Women in Street Photography

I recently was a judge in the Brussels Street Photography Festival’s Made in Bruxsel photo competition. The theme was diversity and the “mixity” of Brussels, the second most diverse city on the planet. As the jury finished deciding who the winners were, an observer of the jury pointed out that all of the finalists (and winners) were men. The room fell quiet as we realized there was a considerable problem with a photo competition that holds the theme of diversity but yet nearly 80% of the photographers were men. Diversity in photography isn’t only about who is portrayed in the photo, it’s also about who is making the photos.

As a woman photographer who occasionally shoots on the streets, I was puzzled why more women didn’t participate in this year’s competition. There are many theories that came to mind why female participation was low; perhaps it’s because competing isn’t as interesting to female shooters as men, perhaps an error in marketing, perhaps the streets aren’t as friendly to female photographers, or maybe they had better things to do. I have no answers, but I do know that photography is often an industry that is dominated by men, and when I hear “where are all of the female photographers”, I cringe. We are here, we’ve always been, and our contributions to the industry are essential. 

To honor street photographers, today’s post highlights a few fundamental street photographers, all who are women. These photographers pushed our understanding of city life and laid the foundation for street photography and the poetic image.

Since my experience as a judge in this competition, I’m left wondering how we can elevate female (and non-binary) photographers in a non-patronizing way? For now, enjoy these delicious photos. 

© Helen Levitt
© Helen Levitt
© Lisette Model
© Lisette Model
© Lisette Model
© Shirley Baker
© Shirley Baker
© Diane Arbus
© Diane Arbus
© Nan Goldin
© Vivian Maier
© Vivian Maier
© Mary Ellen Mark
© Mary Ellen Mark
© Zoe Strauss
© Zoe Strauss