fig. 1: Amateur Photographers on Cruise Ship, c.1905


The Women in Photography International Archive

Curator, Peter E. Palmquist

Gallery · Essays · Biography · Bibliography


© Peter E. Palmquist,1998

The Women in Photography International Archive (WIP) is a grassroots, research-oriented agency. Its origins date from 1971, starting with a systematic study of the women photographers of California. Currently, the emphasis has shifted to include data concerning the role of women in photography globally.

The WIP International Archive is a by-product of the larger task of identifying and extracting works by women photographers from an archive of 150,000 vintage photographs assembled by Peter E. Palmquist between 1971 and the early 1990s. Originally these images were gathered in support of a regional study focused on the photographic history of the Humboldt County area in rural Northwestern California. By the mid-1970s, this study had shifted to the entire state of California (predominantly the nineteenth century) and, in a lesser degree, to the greater West. Because of these targeted goals, the vast majority of all photographs presently inventoried continues to reflect at least some connection with California and the West. However, an ever increasing number of photographs by women working outside the United States has been added during the past five years.

The collection holds 8,300 works by more than 500 women photographers. Almost half of these images are vintage photographs done before 1910. Photographers who were active before the turn of the century far outnumber those in all other eras: three quarters of all the women represented in the collection were active before 1910. It was especially gratifying to discover the uniformly high quality of work done by women photographers, ranging across the entire span of the history of photography, in what is traditionally considered a male-dominated profession.

While the collection has relatively little in the way of true "Master Works," it is rich in the historical elements of the craft which are often ignored in traditional fine art collections. This is in keeping with the general philosophy of the WIP International Archive, namely to gather resources from all aspects of the history of women in photography without a predisposition to any one area of interest or discipline.

The goals of the WIP International Archive are: to identify, collect, preserve, and disseminate information about women photographers. Information has been gathered without a predetermined emphasis on any particular "type" of photography: commercial and amateur photographers, fine-art and performance photographers, photojournalists, feminist imagemakers, filmmakers, etc. "Photo-related" activities and professions are also tracked, including studio bookkeepers, retouchers and colorists, Kodak refinishers and the like. Indexing of the collection's resources is ongoing, and a limited publishing program is planned. Eventually, it is hoped that the WIP International Archive will become part of a major institution to continue in perpetuity.

Current resources include: more than 18,000 biographical files on female photographers; 2,000 books and 4,000 articles "by and about" women photographers; and approximately 8,300 vintage photographs taken by women, many of them produced during the 19th century.

Facilities and access: The WIP International Archive is housed in the Library/Reading room and the Photo Archives. Staffing consists of a half-time curator, one intern, and 2-3 volunteers. The archive can be visited by appointment; telephone and e-mail access is available, but postal requests are best.

The WIP International Archive is always seeking: information about women photographers past and present. Biographical profiles, professional vitae, advertising items, exhibition announcements and reviews, newspaper clippings and promotional pieces are welcome. Photographers who are willing to deposit original photographs will retain all legal rights to their use.


Author's Note: This website is composed of a variety of resources written over a 20 - year period. Some information may be out-of-date and/or inconsistent. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize for any ego-centric aspects of this distillation: all emphasis properly belongs to the women photographers themselves. Peter E. Palmquist

Editor's Note: Peter E. Palmquist passed away in January, 2003, due to an untimely accident. For further information, please see the memorial website hosted by Carl Mautz.


Women in Photography International Archive
c/o Beinecke Library, Yale University

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