At a time when many photojournalists have been replaced by iPhones, it feels right to take a moment to remember one of the greats. Abigail Heyman, the feminist photojournalist best-known for her book Growing up Female: A Personal Photo-Journal, died May 28 at the age of 70, leaving behind a legacy of exceptional, eye-opening feminist photography.
Heyman’s work portrayed women posing in the occupational roles to which they were restricted. From her Times obituary:
In claustrophobic black-and-white images of almost clinical detail, she portrayed women in curlers shopping for groceries; women as spectators, watching men do things they enjoy; a nude dancer at a strip joint flat on her back, legs apart; a woman at a kitchen table in an apparent stupor of fatigue, a wailing baby on the changing table nearby; little girls playing with dolls.
As one of the pioneering female photojournalists, Heyman used her camera to create the career she wanted. She built a foundation by taking harrowing photographs, like one of her experiencing an abortion. Her images shocked and angered the masses until eventually they had no choice but to look. Her work was featured in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Time, and Life, and she was one of the first women to gain entry into Magnum Photos.
During my year at Columbia Journalism School, there were so many talented young female photojournalists who had already begun to change the world with their coverage of Hurricane Sandy or hospice care in New York City. It’s comforting to know that because of women like Heyman, all of us are in it together. We are working toward careers in journalism so that we can tell stories that might otherwise not be told, shining a light on quiet injustices with our cameras or pens.