Date of Award

Fall 2020

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

English, PhD

Program

School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

David Luis-Brown

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Eve Oishi

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Kathleen Howe

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Mark Eaton

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© Copyright Kristina Krause, 2020 All rights reserved

Abstract

While there are several studies of the relationships and influences between American male photographers and writers, this study examines the lesser known and understudied collaborations and connections between early, twentieth-century American women photographers and writers, beginning around the end of the nineteenth century and extending into the 1930s. The web of connections between women writers and photographers, connections created through influence, through mentorship, through friendship, or through collaboration, provided a space in which they could situate a new way of seeing and defining each other as women and as artists, and it manifested in the empathetic manner in which they presented and interacted with their subjects in photographs and on the page. This new way of seeing also involved the generation of a visual ethics and the application of a gendered aesthetic that broadened the notion of what was worth seeing and representing outside of the predominantly white, male-dominated society’s determination of what were acceptable subjects and methods with regard to cultural production. For example, photographer Gertrude Käsebier’s friendship with Native American writer Zitkála-Šá created the space wherein they collaborated on photographic portraits of Zitkála-Šá that refuted the dominant white culture’s stereotypes of Native American women. Willa Cather and photographer Laura Gilpin were connected through a shared passion for the geography and the Native American cultures of the American Southwest and may have inspired each other with their depictions and descriptions of that region, which even prompted Gilpin to suggest a collaboration with Cather to illustrate one of her novels, though the proposed project never materialized. Katherine Anne Porter and photographer Tina Modotti were connected through their involvement in the cultural renaissance in post-revolutionary Mexico in the 1920s and through their depictions of indigenous Mexicans. Finally, photographer Dorothy Ulmann and Julia Peterkin were connected not only through their personal friendship, but also through their commitment to preserve marginalized cultures, specifically rural, Southern African Americans like the Gullah who lived and worked on Peterkin’s plantation in the Jim Crow South. They worked together to produce Roll, Jordan, Roll, the first collaboration between a woman photographer and a woman writer. These webs of connection are important because they contributed to the way the work of these artists differed from their male contemporaries. Their webs of connection provided them with opportunities to work together to push against the boundaries of accepted gender norms in the early twentieth century and to create their own identities and histories as artists while resisting the marginalization of their work. They also pushed against the limitations, as defined by the dominant culture, which determined what subjects were considered worth seeing. They accomplished this by featuring nontraditional subjects in photographs or by creating textual portraits of them in fiction and nonfiction using photographic language and photographic references. They did this so that others could see these subjects in new, non-stereotypical ways, subjects who were often members of marginalized cultural groups such as Native Americans, indigenous Mexicans, and rural, southern African Americans like the Gullah. This interdisciplinary study fills a gap in research with regard to the connections, collaborations and influences between early twentieth-century American women artists and writers and acknowledges their contributions to art and literature. The web of connections between these artists, photographers Gertrude Käsebier, Laura Gilpin Tina Modotti, and Dorothy Ulmann and writers Zitkála-Šá, Willa Cather, Katherine Anne Porter, and Julia Peterkin, allowed them to support and to help generate each others’ work. That web of connections now spans generations, extending into the present day as their work continues to inform and to inspire the work of contemporary women photographers and writers.

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