Female War Photographers

The Fight For Pictures, Life And Death

Today there are more women than men reporting from areas of crisis.  They reach places where men have no access.  Are they heroines or are they fleeing their lives at home?  The film portrays women who have documented wars during the past 100 years with the camera.  Women, whose photos went around the world and still do.  For example:

Alice Schalek (1874 -1956) of Vienna was one of the first women war photographers.  While reporting for the liberal newspaper Neue Freie Presse, she photographed Austrian soldiers on the base and at the front in Tirol and along the Isonzo.  Photos that today seem to be stiff and set up.  Back then, that a woman was working as a reporter at the front shocked even the so progressive men like Karl Kraus.  Kraus hurled the ugliest misogynist sarcasm at her, which she countered by filing a legal complaint.

Gerda Taro (1910 - 1937), Jewish and a socialist from Stuttgart, was the life partner of the legendary Magnum photographer Robert Capa.  During the Spanish Civil war she photographed from the Republican side and lost her life at the front.  They were Taro's photos that have been, until recently, attributed to Robert Capa.  Thanks to the research of the Schorndorf cultural scientist Irme Schaber, we have a new regard for Gerda Taro, the first woman photographer to die in war.

Lee Miller (1907 - 1977) from Poughkeepsie, New York, modeled in Paris and was the muse for Man ray and Jean Cocteau.  Seven years after Taro's death she also fought with her camera against the Germans.  Her photos from the end of the war brought her worldwide renown.  Her pictures in Hitler's bath tub are legendary.  Lee Miller has also just been re-discovered.  Her photos are going to be exhibited this year in Vienna's Albertina and London's Imperial War Museum.

Camille Lepage (1988 - 2014) from Angers is the youngest and for now the most recent female wartime photographer to pay for her mission with her life.  She documented the civil war in Central Africa, reporting on atrocities that even the UN did not know about.  Her body was found in May 2014 by French soldiers.

Christine Spengler lives on Ibiza and in Paris.  She is the film's connecting thread.  Her photos from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran, Chad and Northern Ireland have been published around the world.  She is one of the few women photographers that the war has apparently left unscarred.  She talks about her life as a women in war zones from her distance today, about the advantages and disadvantages that women face.  She can appreciate and evaluate what motivated these women and tries to explain, why today there is a higher percentage of women reporting on wars than there is in day-to-day journalism.  In April 2016 in Paris the Maison Européenne de la Photo will host a new exhibition of her pictures.

Produced by

SWR in Cooperation with arte

A film by

Sigrid Faltin



Running time

52 min.


cinematographer: Gerd Bleichert, Andreas Bein, Bill Turnley

sound: Susan Schenk

commissioning editor: Eva Witte

producer: Jochen Dickbertel

Online here

„We produce documentary films - it's real life that interests us.“
Sigrid Faltin, white pepper films


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