella Furrer, Janet Jarman, Ami Vitale, Lynsey Addario, Jodi Bieber, Kate Brooks, Andrea Bruce, Maya Vidon, and Suzanne Plunkett. They continued elevate photojournalism with the same independent streak demonstrating broad use of color and complex layered compositions.  

Closer to home, women had made an impact in the male-dominated world of covering Washington politics. Nour Hyzan covered the White House in early '70s. Though not much information about her can be found on the internet today, she is mentioned in a pool report during the presidency of Gerald Ford, which only serves to pique one’s interest. Notable women who covered the White House in the '80s and '90s were: Susan Tindley McIhinney, Diana Walker, Cynthia Johnson, and Callie Shell, all who were weekly fixtures in the news magazines. It was awe-inspiring each week how they captured interesting images from within mundane political hustings often by working their privileged but limited access. 

In sports photography, Mary Schroeder paved the way for women back in 1985, as she took on the sports world with a lawsuit to give women access to the Detroit Lions locker room. Her victory paved the way for news photographers who also covered sports, like Elise Amendola, Amy Sancetta, Elieen Blass, Kathy Willens, Susan Ragan, Robyn Beck, Susan Walsh, Mary Altaffer and Lucy Nicholson, also considered the industry’s best news photographers. If you saw these women on a story, you needed to watch them because they possessed a killer journalistic instinct, and you knew they were going to be in the right place at the right moment.

Many of them began basing themselves outside of the US. A partial list includes the following: Cheryl Hatch, Radhika Chalasani, Natalie Behring, Kael AlfordMariella Furrer, Janet Jarman, Ami Vitale, Lynsey Addario, Jodi Bieber, Kate Brooks, Andrea Bruce, Maya Vidon, and Suzanne Plunkett. They continued elevate photojournalism with the same independent streak demonstrating broad use of color and complex layered compositions.  

Closer to home, women had made an impact in the male-dominated world of covering Washington politics. Nour Hyzan covered the White House in early ’70s. Though not much information about her can be found on the internet today, she is mentioned in a pool report during the presidency of Gerald Ford, which only serves to pique one’s interest. Notable women who covered the White House in the ’80s and ’90s were: Susan Tindley McIhinney, Diana Walker, Cynthia Johnson, and Callie Shell, all who were weekly fixtures in the news magazines. It was awe-inspiring each week how they captured interesting images from within mundane political hustings often by working their privileged but limited access. 

In sports photography, Mary Schroeder paved the way for women back in 1985, as she took on the sports world with a lawsuit to give women access to the Detroit Lions locker room. Her victory paved the way for news photographers who also covered sports, like Elise Amendola, Amy Sancetta, Elieen Blass, Kathy Willens, Susan Ragan, Robyn Beck, Susan Walsh, Mary Altaffer and Lucy Nicholson, also considered the industry’s best news photographers. If you saw these women on a story, you needed to watch them because they possessed a killer journalistic instinct, and you knew they were going to be in the right place at the right moment.

Finally, after decades of hard work, the American Journalism Review declared 1997 as  “The Year of the Women”.

Finally, after decades of hard work, the American Journalism Review declared 1997 as “The Year of the Women”.

This was no surprise to those who had been tracking contest results. A strong field of women dominated that year’s results. The familiar names included, Carol Guzy, Yunghi Kim, Gail Fisher, and Corinne Dufka. Contest judges (then, so often male dominated) acknowledged that fact beyond dispute: women in industry were a force to be reckoned with. 

“This is a thorough and perceptive description of forces and issues that were becoming more and more evident in the '80s and '90s...we began noticing the growing dominance of women among POY winning photojournalists, particularly in the photo story and essay categories where complexity and appreciation for subtlety and ambiguity were more often rewarded…However, when you consider the diversity of subject matter, sophistication of presentation, sheer number of first-rate workers, and gender balance among all professionals, the '80s and '90s were the true golden age. Or so it seems to me.”  Bill Kuykendall the long-time former Director, University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Pictures of the Year.  

Mostly, thanks to the talents of their female photojournalists, in the '90s, The Washington Post managed to reach unprecedented heights of journalism exposure and awards. Their team, which included: Carol Guzy, Dayna Smith, Nancy Andrews, Juana Arias, Michael Williamson, Lucian Perkins, and Dudley Brooks under the leadership of photo directors Joe Elbert, Michel Ducille and Mary Lou Foy. In 1998, the work of Andrews, Guzy, Williamson, Brooks captured an unprecedented 24 POY awards; the most ever won by a single newspaper. American Journalism Review declared it “the Post landslide”.

Notable work from the  ‘film era” in humanistic photography—which was ahead of its time and required much commitment by the photographer (and newspaper resources), is often forgotten.

Notable work from the  ‘film era” in humanistic photography—which was ahead of its time and required much commitment by the photographer (and newspaper resources), is often forgotten.

Significant examples of long-term projects that many have never seen (because some projects haven’t been digitized for web exposure) include:

In 1977 Pam Spaulding as a staff photojournalist for Louisville Courier Journal started to document a new mother in Louisville Kentucky and it turned into a 30-year portrait of a family. A body of work that even today is considered groundbreaking by those who have seen it.

As AIDS ravaged the world in the eighties, with no known cure in sight, Cheryl Nuss as a staff photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News documented early crisis in the US. The only place to see (just a small portion) of this work is in the POY archive. The fact that she spent a year producing the images, or that it was a Pulitzer finalist (at a time when women were rarely nominated for the coveted prize–even though Carol Guzy was the first to win one the previous year) is seemingly lost to history.

In 1983, with graceful images, Stormi Greener a staff photojournalist at The Minneapolis Star Tribune showed us the life of 106-year old Hattie Vaughn in “Living to 100”.  Another set of images, like those listed above, which brings the viewer right into the life of the subject. Ms. Vaughn said to Stormi Greener “Im praying every day to go but he is not taking me.” 

In 1986, Judy Griesedieck staff photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News in a story called “No Place to Die,” documented neglect and abuse in California nursing homes. She spent a year on this investigative piece. Griesedieck says, “It was also heartbreaking. I lost a lot of sleep that year, feeling grateful, yet guilty, every single time I walked out the door of a nursing home at the end of the day, knowing that those elderly residents could not.” Today only few thumbnail size images remain in the POY Archive

Overseas, Jane Evelyn Atwood in 1987 was the first photojournalist to intimately document the AIDS crisis in Europe, something that was simply not seen at all there by men or by women. The body of work was so heartfelt, that it was the first time an AID’s victim allowed their face to be published in Europe.

In the 1988 story, “To be Whole AgainLynn Johnson, working for Life magazine,  provides an insightful look at reconstructive breast surgery. Looking at this work today, one is amazed at how important this issue was, and continues to be today. Johnson tells the story with a dignity that few could match. 

Humanity as well as dignity comes to mind when looking at Pauline Lubens a long-time staff photojournalist for The Detroit Free Press, in1990’s “Dying with Dignity” which tenderly tells the story of cancer patient Marjorie Bell, who wished to die peacefully at home,

In 1996, Yunghi Kim helped introduce the “Comfort Women” to the west. It was an intimate profile of a small group of “grandmothers” who forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during WWII living together in a basement apartment. 

Carol Guzy did her best work while at The Washington Post, which include her Hurricane Andrew aftermath pictures which showed a young couple living in rubble with a newborn baby, in 1992. Like much of her work, Carol shows us humanity in the midst of a disaster. 

This approach to capturing daily life can be applied to any number of pieces, such as: Darcy Padilla’s “Family Love”, a 21-year project (1993-2014) the tragic life and struggles of Julie Baird’s family. Padilla says in the New York Times Lens blog, “In doing this, my point has been to look how incredibly difficult this kind of poverty is.” Mary Calvert’s epic series on Sexual Assault in the military, which began with a hearing on Capitol Hill, where she met her first subject, Jennifer Norris. It was Calvert’s husband, Joe, bought it to her attention originally to look into this issue. 

Susan Watts’ 1998 photos of the opioid crisis still resonates today. This is the kind of work that helped raise awareness and saved lives. Her subject, Gloria Colon, entered rehab shortly after publication, and today she’s healthy. In a 2017 follow up story Gloria says “A hundred times I’ve thought about leaving, but I take A Desperate Life out of my drawer to make myself remember.”

These are just a few examples from some long and storied careers. One can’t help but imagine how many more photographic treasures lay forgotten in basements or corporate storage holdings around the world.

Significant examples of long-term projects that many have never seen (because some projects haven’t been digitized for web exposure) include:

In 1977 Pam Spaulding as a staff photojournalist for Louisville Courier Journal started to document a new mother in Louisville Kentucky and it turned into a 30-year portrait of a family. A body of work that even today is considered groundbreaking by those who have seen it.

As AIDS ravaged the world in the eighties, with no known cure in sight, Cheryl Nuss as a staff photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News documented early crisis in the US. The only place to see (just a small portion) of this work is in the POY archive. The fact that she spent a year producing the images, or that it was a Pulitzer finalist (at a time when women were rarely nominated for the coveted prize–even though Carol Guzy was the first to win one the previous year) is seemingly lost to history.

In 1983, with graceful images, Stormi Greener a staff photojournalist at The Minneapolis Star Tribune showed us the life of 106-year old Hattie Vaughn in “Living to 100”.  Another set of images, like those listed above, which brings the viewer right into the life of the subject. Ms. Vaughn said to Stormi Greener “Im praying every day to go but he is not taking me.” 

In 1986, Judy Griesedieck staff photojournalist for the San Jose Mercury News in a story called “No Place to Die,” documented neglect and abuse in California nursing homes. She spent a year on this investigative piece. Griesedieck says, “It was also heartbreaking. I lost a lot of sleep that year, feeling grateful, yet guilty, every single time I walked out the door of a nursing home at the end of the day, knowing that those elderly residents could not.” Today only few thumbnail size images remain in the POY Archive

Overseas, Jane Evelyn Atwood in 1987 was the first photojournalist to intimately document the AIDS crisis in Europe, something that was simply not seen at all there by men or by women. The body of work was so heartfelt, that it was the first time an AID’s victim allowed their face to be published in Europe.

In the 1988 story, “To be Whole AgainLynn Johnson, working for Life magazine,  provides an insightful look at reconstructive breast surgery. Looking at this work today, one is amazed at how important this issue was, and continues to be today. Johnson tells the story with a dignity that few could match. 

Humanity, as well as dignity, comes to mind when looking at Pauline Lubens, a long-time staff photojournalist for The Detroit Free Press, in 1990’s “Dying with Dignity” which tenderly tells the story of cancer patient Marjorie Bell, who wished to die peacefully at home,

In 1996, Yunghi Kim helped introduce the “Comfort Women” to the west. It was an intimate profile of a small group of “grandmothers” who forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during WWII living together in a basement apartment. 

Carol Guzy did her best work while at The Washington Post, which include her Hurricane Andrew aftermath pictures which showed a young couple living in the rubble with a newborn baby, in 1992. Like much of her work, Carol shows us humanity in the midst of a disaster. 

This approach to capturing daily life can be applied to any number of pieces, such as Darcy Padilla’s “Family Love”, a 21-year project (1993-2014) the tragic life and struggles of Julie Baird’s family. Padilla says in the New York Times Lens blog, “In doing this, my point has been to look how incredibly difficult this kind of poverty is.” Mary Calvert’s epic series on Sexual Assault in the military, which began with a hearing on Capitol Hill, where she met her first subject, Jennifer Norris. It was Calvert’s husband, Joe, bought it to her attention originally to look into this issue. 

Susan Watts’ 1998 photos of the opioid crisis still resonate today. This is the kind of work that helped raise awareness and saved lives. Her subject, Gloria Colon, entered rehab shortly after publication, and today she’s healthy. In a 2017 follow up story Gloria says “A hundred times I’ve thought about leaving, but I take A Desperate Life out of my drawer to make myself remember.”

These are just a few examples from some long and storied careers. One can’t help but imagine how many more photographic treasures lay forgotten in basements or corporate storage holdings around the world.

Today, as images are instantly uploaded in the hope of garnering instant recognition, it’s important to remember the craft of visual storytelling is simply not learned overnight.

Today, as images are instantly uploaded in the hope of garnering instant recognition, it’s important to remember the craft of visual storytelling is simply not learned overnight.

It takes photographers years to polish the skills they need. Recognition came slowly, sometimes years in the making, before notoriety was received. None of the women on this list were overnight successes. The battles they fought to carve out their place in the workforce were not won overnight. It takes time to build confidence in one’s voice. Confidence in one’s ‘inner voice’ is what gives one the ability to communicate with one’s eye, or one’s ‘outer voice’. Learning to navigate the ever-changing and complicated landscape of a sometimes dangerous news story, gaining trust, and access, all take time. The journey to becoming a great photojournalist follows a long, meandering road. 

The period covered on this list is often referred to as the Golden Age of Photojournalism. It was a time when newspapers took pride in grooming would-be staffers. This grooming didn’t stop when a person won a coveted staff position either. The better one became, the more responsibility they earned; as talent and professionalism grew, so did the quality of the assignments offered.  A lot of tedious, grinding assignment work happened before the coveted, big-budget, or overseas assignments came along. Photographers sometimes spent years going four or five assignments a day before they ever got lengthy projects, but it also was not uncommon to work on your own personal time because ultimately it was about commitment to and passion for a story.  Newspapers were bigger back then; they covered more of the community.  Babies born on New Year’s Day, ground breaking ceremonies, man on the street headshots, free meals offered by a local church, high school sports, variety of things that would force a photojournalists to get better and have a well-rounded skill set.  It was not uncommon to drive a 100 miles and then rush back to the darkroom to develop film and bang out some prints before deadline. There was no transmitting from the scene for decades.  

The French agency model, the news driven agencies of yesteryear, like Gamma, Sygma, Sipa, and their American counterparts like Black Star and Contact Press Images have all but disappeared. Contact, along with Magnum represent two of the last independent photojournalism agencies still in business today, 44 and 70+ years respectively. These agencies continue to be sources of income and training for those starting out. They had highly coveted assignments to give to member photographers (also often developed projects on spec that agencies sought funding for) that simply don’t exist today.

In many ways it was the Golden Age of photojournalism, when even unaffiliated photographers could scrape together enough money to send themselves out into the world to tell the stories  they felt compelled to tell. It was a time when photographers tackled long-term projects that interested them, knowing that they had a good chance of getting their work published after the fact. In the process, photographers covered their expenses and perhaps even earned some money along with the all important validation of high profile publication and tearsheets, photojournalism was never a 9-to-5 job.

Diversity, both in race and gender, was led by American newspapers.

Diversity, both in race and gender, was led by American newspapers.

Newsrooms across the country took great pride in the diversification that started in the 80s.  In that sense, magazines which relied on freelance photographers, for the most part, lagged behind them. The freelance structure was looser and there was less accountability outside of the corporate staff structure.  In the late ’80s, some high profile photo editors, started to “discover" their new talent but the aim was not for diversity or to groom newer talent rather to claim they discovered the talent. The pace of  the flavor-of-the-month trend has increased with higher turnovers giving photo editors enormous power with little accountability. This development didn’t serve to stabilize or diversify the freelance talent pool well until the next millennium.  You can't help but respect photographers who’s longevity persevered despite market downturns and favoritism over the years and have consistently focused on good work. Often as personal projects, or the tenacity of the younger generation who must persevere in these times. 

Before digital photography, the skills needed to work with film and transparency film (chrome) placed the bar very high for freelance photographers looking for magazine work. This limited magazine photo editors to working with photographers who had these skills. The pool of qualified photographers was smaller and more exclusive.  Properly exposing chromes in a fast moving news environment, with an exposure latitude of about a third of an f-stop was tough. This made capturing pictures that brought depth and meaning to a story even tougher. Photographers had to learn both the technical and photojournalistic skills needed to consistently come up with images for magazines.

Everyone included on this list is a women who in her own right have made her mark in photojournalism. They did so often with stoicism and pride. Women have always had a voice. It’s shown through their work and courage. The women on this list have their own unique stories and all of them are the trailblazers! The attributes that photojournalism requires, the incredible mental and physical strength necessary to navigate fast-moving, often dangerous situations, the warrior-like determination and fortitude, the relentless commitment, intelligence and artistry behind the camera, is readily manifest in the work of the women on this list. Respect!

Photo editors play a bigger role in photographers’ lives then just choosing their best pictures. Often, it’s an editor’s voice that photographers hear in the back of their mind, urging them to strive harder for the defining image. They become lifelong friends, confidants and mentors. They can become surrogate parents or siblings — and, as with most family members, there’s a good chance they’ll drive you nuts.
Yunghi Kim/Kenneth Jarecke in the New York Times

Photo editors play a bigger role in photographers’ lives then just choosing their best pictures. Often, it’s an editor’s voice that photographers hear in the back of their mind, urging them to strive harder for the defining image. They become lifelong friends, confidants and mentors. They can become surrogate parents or siblings — and, as with most family members, there’s a good chance they’ll drive you nuts.
Yunghi Kim/Kenneth Jarecke in the New York Times

Editors

A subset of The List names female photo editors and the high profile publications they worked for. Many of them worked at multiple publications over years; not all are listed. Some women began as photojournalists then transitioned to picture editors. For example, Maggie Steber had a long and storied career as a photojournalist before she became the first female Director of Photography at The Miami Herald in 1999. For the most part, female directors of photography arrived on the scene in the early 1980’s. The first, who worked mainly with photojournalism, was Karen Mullarkey at Newsweek in 1984 (Karen was the first Director of Photography at Rolling Stone but this intro covers primarily news-related publications). Maria Mann has quite the storied career: in 1980, was the Director of Photography at The Toronto Star, then in 1986, Maria Mann became the Global Editor in Chief of AFP (Agence France-Presse) and so many publications since then. Sally Stapleton was Deputy Executive, number two in command, of AP worldwide in the 1990s. There were also pioneering pictures editors early on like Sandra Eisert, Bobbi Baker Burrows, Peggy Sargent, Susan Gilbert and Cheryl Magazine, Carol McKay, Vanessa Hillian whose vision included working with photographers and on stories.

Editors

A subset of The List names female photo editors and the high profile publications they worked for. Many of them worked at multiple publications over years; not all are listed. Some women began as photojournalists then transitioned to picture editors. For example, Maggie Steber had a long and storied career as a photojournalist before she became the first female Director of Photography at The Miami Herald in 1999. For the most part, female directors of photography arrived on the scene in the early 1980’s. The first, who worked mainly with photojournalism, was Karen Mullarkey at Newsweek in 1984 (Karen was the first Director of Photography at Rolling Stone but this intro covers primarily news-related publications). Maria Mann has quite the storied career: in 1980, was the Director of Photography at The Toronto Star, then in 1986, Maria Mann became the Global Editor in Chief of AFP (Agence France-Presse) and so many publications since then. Sally Stapleton was Deputy Executive, number two in command, of AP worldwide in the 1990s. There were also pioneering pictures editors early on like Sandra Eisert, Bobbi Baker Burrows, Peggy Sargent, Susan Gilbert and Cheryl Magazine, Carol McKay, Vanessa Hillian whose vision included working with photographers and on stories.

FOOTNOTES

The term “Silent Generation” refers to the generation before the baby boomer generation. It refers to the generation of women photojournalist who worked in film and are more or less forgotten today.

Lee Rosenthal (Dorothy Lee Walch) “Pogo” oral history passed on by ex-NYT staff photojournalist Suzanne Dechillo.