Working Title: Women as Amateur Photographers: Clubs, Professionalism and the 'Industry' in the Late Soviet Period

Sat9  Apr04:00pm(20 mins)
Umney Lounge


Jessica Werneke


In 1983 and 1986, the Photo Club in Tartu, Estonia hosted two international, inter-club exhibitions entitled Women in Photo Art (Zhenshina v fotoiskusstve). Contrary to what one might expect, these were not exhibitions featuring women photographers and their work, but rather artistic photographs of women. Actually, women photographers hardly participated in the exhibitions. In 1983, only 6 of the 112 artists chosen by the selection jury were women, or roughly one in twenty. In 1986, the number of women participants rose to 15 out of 216, or just over 7%. Though women photographers never achieved a majority within Soviet photography clubs, or for that matter, within photographic circles anywhere at that time, these skewed numbers invite an investigation into the gender imbalance within Soviet photography circles, both amateur and professional.This paper investigates the role played by women in amateur and professional photography groups in the late Soviet period. It also examines how women contributed to the photographic “industry.” Their participation in fields peripheral to photography, such as criticism, editorial and publishing work and as technical specialists in retail shops is crucial to understanding how the male-gendered environments of professional and amateur circles spread into other practical fields separate from, but related to, snapping photos.

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