Many feminist thinkers argue that in efforts to shift attention from mere images of women to their role as active creators the first task is to comb through historical archives for contributions by women and render them visible. Research at WOPHA involves the recovery and publication of primary-source material and critical documents (papers, theses, dissertations, books, journals, catalogs, images) related to women and photography for the benefit of artists, researchers, scholars, and curious members of the general public. To this end, the archive provides access to available information for personal and educational purposes. WOPHA extends reference services to both institutions and individuals to assist with long-term studies. Additionally, the archive offers a Research Fellowship supporting innovative scholarship on women in photography. To share and discuss active research at WOPHA, our team partners with universities and museums to organize scholarly symposiums and lectures.
Rendering women artists visible has been central to art historical practices in photography since the last decades of the twentieth century. In the eighties, Linda Nochlin’s essay ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’ provoked –according to Tirza Latimer and Harriet Riches- the art community to redress the absence of women in the history of photography and to define the specific nature and accomplishments of women’s contributions. Honoring this vision, we developed WOPHA Editions to produce and publish catalogs, important monographs, and commissioned scholarship. In order to ensure information about women photographers reaches the general public and specialists, WOPHA also offers lectures and workshops. Highlighting certain key themes and portfolios of work held in the archive, our team partners with various institutions to curate physical and digital exhibitions while we invite emerging photographers to present their projects on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.
Women photographers struggle in a male-dominated industry to be commissioned, exhibited, and published. According to a 2018 global study by The State of News Photography, women experience considerable discrimination in the workplace and have attributed sexism, industry stereotypes, and lack of opportunities as obstacles for their acknowledgment in the discipline. As pioneer feminist writer and photographer Virginia Woolf remarked, “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write.” Key to women photographers’ success is an economic stability that makes it possible to continue creating and be granted access to festivals, workshops, and equipment. WOPHA supports women photographers through prizes, artist residency programs, and other opportunities in partnership with different organizations. WOPHA also funds projects centered on women photographers and challenges institutions and collectors to amass catalogs composed of at least 50% women creators.
Photography played a critical role in the feminist art movement of the late 1960s via its accessibility and engagement of political and social issues in a direct way. Through the camera lens, women found a powerful tool to deconstruct the male gaze, bring private themes into public discussion, and expose urgent social conflicts. WOPHA develops community projects exploring possibilities provided by photography to provoke social change by amplifying voices, visualizing issues, and connecting experiences. Photography-based workshops, led by guest artists in collaboration with nonprofit, government, and educational organizations that work with girls and young women, invite participants to freely express themselves by exploring specific stories, adapting them to contemporary issues participants face, and constructing photographic tableaus. Additionally, WOPHA provides electronic resources to schools and the public through catalogs and video-documented conferences.