Joyce Tenneson

Joyce Tenneson


Joyce Tenneson is considered among the ten most influential women photographers in the history of photography. Her luminous and unique...

Joyce Tenneson


Joyce Tenneson is considered among the ten most influential women photographers in the history of photography. Her luminous and unique 20×24 inch Polaroid, Ilfochrome and vintage gelatin silver photographs emanate a poignant mystical sensibility. Her signature-style images aim to show the inner person hovering behind the facade:

“I want to allow others to reveal and celebrate aspects of themselves that are usually hidden. My camera is a witness. It holds a light up for my subjects to help them feel their own essence, and gives them the courage to collaborate in recording these revelations,” says Tenneson.

In 1967, Joyce Tenneson, then a young, curly-haired student attending a Harvard graduate course on French literature, agreed to pose for a test of Polaroid’s new color film. Offered a free camera and unlimited supply of film as a perk of her part-time modeling work, Tenneson began taking her own photographs – bold and revealing self-portraits that rejected the stereotypes of women portrayed in the popular media. “I was like a racehorse that had been let out of the gate,” Tenneson wrote. “I started running and shooting, and I haven’t stopped for forty years now.”

Since then, her work has become more metaphorical, reflecting her inner journey. Tenneson’s fight throughout the 1970s and 1980s to establish herself as a female photographer in an otherwise male-dominated industry is reflected in photographs of women with wings, women holding spheres of light, and women boldly celebrating their bodies before her lens. The first fifteen years of this journey was spent as an art school instructor in Washington D.C., during which time she published two books and had many international exhibitions. In the mid-1980s, Tenneson moved from Washington D.C. to New York and launched a highly renowned career.

Tenneson’s photography has been shown in over 200 exhibitions worldwide, and is included in numerous private and museum collections. She is the recipient of many awards, including the International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award for best applied photography. In addition, she has been named “Photographer of the Year” by the international organization, Women in Photography. Her photographs have appeared on countess magazine covers, including Time, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Premiere, Esquire and The New York Times Magazine. She is the author of thirteen books, her latest, entitled “Joyce Tenneson: A Life in Photography,” was published in 2008. Joyce lives and works in New York City.

“People are the center of my work and I’ll always be interested in their inner life. It’s what’s below the surface that continues to fascinate me.” – Joyce Tenneson.


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