19th Century French Women Photographers

19th Century French Women Photographers
This is the latest in a series of photo essays on early French photographers While 19th-century British women photographers like Julia Margaret Cameron and Anna Atkins generally confined their work to domestic scenes and botanical subjects, albeit imaginatively so, French women photographers shot a broader range of subjects in this era. Three in particular held their own in a profession dominated by men. Louise Laffon (1828–1885) was one of the first female professional photographers in France. She had a studio in Paris between 1859 and 1876. Her focus was on sculpture but her photographs read more as portraits than still lifes. The play of light and shadow on her subjects seems to bring them to life. A stone bust photographed by Louise Laffon Child posing on a block of stone, photographed by Louise Laffon Stone container statue, photographed by Louise Laffon Geneviève Disdéri learned photography from Nicéphore Nièpce. She shared a photo studio with her husband in Brest from 1842-52 but then established her own studio in Brest until 1872 and in Paris thereafter. Disdéri’s studio portraits supported her business but her main interest was in architectural photography. Her architectural images are strongly rendered and utterly memorable. She can take in a capacious scene while, at the same time, finding the anomalous detail that makes it come alive. The photo below is the perfect example of Disdéri’s talent. It combines three groups: the sculptures at the top, the three in the niche, and the group of six people that pose in front of them. Each group is complemented perfectly by the other and contains an apparently random cross-selection of humanity: old and young, female and male, solemn and playful. Capturing all three groups in one image heightens the humanity in each group and, despite the cemetery setting, results in an image that is full of life.

Lead photo credit : Sculpture photographed by Louise Laffon

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Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fern Nesson is a fine art photographer with an MFA in photography. She visits Paris regularly where she captures interior scenes. Her work is abstract, and brings fresh perspective to lovers of Paris, while also illuminating interesting museum exhibitions and cultural events taking place in the City of Light. She recently published a book compilation of the popular Bonjour Paris series "50 Things I Miss About Paris." Purchase this beautiful, photography-filled book on Amazon or contact Fern directly by email: fernlnesson [at] gmail.com. She's offering a special deal for Bonjour Paris readers: purchase the book at cost, a $25 discount.