Artists Attack! Ten Lesbian Photographers You Should Know (About)

6. Alix Smith


We first talked about lesbian photographer Alix Smith this past summer when she was running a kickstarter campaign to expand her “States of the Union” project, which aims to take classical portrait-style photographs of same-sex families across the U.S.

States of the Union #15 (via

Based in New York, Smith’s work has been featured in The Advocate, The New York Times and TimeOut New York among many other publications. The recipient of a Stonewall Honor in 2009, she is looking to expand her States of the Union project to document same-sex family units in underrepresented regions of the United States.

Constructed Identites 7 (via

Smith’s stunningly vivid portraits are reminiscent of the era of painted portraiture.

7. Laura Aguilar

Laura Aguilar, photo by Zeal Harris

Laura Aguilar is a Chicana artist who works primarily in video and in black-and-white photography, taking a sharp eye to people, primarily women, whose bodies and social identities have been marginalized or neglected altogether in mainstream art and culture.

Her work has been shown at the Venice Biennial in Italy, the Los Angeles City Hall Bridge Gallery, the Los Angeles Photography Center, the Women’s Center Gallery at UC-Santa Barbara and the recent Hide/Seek Exhibit.


Aguilar has been published in places like Art in America, Frame-Work, Nueva Luz, Forbidden Subjects: Self-Portraits by Lesbian Artists and Visions Art Quarterly.

Her Latina Lesbian series, initiated in August 1986, began as a project for a mental health conference which aimed to show a “a positive image of Latina lesbians.” Aguilar explained that she wants to break open the Latina Lesbian experience “to provide role models that break negative stereotypes and help develop a better bridge of understanding. I also hope that the pieces provide the opportunity to explore ourselves and others, and to express our own beauty, strength and dignity.”


8. Angela Jimenez



A Brooklyn-based documentary/journalism photographer whose work can frequently be found in The New York Times, Angela Jimenez‘s work spans a variety of subjects, ranging from World Cup fans to same-sex ballroom dancers to the aftermath of the 2005 tsunami.


Jimenez’s fascinating Womyn’s Land project chronicled “lesbian separatist residential communities and communes” throughout the U.S. for The New York Times. (Be warned, browsing this gallery will probably make you regret not choosing this topic your as your senior thesis.)


Queer subjects have been a prominent aspect of Jimenez’s career and in 2009 she released The Welcome Home Book about the Michigan Womyn’s Festival. Her work has received honors from The Magenta Foundation, Review Santa Fe and The New York Press Photographer’s Association.


9. iO Tillett Wright


iO Tillett Wright

A self-taught photographer from New York, iO Tillett Wright shoots primarily in black and white film, giving viewers a raw, stripped down look at her subjects.

from the Self Evident Truths project (via

Carmen introduced us to iO’s ongoing Self Evident Truths project back in August. As of January 2012, iO had photographed over 850 people across the United States in an effort to document the varying faces that fall within the LGBTQ spectrum. iO discussed inspiration for the project in The Huffington Post, “I wanted to humanize the abstract idea of ‘gays’, and show the beautiful, strong, everyday people I knew, that this country is discriminating against.”

from the Self Evident Truths project (via

iO’s work has appeared in Vice, New York Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. She recently received funding to expand the Self Evident Truths project and help reach her goal of photographing 4,000 LGBTQ people in 25 cities across the U.S. While she’s noted that her photos should not be interpreted solely as a representation of her sexuality, iO is nevertheless someone we’re happy to have on our team.


10. Catherine Opie

An Ohio native based in Los Angeles, Catherine Opie is an award-winning documentary photographer whose acclaimed work in landscape and portrait photography has made her one of the foremost contemporary photographers in the United States.

In addition to her work appearing in the opening credits of The L Word, you may be familiar with Opie’s Girlfriends series, which featured the likes of of k.d. lang, Jenny Shimizu and Eileen Myles among other well known queer women.

k.d. lang by Catherine Opie

While she features LGBTQ subjects often, Opie’s work has documented a staggeringly wide range of subject matter, including high school football, architecture, surfing and BDSM. This diversity makes her photographs pleasantly unpredictable, with some images eliciting shock and others evoking quiet contemplation.

from "In and Around Home" 1999

Opie is currently a Professor of Fine Art/Photography at UCLA and continues to show in museums and exhibitions and internationally. In 2008 and 2009 the Guggenheim held an unprecedented mid-career retrospective of her work.

Who are your favorites?

Pages: 1 2See entire article on one page

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3181 articles for us.


  1. Excellent list.

    Cathy Opie’s Dyke Deck is the best thing ever. I’d invite people round to play snap with it but I find that game unnecessarily confrontational.

    • Ive recently come in contact with a first edition dyke deck if anyone is interested in purchasing :)

  2. On an 18 adventure so jam-packed with amazing and terrible and wonderful and mundane experiences, Catherine Opie in the guggenheim, the room with her series of surfers is one of my clearest memories of actually stopping to ‘smell the roses’. I had never heard of her before, I was actually there to see the building… so lucky!

  3. I love this! I’d also include Maro Hagopian:
    You also featured her once on your site:

    Leslie Van Stelten, of course:

    and Bex Wade:

    Thanks for this post. Truly amazing. That, and the only visual art I can actually look at and say something more than “I like it” or “I don’t like it” is photography, so it speaks to me.

  4. What about Tasya van Ree??????

    Though everyone on this list is wonderful :) lot’s of new artists for me to explore!

  5. I love Catherine Opie’s work. Her “Self-Potrait” photo was one of the most startling images I’ve ever seen.

  6. This is a great article…thank you for sharing. Lesbian photography (both of and by lesbians) is so important. If anyone out there wants more of the same, check out Sapphic Australia (, which is amazing…it’s a website comprised of lesbian imagery and photographs from around the world, including uploads from members. Worth a visit.

  7. Zanele Muholi is amazing…and she is such a enjoyably quirky person. You have to love the woman for that and the absolute power behind her art. Especially in an African context.

  8. There is absolutely nothing that differs between males who photograph the female nude and women who photograph the nude female. Except for the lack of complaining Xitching and moaning because some guy is photographing nude women, the genre is precisely the same — I am happy I never listened to these crazed feminists and wacko liberals.

  9. I’m trying to find the photographer whose work I bought in Ptown in 2005.
    Beautiful nudes.’In Your Keeping and ‘Never be Denied’
    I can’t read the signature but I remember it was an Italian sounding name.
    I can send pics if you think you can help.

Comments are closed.