In 2016 the Archives of Professional Women Photographers were acquired by the Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library of Emory University. It was a project I supervised and was deeply involved in, and changed the way I look at things. I realized that humans are careless about moments in time, feeling they will go on forever. But time slips by slowly, then more quickly, and signposts and trails to the past disappear till that particular moment is lost. Not only the moment, but the people involved and how and why they got to that place, why they acted as they did. In other words, history. Which comes in small chunks as well as large.
Many people thought the PWP Archives were just a bunch of old boxes filled with junk, but the material they contained told several stories. Everyone thinks the big story is about women coming into photography, but it’s not. The biggest story told by the PWP Archives is the sweep of technology into all aspects of modern life.
1975, the year PWP was founded, was also the year that Microsoft and Apple Computer were founded. While it isn’t really year zero for the digital revolution, it kind of feels that way. There may have been electric typewriters, and word processing was either coming in or about to, but unless you were a member of the Homebrew Computing Club in California, you didn’t have a personal computer. Digital cameras were also not around. So PWP started before the digital bang, and if you look at the material closely, you can see the way digital enables and challenges individuals and organizations. You see a world beset by disruption, the good, the bad, and the very confusing.
For Women’s History Month 2018, I put together 31 blogs showing PWP’s history through items in its archives. It was a light look, with more pictures than text, at a brief period of time that revolutionized the world and the world of photography.
Links to all the 30 For 30 Women’s History Month blogs: