What Was It Like To Be A Female Photographer In The 70s, 80s And 90s?

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What Was It Like To Be A Female Photographer In The 70s, 80s And 90s?

This is a sponsored article on behalf of Bishopsgate Institute.


‘Parents and children lobby parliament in support of the teachers' pay claim’ © Maggie Murray Format Archive. 23 January 1986

Bishopsgate Institute's Special Collections and Archives holds over 500,000 images, documenting everything from London's famous landmarks to important 20th century social and cultural scenes. In a recent addition of material to the collections, the institute has added historic works from Format — a group of all-female photographers from the late 20th century.

Sue Batten. Britain’s first woman firefighter. London 1982 © Brenda Prince Format Archive. 1983

Set up in 1983, Format set out with the aim of documenting the world from a different perspective, and supporting women in their quest for recognition and representation in the mainstream media. Their work captured many important political moments, from the Greenham Common women's peace camp to many demonstrations throughout the 1980s and onwards. The agency followed in the footsteps of The Hackney Flashers collective — a group of female photographers and second-wave feminists — set up in 1974 to shine a light on women's issues through photography, with two decades of experience creating agitprop material.

‘Anti-clause 27 demo in Whitehall, London. (Local Government Bill banning ‘promotion’ of homosexuality) © Brenda Prince Format Archive. 9 January 1988

To celebrate, the Institute is holding a special event for visitors to learn more about the history of these collectives, as well as hearing from some of their members. Both original material and digital reproductions of their work will be on show. It's a great opportunity to learn more about how their photography was used to embody political activism, and the importance of it as a tool for sharing political struggles with a wider audience.

Lynton Kwesi Johnson, poet and Dotun Adebayo, broadcaster. London early 1980s. © Val Wilmer, Format Archive. 1984

To find out more, and hear from the women behind these photographs, book tickets for this special event — Women and Photography with Format and Hackney Flashers — at Bishopsgate Institute, on Wednesday 29 November 2017, 7pm-8.30pm. Tickets are available for £11 (£7 for students/concessions). Over 18's only.

Last Updated 03 November 2017