We may have trouble with certain terms, such as corporeality or performing project, but once we get past that conceptual language, we can read with pleasure the destiny of these women photographers from the first century of this form of art. There is first of all the pioneer, Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879), born in Calcutta, who launched herself into the profession once she was in her forties. There is the countess of Castiglione, Napoleon III’s mistress, who not only officiated in the bedroom, but liked to carefully stage herself in front of the lens. There is Hannah Cullwick (1833-1909), an English servant who was in a sadomasochist relationship with a London gentleman. Then there is Claude Cahun (1894-1954), an audacious androgyne who perverted the sexual codes and flirted with Nazism. These mostly unusual lives show, according to the author, that a woman photographer is never an ordinary photographer. Her practice is an act of emancipation, of provocation, of feminism before its time.
• Femmes photographes by Federica Muzzarelli, Hazan, 2009, 340 p., 45 €, ISBN : 978-2-75-410347-3
Review published in the newsletter #145 - from 8 October 2009 to 14 October 2009