Women in Colo(u)r
Women in Colour, the British spelling, advances fresh, new scholarship through a distinct and separate category; color, tracing its origins to gender-specificity. Color orbits an artist’s universe; color theory (RGB=YMC) is photography’s planet. The British Victorian, Anna Atkins (1799-1871) was the first woman photographer, albeit camera-less, and the first in color, through the cyanotype method (1842) taught to her by Sir John Herschel. Pioneering his method with Talbot’s photogram (non-color), Atkins created images in Prussian blue that included her handwriting, thus introducing text and image; she also made the first photo-book (1843). These seminal moments in photographic history suggest an innovative use of color by women within the medium which continues today.
Why do women choose color? Color is technically challenging and expensive, does this fact underscore female power, financial autonomy, breaking taboos of physical strength, visual intelligence and the “woman artist” stereotypes in art, science, and chemistry? What was photography’s role in this? With the recent discovery of tetrachromacy, stating that women with this gene can discern color better than men, who have a higher rate of color-blindness, the hypothesis gains ground. It states the singular recognition of women practitioners, whose historical and contemporary collective contributions in color photography remain under-exposed.