Autofocus! Close-Up On the Most Iconic Lesbionic Photos Ever

Herb Ritts – Vanity Fair cover (KD Lang)

Watch what you are doing with that razor girl!

Watch what you are doing with that razor girl!

Herb Ritts is one of the most influential fashion photographers of all time.  He’s shot countless covers for Vogue and Vanity Fair and his books and exhibitions have been widely published and praised.  In 1993 Ritts photographed model Cindy Crawford with lesbian folk singer, K.D. Lang, for Vanity Fair.  In the 1990’s Lang was one of the most well-known (read: only) out women in music.  This cover fell in line with Lang’s gender-bending persona and even 15 years later, this cover is daring in its departure from mainstream gender roles. Though the titillating cover inspired a lot of right-wing backlash, it was the third biggest-selling issue in Vanity Fair‘s history and is now considered “an internationally recognized symbol of the phenomenon of lesbian chic.”dotted-divider2

Catherine Opie – Dyke

Dyke was part of a survey exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York.

Dyke was part of a survey exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York.

Its hard to choose an image of Catherine Opie’s that doesn’t make an important statement about gender and sexuality.  She once described her style as a “kind of twisted social documentary” to the Los Angeles Times. At first glance, these photos wouldn’t be out of place at a formal portrait studio — there’s no crazy shadow or edgy lighting like one might expect from an artist specializing in queer culture — and often S&M concepts as well.

Her photos are lit to perfection with beautiful and rich color/tonality with a hint of that old-fashioned traditional feel. I love that juxaposition.  A whiz at controversial themes, Opie also captures amazingly honest self-portraits that let her audience in on her own feelings and questions on gender and sexuality.

You might also recognize her work from the opening credits of The L Word:



Cass Bird : JD’s Lesbian Utopia

Your typical Cass Bird subjects aren't so typical

Your typical Cass Bird subjects aren't so typical

Cass Bird got together with Le Tigre’s JD Samson to make the JD’s Lesbian Utopia calendar.  The pair visited lesbian RV camps all over the country and photographed gender bending subjects and concepts. (Apprently there are a lot of RV Camps for Lezzies by the way.. I did not know this) Cass has said that JD became a symbol of freedom and self-definition while shooting this project. Bird is an incredibly successful photographer whose snapshot-style photos of family systems, friends and celebrities always exude a personal feel.


Tee Corinne – Sinister Wisdom

Tee produced this image on a solarized negative

Tee produced this image on a solarized negative

Tee is a famous lesbian photographer who photographed her own life.  This emotional essay describes why she photographed her partnerships and how her late partner’s battle with cancer — and eventually her own — affected her work. The first chapter of this essay is “Make Relationships Visisble.” This is what Tee was all about.  She understood that visibility alone is a statement in and of itself.dotted-divider2

Here are some, not all, of the lesbian photogs you should know! And yes, there are a LOT more out there, especially working today.  Some of these ladies need some help on their websites.
JEB (Joan E. Biren)
Cathy Cade
Annie Leibovitz (Does the great Annie Leiblovitz not have an actual website? Hmm)
Judy Francesconi
Deborah Bright (Does this creepy thing where she photoshops herself into old movie stills. yikes.)
A fun directory of some more obscure artists

There are so many more so here are some books for all you nerds out there who like to research this stuff!

Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs

Lesbian Art in America: A Contemporary History

Nothing But The Girl: The Blatant Lesbian Image

That’s all for now.  Stay tuned for some exciting interviews and shoots with some important ladies in the coming weeks!


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Robin specializes in entertainment, lifestyle and portrait photography. She's also a Creative Producer, Director of Photography and co-owner of Scheme Machine Studios LLC, her production company based in Los Angeles. Robin loves shooting for TV and film and has worked with media companies like Legendary Pictures and Viacom. She shot and directed the Pride campaign for Google called #ThisIsFamily. Robin has had the pleasure of working on national campaigns for companies like Dove and Levis, and had the unique opportunity to shoot for non-profits and initiatives such as The Black List, Save the Children, Move to End Violence, Have a Hart Day, and The Clinton Global Initiative. She is most proud of the work she has done with organizations such as The Ad Council and RAINN working on national impact campaigns. Her celebrity roster includes Cyndi Lauper, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, The B-52s, Keri Hilson, JB Smoove, Tegan and Sara, Margaret Cho, The B-52’s, Andreja Pejic, and many more. She was there for Autostraddle’s birth and proudly served as A-Camp co-director for many years.

Robin has written 1 article for us.


  1. Amazing.

    I actually went to the Catherine Opie exhibition at the Guggenheim (last fall) before I knew anything about her (I’m still a kid, don’t judge).
    Some of the images stayed on my mind for a long time. She doesn’t exploit her objects, as some photographers do, and that alone creates something beautiful.

  2. This piece is a perfect example of why this is such a wonderful website. Intelligent women talking about things they’re passionate about. Whether its Robin on photography or Riese on books or Carly on nerd stuff etcetera etcetera. It makes me want to take a picture of myself reading an e-book on an iphone and then take those pictures and make some sort of collage that Laneia would enjoy. Keep up the great work!

    • Agreed. Any time you get people talking intelligently about something that gets them excited, that excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. It makes you feel something.

      This post is a great example of that. As is the entire website. I think it’s what the team is going for, and they’re doing it really well.

    • Really well, thanks! I should have posted some of those come to think of it. I made a huge grid, prints were 36×36, for our big senior art show which we did in an empty space in downtown Ithaca, NY. So fun.

      • love this post and how you can tell your story as it relates to the bigger community of women before and behind cameras. thank you!
        postscript: would love to see your photos from that project!

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