Category: lesbian photographers

NOVEMBER 20: Marianne Breslauer (1909-2001)

365daysoflesbians:

The famous photographer Marianne Breslauer was born on this day in 1909. Today, Marianne is most well-known for her contributions to the artistic richness of Germany’s Wiemar Era as well as her relationship with the Swiss journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach.

A self-portrait by Marianne Breslauer (x).

Marianne Breslauer was born on November 20, 1909 in Berlin, Germany. She inherited an artistic legacy from her parents, her father being the architect Alfred Breslauer and her mother being Doris Lessing, the daughter of the famed art historian Julius Lessing. She began taking photography lessons at age 18 and began to plan for a career as a photographic journalist. Her main inspirations were the well-known German portrait photographer Frieda Riess and the Hungarian photographer André Kertész. Although she had lived and studied in Berlin for all her life, Marianne moved to Paris in 1929 to study under Man Ray. She only stayed briefly, however, and was back in Berlin a year later. Throughout the 1930s, her work was published in esteemed German magazines such as Frankfurter Illustrierten, Der Querschnitt, Die Dame, Zürcher Illustrierten, and Das Magazin

Despite being married to a man named Walter Feilchenfeldt, the center of Marianne’s life was a fellow woman photographer named Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Many historians refer to the two women as simple being “lifelong friends,” but the truth of their relationship was probably something closer to that of lovers. Marianne traveled extensively throughout Europe during her life and created a network of kindred spirits, which is to say, fellow wlw artists. She even became known for her photographs of butch women/”tom boys” throughout the 1930s. It was through one of these lesbian artist friends, Ruth Landshoff, that Marianne and Annemarie were first introduced. The two photographed each other frequently and even traveled to the Pyrenees together in 1933. Annemarie would tragically die in a biking accident in 1942, but Marianne’s legacy would continue to be intertwined with the person she once described as “Neither a woman nor a man, but an angel, an archangel.”

One of Marianne’s multiple photographs of Annemarie Schwarzenbach. In this shot from 1934, Annemarie (left) lies on beach towels with a friend in Potsdam (x).

With the increasing antisemitic climate of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, Marianne’s publishers began pressuring her to publish her photographs under a pseudonym so as to conceal her Jewish identity. When she refused, she, her husband, and children were forced to leave German and emigrate to Amsterdam and then later Zurich. In her later years, Marianne and her husband opened up their own art gallery specializing in French paintings and 19th century art. She took over the business on the occasion of her husband’s death in 1953 and would eventually pass away herself on February 7, 2001.

-LC

OCTOBER 25: Claude Cahun (1894-1954)

365daysoflesbians:

The groundbreaking French artist
and photographer, Claude Cahun, was born on this day in 1894. Her work is known
for its daring disregard for 20th century gender roles, Claude
herself even famously saying, “Shuffle the cards. Masculine? Feminine? It
depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”

A self-portrait by Claude Cahun (x).

Claude was born Lucy Renee
Mathilde Schwob on October 25, 1894 in Nantes, France. She was born to a
wealthy Jewish family that boasted the well-known avant-garde artist Marcel
Schwob as one of its brood. Tragically, when Claude was just 4-years-old, her
mother began to show signs of serious mental illness and was put in a
psychiatric facility to live out her days. Claude was then raised by her grandmother.
She suffered a great deal of antisemitic bullying during her time at the local
schools in Nantes and eventually transferred to a private high school in
Surrey. After high school, she enrolled in
the University of Paris, Sorbonne.

One of her most well-known pieces is this surrealist self-portrait titled “What Do You Want From Me?” (x).

It was while she was at college when Claude began to practice photography. She began with
self-portraits and would continue to work in that mode throughout the 1920s and
1930s. In 1919, she officially changed her name to Claude Cahun. She briefly
considered the name Daniel Douglas, inspired by fellow gay historical icon Lord
Alfred Douglas, but Claude Cahun won out in the end for its seeming gender
neutrality. Although she had been working consistently since 1912, she didn’t
find fame until she joined the group of European surrealists in the early
1930s. In 1936, she was featured in both the London International Surrealist
Exhibition and The Exposition surréaliste d’Objets.

Claude and her partner Suzanne invent the mirror selfie in 1920 with the piece “Self-Portraits Reflected in a Mirror” (x).

Claude’s life partner was Suzanne Malherbe, who often went by the name Marcel Moore. In 1922,
they began holding salon meetings inside their home and became known as a power
couple in the artist world. Attendees of their salon were iconic artists such
as Henri Michaux, André Breton, Sylvia Beach, and Adrienne Monnier. At the rise
of World War II, they both fled Europe and settled in New Jersey. Despite being
in America, Claude and Suzanne became active in the Nazi resistance movement
and started to publish anti-German pamphlets. In 1944, Claude was arrested for
her work in the resistance. Although she was eventually released, her health never
recovered from the poor conditions of the jail and she passed away on
December 8, 1954. Today, Claude and Suzanne are buried side by side at St
Brelade’s Church.

-LC

OCTOBER 9: Alice Austen (1866-1952)

365daysoflesbians:

Ever since 1951, October 9th has been recognized as Alice Austen Day in the state of New York in dedication
to one of the earliest and most prolific woman photographers in American
history. Often shrouded over in history textbooks is the fact not only was Alice
Austen a pioneering feminist, but she was also a lesbian

A self-portrait of Alice Austen taken on September 19, 1892. She would later call this “the very best picture that was ever taken of me” (x).

Elizabeth Alice Munn was born on
May 23, 1866 inside St. John’s Church on Staten Island. Her father abandoned
the family before Alice was born, which affected her to the point of refusing
to go by her baptismal surname of Munn and instead choosing to be called
Austen, the name of her maternal family.  Alice would grow up at the Austen family home
called “Clear Comfort” in the Rosebank neighborhood of Staten Island, a quaint
and loved child as the only young person in a house full of six adults. Her
first camera was given to her by her uncle, Oswald Müller, who was a sea
captain and often brought the family back gifts from his expeditions. Although
she was only 10-years-old, Alice fell in love with the camera and developed a
hobby of taking photos of her family members and her pets in the family garden. Her
family recognized her talent right away and her Uncle Peter, a chemistry
professor, taught her how to develop her photos.

Alice Austen, The Darned Club, 1891. Alice Austen Photograph Collection. Courtesy of the Staten Island Historical Society (x).  

Supported by her wealthy family,
Alice spent much of her life traveling with her camera equipment and
documenting her experiences. She spent the summers traveling around Europe and
the rest of the seasons traveling around the New York area. It was on one such
excursion trip that Alice met the love of her life, Gertrude Tate. They met in
1899 at a Catskill hotel known as “Twilight Rest.” Gertrude was 28 to
Alice’s 33 and the photos of that summer are riddled with portraits of
Gertrude. Despite the Tate family’s disapproval of their daughter’s “wrong
devotion” to another woman, the two moved into Clear Comfort together in 1917. Alice
and Gertrude lived out their days at Clear Comfort comfortably as society
women, frequently attending parties and even starting a gardening club.

Alice Austen and Gertrude Tate, Pickards Penny Photo Studio, Stapleton Staten Island, c. 1905. Courtesy of Alice Austen House (x). 

Unfortunately, after the 1929
stock market crash, they fell into hard times financially and were forced to
move out of Clear Comfort and into a small apartment. Alice would live out her last years in poverty, only seeing her photography fully recognized in the last years of her life. In 1950, many of her early
photographs were published in an anthology called The Revolt of Women and an article about her life and
work was published in Life Magazine the same year. On
October 9, 1951 Alice was honored by the state of New York with the declaration
of the date as being Alice Austen Day. While at the opening ceremony of Alice
Austen Day, which was also an exhibition of her work, Alice is quoted as
saying, “I am happy that what was once so much pleasure for me turns out
now to be a pleasure for other people.” She would pass away a year later
on June 9, 1952. Although she and Gertrude had requested to be buried together,
their families refused.

-LC

JULY 19: Zanele Muholi (1972-)

365daysoflesbians:

Happy 45th birthday to Zanele Muholi! The South
African photographer, visual artist, and LGBT activist was born on this day in
1972.

Self portrait from SOMNYAMA NGONYAMA by Zanele Muholi, 2015 (x).

Zanele Muholi was born on July 19, 1972 in Umlazi, Durban
and was the fifth and youngest child born to Ashwell Tanji Banda Muholi and
Bester Muholi. After spending her childhood in Umlazi, she then moved to
Johannesburg to study Advanced Photography at the Market Photo Workshop in
2003. Her first solo exhibition was given a year later at the Johannesburg Art
Gallery. The buzz following her first solo show eventually allowed Zanele to
attend Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, where she received her MFA in
Documentary Media in 2009. Her thesis made a big splash in the LGBT art world,
as Zanele constructed a visual map of black lesbian identity in post-Apartheid
South Africa.

Zanele describes herself as “a visual activist dedicated to
increasing the visibility of black lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex
people.” Her main goal in her art is to capture the history of African LGBT
people and community for future generations. Before she left for school in
Canada, Zanele had worked for the online magazine Behind the Mask as a photographer and journalist, and had
co-founded Forum for the Empowerment of Women (FEW), which was a meeting ground
for black lesbians in South Africa to come, vent, and feel safe. Returning back to
South Africa in 2009, she founded a non-profit organization called Inkanyiso,
which focused on visual activism and capturing African LGBT people’s lives and
stories. In 2010, Zanele helped to direct the documentary Difficult Love, which was shown in South Africa, America, and
throughout Europe.  

Today, Zanele is an Honorary Professor in video and
photography at University of the Arts Bremen in Bremen, Germany and her work
has been shown everywhere from the Design Indaba Conference in Cape Town, to
the Singapore International Arts Festival, to the Brooklyn Museum in New York
City.

-LC

JULY 17: Berenice Abbott (1898-1991)

365daysoflesbians:

Born on this day in 1898, the photographer Berenice Abbott
was at the center of lesbian society throughout the early 20th century
and rubbed elbows with the likes of Janet Flanner, Thelma Wood, and Else von
Freytag-Loringhoven
and made a name for herself with her architectural photography of New York City in the early 1930s.

Berenice Abbott photographed by her friend Walker Evans in 1930 (x). 

Berenice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio on July 17,
1898. She was raised in a working-class household by a single mother, Lillian
Alice Bunn, and recalled having had an unhappy childhood. She fled home to study
journalism at Ohio State University as soon as she graduated high school, but eventually
became disenchanted with academia and ran away again – this time to New York
City – after only a year at the university. In New York, Berenice found a love
for sculpture and sought to make a career out of it, but in the meantime she
was only able to make money by working as a dark room assistant, a waitress,
and even by acting in minor roles at The Famous Provincetown Playhouse. In
1921, Berenice had once again grown tired of her surroundings and purchased a
one-way ticket to the city of Paris. It was there where she met and befriended
the man who would change her life: incomparable photographer Man Ray who found
the plucky, eager dark room assistant he was looking for in Berenice.

Berenice’s self-portraits from throughout the years show her sporting her signature short hairstyle and butch fashion sense (x). 

And thus began Berenice Abbott’s photography career, her
dreams of being a sculptor long forgotten. She would later recall, “I took to
photography like a duck to water. I never wanted to do anything else.“
With Man Ray allowing her to use his studio in Montparnasse for her own work, Berenice specialized in taking portraits of all the big names in Parisian
society  and her work began to be shown at the popular “"Au
Sacre du Printemps.” Her subjects included everyone from the popular authors Jean Cocteau and James Joyce to her own close friends from the lesbian salons of the day, Jane Heap, Janet
Flanner,

Marie Laurencin, and many others. Her friend Sylvia Beach once wrote that “To be ‘done’
by Man Ray or Berenice Abbott meant you rated as somebody.”

While in Paris, Berenice took many portraits of her lesbian socialite friends, including (from left to right) Djuna Barnes, Peggy Guggenheim, and Solita Solano (x). 

In 1929, Berenice took a trip back to New York City with the
intention of finding a publisher for her photograph collection and then
returning to Paris, but fate had other plans. With her new artistic mind,
Berenice became entranced by the cityscape of New York City and immediately
began the project that would make her career in America – Changing New York. For almost 6 years, Berenice used a Century
Universal camera, which produced large format 8 x 10 inch negatives, to capture
the everyday life of both work and play of the people of New York. The project
eventually evolved into a sociological study and she began to be funded by
Federal Art Project to continue her work. Today, Changing New York can be seen in its entirety at The Museum of the
City of New York.

One of Berenice’s iconic photos from Changing New York; Waterfront, South Street, October 25th, 1935 (x). 

In her later years, Berenice began to experience lung
problems and so she and her partner, the art critic Elizabeth McCausland who
she had lived with for over 30 years, decided to move and settle down in the
small town of Blanchard, Maine. She practiced photography until her
death on December 9, 1991; her last collection ever published was A Portrait of Maine in 1968 and, at the
time of her death, there was a documentary about her life in the works. In her
last interview for Berenice Abbott: A
View of the 20th Century
, Berenice says, “The world doesn’t like
independent women. Why? I don’t know, but I also don’t care.”

-LC

NOVEMBER 20: Marianne Breslauer (1909-2001)

The famous photographer Marianne Breslauer was born on this day in 1909. Today, Marianne is most well-known for her contributions to the artistic richness of Germany’s Wiemar Era as well as her relationship with the Swiss journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach.

A self-portrait by Marianne Breslauer (x).

Marianne Breslauer was born on November 20, 1909 in Berlin, Germany. She inherited an artistic legacy from her parents, her father being the architect Alfred Breslauer and her mother being Doris Lessing, the daughter of the famed art historian Julius Lessing. She began taking photography lessons at age 18 and began to plan for a career as a photographic journalist. Her main inspirations were the well-known German portrait photographer Frieda Riess and the Hungarian photographer André Kertész. Although she had lived and studied in Berlin for all her life, Marianne moved to Paris in 1929 to study under Man Ray. She only stayed briefly, however, and was back in Berlin a year later. Throughout the 1930s, her work was published in esteemed German magazines such as Frankfurter Illustrierten, Der Querschnitt, Die Dame, Zürcher Illustrierten, and Das Magazin

Despite being married to a man named Walter Feilchenfeldt, the center of Marianne’s life was a fellow woman photographer named Annemarie Schwarzenbach. Many historians refer to the two women as simple being “lifelong friends,” but the truth of their relationship was probably something closer to that of lovers. Marianne traveled extensively throughout Europe during her life and created a network of kindred spirits, which is to say, fellow wlw artists. She even became known for her photographs of butch women/”tom boys” throughout the 1930s. It was through one of these lesbian artist friends, Ruth Landshoff, that Marianne and Annemarie were first introduced. The two photographed each other frequently and even traveled to the Pyrenees together in 1933. Annemarie would tragically die in a biking accident in 1942, but Marianne’s legacy would continue to be intertwined with the person she once described as “Neither a woman nor a man, but an angel, an archangel.”

One of Marianne’s multiple photographs of Annemarie Schwarzenbach. In this shot from 1934, Annemarie (left) lies on beach towels with a friend in Potsdam (x).

With the increasing antisemitic climate of Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, Marianne’s publishers began pressuring her to publish her photographs under a pseudonym so as to conceal her Jewish identity. When she refused, she, her husband, and children were forced to leave German and emigrate to Amsterdam and then later Zurich. In her later years, Marianne and her husband opened up their own art gallery specializing in French paintings and 19th century art. She took over the business on the occasion of her husband’s death in 1953 and would eventually pass away herself on February 7, 2001.

-LC

OCTOBER 25: Claude Cahun (1894-1954)

The groundbreaking French artist
and photographer, Claude Cahun, was born on this day in 1894. Her work is known
for its daring disregard for 20th century gender roles, Claude
herself even famously saying, “Shuffle the cards. Masculine? Feminine? It
depends on the situation. Neuter is the only gender that always suits me.”

A self-portrait by Claude Cahun (x).

Claude was born Lucy Renee
Mathilde Schwob on October 25, 1894 in Nantes, France. She was born to a
wealthy Jewish family that boasted the well-known avant-garde artist Marcel
Schwob as one of its brood. Tragically, when Claude was just 4-years-old, her
mother began to show signs of serious mental illness and was put in a
psychiatric facility to live out her days. Claude was then raised by her grandmother.
She suffered a great deal of antisemitic bullying during her time at the local
schools in Nantes and eventually transferred to a private high school in
Surrey. After high school, she enrolled in
the University of Paris, Sorbonne.

One of her most well-known pieces is this surrealist self-portrait titled “What Do You Want From Me?” (x).

It was while she was at college when Claude began to practice photography. She began with
self-portraits and would continue to work in that mode throughout the 1920s and
1930s. In 1919, she officially changed her name to Claude Cahun. She briefly
considered the name Daniel Douglas, inspired by fellow gay historical icon Lord
Alfred Douglas, but Claude Cahun won out in the end for its seeming gender
neutrality. Although she had been working consistently since 1912, she didn’t
find fame until she joined the group of European surrealists in the early
1930s. In 1936, she was featured in both the London International Surrealist
Exhibition and The Exposition surréaliste d’Objets.

Claude and her partner Suzanne invent the mirror selfie in 1920 with the piece “Self-Portraits Reflected in a Mirror” (x).

Claude’s life partner was Suzanne Malherbe, who often went by the name Marcel Moore. In 1922,
they began holding salon meetings inside their home and became known as a power
couple in the artist world. Attendees of their salon were iconic artists such
as Henri Michaux, André Breton, Sylvia Beach, and Adrienne Monnier. At the rise
of World War II, they both fled Europe and settled in New Jersey. Despite being
in America, Claude and Suzanne became active in the Nazi resistance movement
and started to publish anti-German pamphlets. In 1944, Claude was arrested for
her work in the resistance. Although she was eventually released, her health never
recovered from the poor conditions of the jail and she passed away on
December 8, 1954. Today, Claude and Suzanne are buried side by side at St
Brelade’s Church.

-LC

OCTOBER 9: Alice Austen (1866-1952)

Ever since 1951, October 9th has been recognized as Alice Austen Day in the state of New York in dedication
to one of the earliest and most prolific woman photographers in American
history. Often shrouded over in history textbooks is the fact not only was Alice
Austen a pioneering feminist, but she was also a lesbian

A self-portrait of Alice Austen taken on September 19, 1892. She would later call this “the very best picture that was ever taken of me” (x).

Elizabeth Alice Munn was born on
May 23, 1866 inside St. John’s Church on Staten Island. Her father abandoned
the family before Alice was born, which affected her to the point of refusing
to go by her baptismal surname of Munn and instead choosing to be called
Austen, the name of her maternal family.  Alice would grow up at the Austen family home
called “Clear Comfort” in the Rosebank neighborhood of Staten Island, a quaint
and loved child as the only young person in a house full of six adults. Her
first camera was given to her by her uncle, Oswald Müller, who was a sea
captain and often brought the family back gifts from his expeditions. Although
she was only 10-years-old, Alice fell in love with the camera and developed a
hobby of taking photos of her family members and her pets in the family garden. Her
family recognized her talent right away and her Uncle Peter, a chemistry
professor, taught her how to develop her photos.

Alice Austen, The Darned Club, 1891. Alice Austen Photograph Collection. Courtesy of the Staten Island Historical Society (x).  

Supported by her wealthy family,
Alice spent much of her life traveling with her camera equipment and
documenting her experiences. She spent the summers traveling around Europe and
the rest of the seasons traveling around the New York area. It was on one such
excursion trip that Alice met the love of her life, Gertrude Tate. They met in
1899 at a Catskill hotel known as “Twilight Rest.” Gertrude was 28 to
Alice’s 33 and the photos of that summer are riddled with portraits of
Gertrude. Despite the Tate family’s disapproval of their daughter’s “wrong
devotion” to another woman, the two moved into Clear Comfort together in 1917. Alice
and Gertrude lived out their days at Clear Comfort comfortably as society
women, frequently attending parties and even starting a gardening club.

Alice Austen and Gertrude Tate, Pickards Penny Photo Studio, Stapleton Staten Island, c. 1905. Courtesy of Alice Austen House (x). 

Unfortunately, after the 1929
stock market crash, they fell into hard times financially and were forced to
move out of Clear Comfort and into a small apartment. Alice would live out her last years in poverty, only seeing her photography fully recognized in the last years of her life. In 1950, many of her early
photographs were published in an anthology called The Revolt of Women and an article about her life and
work was published in Life Magazine the same year. On
October 9, 1951 Alice was honored by the state of New York with the declaration
of the date as being Alice Austen Day. While at the opening ceremony of Alice
Austen Day, which was also an exhibition of her work, Alice is quoted as
saying, "I am happy that what was once so much pleasure for me turns out
now to be a pleasure for other people.” She would pass away a year later
on June 9, 1952. Although she and Gertrude had requested to be buried together,
their families refused.

-LC