Name, Place, Show

A Tradition of Honoring Women Photographers

A Tradition of Honoring Women Photographers

This isn’t about Shoshana. There have been e-mails with tears and testimonials. This is not the place for that. This blog is about the experience of women in photography from the 1970′s on, when PWP was founded. But the history of woman in photography is not just about cameras and film and working against whatever social restrictions exist at whatever time. It’s also about the quest for recognition. Are you a singer if no one hears your song? Are you a photographer if no one ever sees your work? This is not about Shoshana. This is about what she did.

For those who don’t know, Shoshana Rothaizer compiled the accomplishments of the individual members of Professional Women Photographers into a list known as Kudos. In the early days (the 1980′s and 90′s) the entries were typed and pasted together, added to the newsletter (then on paper), Xeroxed and passed around or read out loud. As the internet entered our lives, they were published on the PWP website, I believe in html. When I joined PWP in 2004, I figured out pretty fast that if you got listed in Kudos, your name got a boost in the search engine rankings. This was before the world went blog-crazy and SEO became the coin of the realm.

In 2010, when PWP started a blog section on its new website, Kudos was published in WordPress. This can be a little tricky, because WordPress is kind of like Microsoft Word, but a little different. It offers the excitement of real time publishing, but without the fine-tuned layout control a program like Adobe InDesign ensures. Working in it, adding pictures and links for the first time, can be confusing. I’d begun writing the Archives Blog, and Shoshana, well-versed in all things PWP, knew about it. One Saturday as I was rushing out the door, the phone rang. It was Shoshana demanding help creating links in WordPress.

We talked for a bit, seemingly at cross purposes, then, after our respective blood pressures had gone way too high, realized we were actually working in different programs. Suddenly she announced she was heading off to work, then to Pennsylvania and hung up.  Two days later I got an e-mail reproaching me for not writing to her with more info on formatting and links. Like PWP, she was quirky and yes, she could give you a workout.

But when she got down to business, she was very precise, and with her precision, she made you precise too. She reminded you that each and every thing you accomplished mattered. Every show you were in, every publication or website that featured a sample of your work, was one more step forward.

PWP Event Honoring Pioneering Women Photographers Ruth Gruber, Rebecca Lepkoff, Erika Stone, ©Roseann Needlemann & Linda Sandow

PWP Event Honoring Pioneering Women Photographers Ruth Gruber, Rebecca Lepkoff, Nancy Rudolph & Erika Stone ©Roseann Needlemann & Linda Sandow

She was also a link in the chain. It’s easy to forget today how hard it once was for women in photography. How they couldn’t get jobs or have their work taken seriously. Dianora Niccolini, PWP’s first president, started out sweeping up after the male photographers at Cornell Medical College. Marilyn Stern wrote about helping a boyfriend brush up on his printing technique so he could get a job with a famous portrait photographer, who at the time would not hire women. Shoshana took us seriously, and in doing so, respected and honored our vision. She made us take our own photographic work seriously. She made us keep track.

She was also a bit of a detective. Once, a long time ago, a new member sent her Kudos info on a solo show she was having at St. Peter’s Church at Citicorp. Something must have struck Shoshana as odd, because she went over to check it out. There was a show there, but it didn’t contain any work by that particular photographer. Shoshana let the woman know that she knew what was going on, because truth mattered to her.

In our last e-mails Shoshana was funny and offered encouragement. She also gave me a little kick in the pants to get my work moving out the door again. It was appreciated, like a little tough love from mom.

Photography is not the kindest art. Interesting, even great work can slip through the cracks as shown by the recent case of the nanny/street photographer Vivian Maier in Chicago, and the great French master, Eugene Atget, whose oeuvre was saved and championed by Berenice Abbott.

In PWP, Shoshana was forever acknowledging and keeping track, and that process, she honored our tradition of honoring women photographers. She also honored us. All our members appreciated her work, and I hope, in our own small, individual ways, we do her proud and honor her with each and every step forward that we take.

PWP Kudos From 2002 (Paper Version) by Shoshana Rothaizer

PWP Kudos From 2002 (Paper Version) by Shoshana Rothaizer

- Catherine Kirkpatrick, Archives Director