In the centuries before the camera was invented, artists were mostly men. Most of them came from upper class families, and their patrons were men from even higher classes. The subject matter of their paintings were Greek and Roman myths, biblical narratives and historical events.
But when the camera was invented, the power of art was put into women’s hands. The distinction between what was and wasn’t appropriate subject matter for art, and who could or couldn’t be an artist, began to fall away.
For this and many other reasons, it took close to a century for critics to acknowledge photography as a legitimate art form.
As a student of art history, I was introduced to the work of a woman who some historians argue was the very first photographer: Anna Atkins. What is certain is that Atkins pioneered the cyanotype printing process. She was a botanist (her most famous work is her documentation of algae and moss) and believed that the process allowed for a more accurate documentation of the details of plants. Atkins defied all sorts of social norms with her work: She was a scientist and an artist, two professions usually closed to women.
What the Women of the ELCA banner project seeks to do is to reclaim Atkins’s process and use it to create a beautiful–bright blue!–witness to the work of women in our churches. I invite you to send to me a photograph that you think captures the theme of the 2011 Triennial Gathering: Renew, Respond, Rejoice!
The goal is to create banners that will be a testament to the work of women in our churches. Photographs could include shots from a recent Habitat for Humanity build or your church’s most recent class of confirmands! The submitted photographs will be printed on fabric using the cyanotype process and sewn together into banners that will be used during the gathering.
I will print each photograph twice–one for the banner and the other as a gift for the church that submitted it. There will be a space at the triennial gathering for all of us to come together to embroider and embellish the prints, but you do not have to attend the gathering to participate by sending a photograph. My hope is that this project will be an opportunity for us to create together a witness to the work of our churches!
So get your camera out, or send a photo today! Click here for all the details.