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Photography: Lesbian, Pre-Stonewall  
page: 1  2  3  

Times Change

Perhaps because of advances made by the gay and lesbian liberation movements, Rollie McKenna (b. 1918)--best known for her photographic studies of Dylan Thomas--could write in 1991 of involvements with both men and women.

Likewise, at the end of the twentieth century, Ruth Bernhard (b. 1905) felt free to write of her relationships with women and with an African-American man; and the biographer of Germaine Krull (1897-1985) could write in an unapologetic way of Krull's one affair with a married woman (amid many with male lovers).

The transition to the increased openness of the late twentieth century is most apparent in the images of Kay Tobin Lahusen (b. 1930), which were published in the lesbian publication The Ladder between 1964 and 1966. Tobin Lahusen's lover, Barbara Gittings, was the magazine's editor and often appeared in her photographs.

Tobin Lahusen's work was the first by an openly lesbian photographer to be published in the United States. At first, lesbians would only pose back-to-camera, in silhouette, or with sunglasses.

Although much has changed in the availability of images of openly lesbian women, in the early twenty-first century most lesbian photographers who have gained mainstream success remain closeted.

Tee A. Corinne

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arts >> Overview:  Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall

Although sparse in images documenting the gay community, pre-Stonewall gay male photography blurs the boundaries between art, erotica, and social history.

arts >> Overview:  Photography: Lesbian, Post-Stonewall

Since Stonewall lesbian photographers have created an enduring archive that documents lesbian lives, searches for a lesbian sensibility, and explores various issues of particular import to the lesbian community.

arts >> Overview:  Subjects of the Visual Arts: Nude Females

While nude depictions of women appear in most cultures, on both sides of the equator, and in rich variety, lesbian artists have been particularly resourceful in their use of the female nude.

arts >> Abbott, Berenice

American photographer Berenice Abbott made memorable images of lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men in Paris in the 1920s and in New York from the 1930s through 1965.

literature >> Anderson, Margaret

Best known as editor of the early twentieth-century literary journal The Little Review, Margaret Anderson also published a frank lesbian novel and a three-volume autobiography.

arts >> Austen, Alice

One of the first American women to become a photographer, Alice Austen defied conventions and challenged stereotypes in nearly every aspect of her life.

literature >> Barnes, Djuna

American novelist Djuna Barnes sought new forms of self-representation of lesbians in the face of society's compulsory heterosexuality.

literature >> Barney, Natalie Clifford

In addition to being the muse and inspiration of other writers, American expatriate Natalie Barney, known as the Amazon, was a poet, memoirist, and epigrammatist in her own right.

literature >> Beach, Sylvia

Through her Parisian bookshop and her editorial work, American expatriate and lesbian Sylvia Beach did much to influence the course of modern literature.

arts >> Bernhard, Ruth

Ruth Bernhard is one of the preeminent twentieth-century photographers of the nude female.

arts >> Brooks, Romaine

The female nudes and portraits of cross-dressed women made American artist Romaine Brooks's lesbian identity known to the world.

arts >> Cahun, Claude

Photographer, photo collagist, writer, and translator Claude Cahun is known today primarily for creating images, including self-portraits, that play with concepts of gender.

literature >> Flanner, Janet

An expatriate journalist, novelist, and translator, Janet Flanner spent most of her adult life in Paris with her lover Solita Solano.

arts >> Freund, Gisèle

Though she was an accomplished and respected photojournalist, Gisèle Freund is today best remembered as a chronicler of the vibrant bohemian community of artists and writers that made its home in Paris during the 1930s.

arts >> Henri, Florence

American-born artist Florence Henri produced a wide range of photography in the 1920s and 1930s, including still lifes, portraits, nudes, advertising images, and photomontages.

arts >> Johnston, Frances Benjamin

Pioneering photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston served as the official White House photographer during several administrations and earned fame as a photojournalist and documentary photographer.

literature >> Sackville-West, Vita

Best known for her relationship with Virginia Woolf and for her scandalous love affairs, Vita Sackville-West was a prolific author of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

arts >> Schwarzenbach, Annemarie

Swiss writer and photojournalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach documented social conditions from Afghanistan to Alabama; her fiction reflected the tormented attachments and recurring loneliness that plagued her short lifetime.

arts >> Sipprell, Clara Estelle

One of the foremost practitioners of pictorial photography in the United States, Clara Sipprell also produced portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and female nudes.

literature >> Vivien, Renée

Renée Vivien, who had many affairs with women, openly celebrated lesboerotic love in her poetry and dreamed of women-controlled spaces in an era when most women were still domestically confined.

literature >> Woolf, Virginia

Passionate friendships with women were essential to the life and work of novelist Virginia Woolf.

literature >> Yourcenar, Marguerite

The prize-winning novelist Marguerite Yourcenar reflected her own homosexuality in her works almost exclusively through male characters, most notably in Memoirs of Hadrian.


Berch, Bettina. The Woman behind the Lens: The Life and Work of Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

Boffin, Tessa, and Jean Fraser, eds. Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs. London and San Francisco: Pandora/HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Chadwick, Whitney. Amazons in the Drawing Room: the Art of Romaine Brooks. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.

Corinne, Tee A. "Photography." Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Bonnie Zimmerman, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 588-592.

_____. "Who's Looking, What Are They Seeing?" n.paradoxa 6 (2000): 33-39.

Freund, Gisèle. Gisèle Freund: Photographer. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1985.

_____. The World In My Camera. June Guicharnaud, trans. New York: Dial Press, 1974.

Gay, E. Jane. With the Nez Perces. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.

Goujon, Jean-Paul. Album Secret: Renée Vivien, Natalie Barney, Eva Palmer. Paris: Éditions À l'Ecart, 1984.

Justema, William, and Lawrence Jasud. Margrethe Mather. Tucson: Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, 1979.

Kling, Jean L. Alice Pike Barney: Her Life and Art. Washington, D. C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1994.

Leperlier, François. Claude Cahun, L'Écart et la métamorphose. Paris: Jean-Michel Place, 1992.

Mark, Joan. A Stranger in Her Native Land, Alice Fletcher and the American Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988.

McCabe, Mary Kennedy. Clara Sipprell: Pictorial Photographer. Fort Worth, Tex.: Amon Carter Museum, 1990.

McKenna, Rollie. A Life in Photography. New York: Knopf, 1991.

Mitchell, Margaretta K. Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life. San Francisco, Calif.: Chronicle Books, 2000.

Novotny, Ann. Alice's World: The Life and Photography of an American Original: Alice Austen, 1866-1952. Old Greenwich, Conn.: Chatham Press, 1976.

Rooney, Frances. Working Light: The Wandering Life of Photographer Edith S. Watson. Ottawa, Canada: Carleton University Press, 1996.

Sandweiss, Martha A. Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace. Fort Worth, Tex.: Amon Carter Museum, 1986.

Weiss, Andrea. Paris Was a Woman. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995.


    Citation Information
    Author: Corinne, Tee A.  
    Entry Title: Photography: Lesbian, Pre-Stonewall  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated August 29, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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