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Melanie Escombe’s Top 5 Female Photographers

Though I pride myself on my ability to come up with fresh “Best Of __” and “Top __” lists to no end, I’m glad that a friend of mine recently turned me onto music photographer Melanie Escombe. Though you’d think of something like music photography or rock and roll photography as a fairly narrow niche in the world of art, it turns out that there’s a great deal of diversity and stories behind your favorite artist’s iconic performance photos. And ultimately, if you think about it, these photographers are responsible for most of the iconic images we have today. With that in mind, we turn to Melanie, a veritable expert in the world of photography and rock journalism, to learn more about the women photographers who are making waves: “When it came to putting this list together I kept thinking, apart from the one obvious choice, how many people would know the names of these women? Until recently the music industry in every aspect has been a bit of a boys club and that pisses me off royally. So here's to all the badass rock chicks out there! Here are five female photographer's whose names we should never forget…” Be sure to check out Melanie's photography here!

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5. Annie Liebowitz

“Annie is undoubtedly the world’s most recognized female photographer, but her genius still needs a mention. She has photographed some of the most iconic musicians of all time including Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen, toured as the official photographer of the Rolling Stones and taken some of the greatest portraits of the world’s most influential people for Vanity Fair.”

[Editor’s note: Wow.]

“Annie has the ability to draw out the most raw, vulnerable and lovable aspects of her subjects, usually tinted with her wry sense of humor. From photographing the King of Pop to the Queen of England, there is no one who compares to Annie.”

4. Jenny Lens

Jenny Lens / (c) Jenny Lens

“Jenny was one of the most prolific photographers of the punk scene in LA back in the 70s. She shot the most iconic punk bands including Patti Smith, The Ramones and The Clash in LA’s most infamous venues on the Sunset Strip. Jenny’s shots might not be the prettiest examples of photography, but they capture the spirit of punk perfectly and I love the energy bursting from them. Jenny’s work makes me want to crank up the music and go wild.”

Frankly it’s amazing that anyone survived a Clash mosh pit, let alone someone holding a giant ‘70’s camera as big as a baby elephant. Thank goodness for the bravery of people like Jenny, or else we wouldn’t have amazing photos like the one above.

3. Pennie Smith

“I am completely envious of Pennie’s career. She has shot one of rock’s all time greatest bands Led Zeppelin, as well as the Rolling Stones, The Who, and The Clash. If you’re a punk fan, you’d definitely know Pennie’s work, even if you didn't know her name. Pennie was responsible for The Clash’s "London Calling" album cover, one of my favorite covers of all time. Her black and white style is the reason I shoot the way I do.”

Black and white is just pure class. And let’s be real -- there’s probably no better Instagram filter, am I right?

2. Katja Livingston – Blue Moon Photography

“Although Katja is more of a Jazz and Blues buff, she has been one of my greatest inspirations, and the person I wanted to emulate the most when I first started out. Her work is simply magical. No matter the subject, I am instantly drawn into her shots. Katja can make you feel every note played without ever hearing the music. Whenever I need a reason to smile I just look at this photo and the world seems right again.”


1. Astrid Kirchherr

“Astrid’s beginning is much like mine - she decided to take a risk one day and ask one of her favorite bands playing at her local club if they’d like her to come photograph them. Although we both got the yes we wanted, sadly the band I asked hasn’t quite risen to the same status as the one Astrid did: The Beatles. Astrid’s photographs captured some of the most intimate moments of the band in their early years, and her collection of work is considered to be some of the most important photographic works of 20th century pop culture. I love that as you look through her shots you can watch the Beatles go from baby-faced teens to rock-legends. Astrid’s work has a real warmth to it, the tones in her shots are just beautiful, and I swear you can feel the love she had for the Beatles in each one.”

I’d actually heard of Astrid Kirchherr before, but hadn’t realized she’d been photographing the Beatles since they were rocking that steamy little Hamburg club where they initially honed their skills.

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