Gulnara Samoilova: Women Street Photographers

With a rising number of women throughout the world picking up their cameras and capturing their surroundings, this book explores the work of 100 women and the experiences behind their greatest images.

Traditionally a male-dominated field, street photography is increasingly becoming the domain of women. This fantastic collection of images reflects that shift, showcasing 100 contemporary women street photographers working around the world today, accompanied by personal statements about their work. Variously joyful, unsettling, and unexpected, the photographs capture a wide range of extraordinary moments.

Elena Alexandra
Elena Alexandra
Eleonore Simone

The volume is curated by Gulnara Samoilova, founder of the Women Street Photographers project: a website, social media platform, and annual exhibition. Photographer Melissa Breyer’s introductory essay explores how the genre has intersected with gender throughout history, looking at how cultural changes in gender roles have overlapped with technological developments in the camera to allow key historical figures to emerge.

Her text is complemented by a foreword by renowned photojournalist Ami Vitale, whose career as a war photographer and, later, global travels with National Geographic have allowed a unique insight into the realities of working as a woman photographer in different countries. In turns intimate and candid, the photographs featured in this book offer a kaleidoscopic glimpse of what happens when women across the world are behind the camera.

Eleonore Simone
Farnaz Damnabi
Farnaz Damnabi
Gulnara Samoilova

About the Author

Gulnara is a fine art and street photographer based in New York City and the founder of @WomenStreetPhotographers Instagram feed and the traveling exhibition. She holds a certificate in fine art from the International Center of Photography in New York City and a diploma from Moscow Polytech College in general photography. In her native Russia, she was a photography teacher and specialized in documentary and conceptual photography.

A portrait of Gulnara Samoilova

Before moving to New York City in 1992, Gulnara was the only female fine art photographer in the Autonomous Republic of Bashkortostan, where she was born, in Ufa, the capital.
Gulnara continued with fine art and documentary photography after moving to New York City. She had planned to be in Russia on September 11, 2001 to photograph a family she was chronicling as part of an ongoing personal project. Instead, she was nearly buried alive in the ash and debris from the fall of the World Trade Center while documenting the events of the day as a staff photographer for the Associated Press. Gulnara received national and international awards for her photographs from 9/11, including first prize in the most prestigious World Press Photo competition, The New York Press Club, and she was named Interphoto Photographer of the Year.

Gulnara Samoilova
Julia Coddington
Julia Coddington

In 2012 while on assignment in China she became more serious about street photography. A subsequent trip to Cuba increased her interest in the human condition. As a result, she was compelled to document the everyday life of people and she has traveled to Brazil, Myanmar, Argentina, Mexico and Russia. When Gulnara photographs her subjects she makes no secret of her intentions. Without speaking the language she blends into the environment and patiently waits for the moment to unfold. Her resulting photographs feel real and effortless. 

Melissa Breyer
Melissa Breyer
Melissa Breyer

Gulnara began hand coloring her photographs in 1990, after seeing a Gilbert & George exhibition in Moscow. Their distinctive method of photography gave her permission to express what was hidden in her pictures about life in the Soviet Union. Her work explored issues including neglected elderly, single mothers, air pollution, and AIDS. Gulnara was one of the first artists in the Soviet Union to mix photography, oil painting, and collage.

In 2014 Gulnara attended Mary Ellen Mark’s workshop who later wrote to her, “…someone as talented as you really should pursue a serious personal body of work.”  She began to work on a new series, exploring her childhood and family members she never knew anything about. In the ongoing series “Lost Family”, she leaves parts of the black and white photographs untouched to represent the “present” life. Using color, and without any attempt at photorealism, she uses oil paints to show a “fantasy, dream-like life”. By creating a collage using her found family and childhood photographs, Gulnara connects the present and the past to covey an imagined story.

Gulnara’s work is a part of major collections at the Museum of the City of New York, The New York Public Library, New York Historical Society, the Newseum, The Akron Museum, 9/11 Memorial Museum, and Houston Museum of Fine Arts. Her photographs are in the private collections of Elton John, Steven Kasher, Timothy Baum, and Henry Buhl. 

Hardcover: 224 pages, 110 color illustrations
Foreword: Ami Vitale
Publisher: Prestel (March 01, 2021)
Language: English
Size: 9 x 9.8 inches
ISBN-13: 978-3791387406

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