To celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re featuring items from the PWP Archives* each day on this blog. In looking back, we see not only where we started, but how far photography, women, and the world have come since 1975.
Whether in the home or out in the world, women have always worked. But with modern careers, come additional pressures and tough choices to be made between personal and professional lives. Mindful of this, PWP has always encouraged its guest speakers, usually women, to talk openly about their challenges and doubts, hoping to inspire members.
Frances McLaughlin-Gil was always ahead of her time. She was valedictorian of her high school class (her sister Kathryn was salutatorian), graduated from the photography program at Pratt in 1941, and a few years later was hired by Alexander Liberman, becoming the first female staff photographer at Vogue. She was also happily married to photographer Leslie Gill, and mother to her daughter Leslie, now an architect. She knew something about life balance, and when she spoke at PWP in 1980, offered the following advice:
“You keep your sights on what’s important to you. Live for that one day…make it count. Asses your true options, what’s available to you. Keep certain times to yourself–at the end of the year, you’ll have a body of work. There is a necessity for independent thought. Get into your mind what you really want to do. Do whatever you really want to do–flowers, silver spoons, shop windows. Don’t be influenced by mentors, relatives, friends.”
McLaughlin-Gill participated in the 1975 FIT exhibition Breadth of Vision: Portfolios of Women Photographers that PWP grew out of. She was also part of the photo sisterhood. When Dannielle Hayes, PWP’s founder, went meet with an editor at William Morrow & Company about publishing a book of women’s photographs, Frances McLaughlin-Gill went with her. A deal was quickly secured.
As the 1980 PWP Newsletter said: “The world was different when Fran started out. In 1943, they worked with a color film that had an ASA 8. They had to send it to Rochester and wait for it to come back.”
Technically things have changed, but the photo sisters still have each other’s backs.
– Catherine Kirkpatrick
*The PWP Archives were acquired by the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library of Emory University
Links to all the 30 For 30 Women’s History Month blogs: