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International Women's Day: Q&A with Curator Aden Vincendau and a live event with Foto Femme United and Female Photoclub


International Women's Day is a global celebration of women's achievements in social, economic, cultural, and political spheres. It also serves as a call to action for promoting gender equality. People from around the world come together on this day to honor women's accomplishments and advocate for their rights. This day has been observed for over a century, starting with the first gathering in 1911, which is documented on the official International Women's Day website.

When it comes to photography and the visual arts, women's contributions have often been overlooked. From photojournalism to art photography, It is only recently that pioneers like Anna Atkins and Julia Margaret Cameron have received the recognition they deserve. Additionally, it is no unknown fact that when women were mentioned, they were often known for their association with more famous men. For example, Dora Maar was primarily remembered as "Picasso's muse" rather than celebrated as a talented and innovative photographer and artist in her own right. Similarly, Lee Miller's impact in photography was often seen only through her mentor, Man Ray.

Despite women's early involvement in photography, it gradually became perceived as a predominantly male pursuit as the 20th century progressed. The exclusion of women from the history of photography is also evident in photography education, where male photographers tend to dominate the curriculum, which can be disheartening for women photographers.

Furthermore, the majority of influential figures in galleries, museums, and publishing houses are men, resulting in a bias towards promoting work by male artists. Gender imbalance in the visual arts is evident and witnessed by reports and studies such as the Washington-based NMWA (National Museum of Women in the Arts), the only major museum solely dedicated to promoting women through the arts, a mission still relevant in 2024.

Throughout history, women's contributions to the visual arts have often been forbidden or discouraged due to limited access to art education. The work of the few successful women artists of their time has not survived in the same way as that of their male contemporaries. Their work was often considered inherently less valuable, leading museums and other institutions to not prioritize its collection. This practice continues to persist. On the other hand, as reported by Women Photograph, while we saw small but consistent gains in photojournalism from 2017-2021, in 2022 we saw our first decrease and in 2023 the figures held steady at exactly 21.5% of lead front page photos made by women and nonbinary photographers. Gender parity in photography is a hard achievement yet to be kept as an impellent aspiration.

On the occasion of the International Women's Day, Der Greif invites you all to the International Women’s Day Panel happening today, March 8th, from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM CET. This event is hosted in collaboration with Foto Femme United and Female Photoclub and is designed as a safe space for women in photography, where everyone is welcome. On this occasion we are also delighted to be joined by Dr. Caroline von Courten, our newest team member, and Co-Artistic Director of Der Greif. Keynote speakers include April Wiser, Founder and CEO of Foto Femme United and Juliane Herrmann, the Female Photoclub Board/Leader in North Rhine-Westphalia. Each speaker will also be in dialogue with an artist they’re nominated and we’re very pleased to welcome Kimbra Audrey ( on behalf of Foto Femme United and Natalie Strohmaier (, who was recently a part of Der Greif collaborative auction with Grisebach auction house, on behalf of Female Photo Club.

Additionally, Der Greif was in conversation with past Guest Curator Aden Vincendeau to discuss the experience of being a woman curator in the field of photography. She works at the MEP (Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris) and supports French emerging photographers and artists by giving regular portfolio reviews and providing professional guidance.

Der Greif: What’s your take on International Women’s Day?

I think it's an excellent initiative that reminds us how far we've come, but also how far we still have to go to achieve total equality and greater assertion of our rights.

Der Greif: How much does identifying as a woman affect your work?

As a professional in the world of photography, being a woman helps to change attitudes in a profession that has historically been very male-dominated. Having more and more professional women in museums, photography festivals and photography fairs is helping to change the way we look at photographers' work and to affirm the place of women and non-binary people in our institutions. It helps to normalize and legitimize our position within museums, and that's very important. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by exceptional women in my current work at the MEP, which allows us to assert our place and show that museums have everything to gain by letting women in.

Being a professional woman in the photographic world also allows me to take a critical look at the work of certain 'historic' photographers who have received a great deal of media coverage and exposure over the last thirty years, whereas many recent works show the misogyny and sexist issues in their relationship with photography and their male gaze. Sorority is more than necessary in the years to come in this field.

Der Greif: How did your early years in the field of photography shape your journey?

I think that my first professional experiences in photography made me realise how this world worked. It's still very patriarchal and there's still progress to be made. There is still a real lack of parity and the professional mechanisms in this sector are sometimes open to criticism.

Der Greif: Did being a woman have an impact on your career process?

Yes, because I think it has helped me to think about the deserved place that we have to take in all French and international cultural institutions. When I was younger, I was confronted with sexist or unfair behavior in a professional context, and that made me realize what I didn't want for the rest of my career. It also taught me to say no to certain situations. This kind of intolerable behavior made me even more determined to fight for it. My mother is also an extremely important person in my relationship with work. She's always told me never to get discouraged, despite the hardships, and has shown me that anything is possible. In fact, she herself went from a career as a nurse to that of a brilliant journalist on African geopolitics, even though no one but herself believed in her and she faced many obstacles from men in her career, particularly as a single mother and self-employed woman. Today, we still have to fight for equal pay for men, to assert ourselves and show that we can also hold positions of responsibility. Our vision is essential if institutions are to evolve more effectively.

Der Greif: How do you feel about women-only prizes and initiatives in contemporary photography?

I think it's a very good initiative that helps to raise the profile of artists who have been invisible for a long time. Inequalities are also very present in the remuneration of women photographers compared to men. But we also need to provide real financial and artistic support in the art world for LGBTQIA+, queer, trans and non-binary artists, and for people who may or may not fully identify as women. Gender binarism has invisibilized people who have been marginalized for far too long, and we must give them an essential place in our institutions. So the use of gender-inclusive writing in museums, open calls, galleries, and the opening up of these open calls and applications to these artists is essential to make them more accessible and inclusive and provide real financial support.

Der Greif: Do you advocate for women’s exposure in the field of photography? If so, how?

Of course! There are plenty of talented women photographers who deserve to be exhibited. In 2023 at the MEP, we have chosen to have a programme of exhibitions dedicated exclusively to women and non-binary artists. Zanele Muholi, Viviane Sassen, Rineke Dikstra and Maya Rochat have all been included. In addition, the Studio space dedicated to emerging artists has been devoted exclusively to women artists. Our cultural programming also supports feminist and committed structures such as Gaze magazine, the Aware association, and other structures that enable this recognition. We are a public institution and it's our role to ensure that museums are more representative and to support these initiatives.

Der Greif: Where have you mainly practiced curation? How have you found the contexts you’ve practiced in?

The MEP, the institution where I currently work, is a wonderful place for exhibiting emerging and established artists. It's in this beautiful location in the heart of the Marais district of Paris that I have the chance to learn and discover new artists every day. The approach of Simon Baker and Clothilde Morette is to present talented photographers who explore all the current social issues. This gives a voice to artists from very different backgrounds.

Der Greif: Are there any special projects related to women photographers you’ve worked on?

Yes, I was lucky enough to work with Clothilde Morette, Artistic Director of the MEP, on the exhibition dedicated to Viviane Sassen and on the two exhibitions dedicated to My-Lan Hoang Thuy and Rosa Joly. These women photographers were very inspiring for me and it was a pleasure to work with them.

Der Greif: Could you recommend any readings on the topic of women in photography?

Probably the catalog "Who's Afraid of Women Photographers?” from the eponymous exhibition held at the Musée d'Orsay in 2015 by Marie Robert and Ulrich Pohlmann and Thomas Galifot. Or "The Use of the Photo" by Annie Ernaux. Susan Sontag's writings, of course!

Der Greif: Which female photographers have significantly inspired you?

Claude Cahun, Paz Errázuriz, Ana Mendieta or Rineke Dijkstra. More recently, Laia Abril's work "A history of Misogyny. On Illegal Stories" dated 2017 and exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in the "Corps à Corps" exhibition, where the artist collected testimonies from women who have had to undergo an illegal abortion. In countries where this right is still illegal. My photographer friends also inspire me a lot. They have a rage and finesse in their approach that amazes and impresses me every time.