from Freedom Day Series
1984 (hand-colored 1992), © Cathy Cade
Statement · Biography · Bibliography
My photographic work is intimately connected to my work for social justice. It was in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's that I first encountered documentary photographers. However, with the exception of Maria Varella who was new to the field at that time, all the photographers I saw in seven years were male. This convinced me that I couldn't make good pictures because I was a woman and wouldn't be able to learn to use the equipment. In the 1970's, when I was a member of the Women's Liberation Movement in San Francisco, Bill Light (one of the Southern Documentary Project photographers) became my first teacher. Documentary photography became a way I could contribute to the Women's Movement.
The Women's Liberation Movement gave me an ideology: women are oppressed by sexism and in order to end this, it is important that women become visible. The Movement gave me subject matter: political demonstrations and women doing non-traditional work. Later, I photographed women at traditional work, both unionized and non-union.
The early 1970s was also the beginning of feminist publishing, in newspapers, magazines and books. My photos were exhibited and published the first year I took pictures; I did not experience the severe isolation and ego strain of most artists.
I came out as a lesbian the same spring I started photographing. Soon I was photographing friends and events within my lesbian community, and I began publishing within lesbian venues. Photographing lesbians, in all our diversity, has been my main focus.
In the early 1990s, after 20 years of doing traditional black and white documentary photography, I began hand coloring images and working in collage. In taking these "liberties," I added a greater element of my own experience, my own interpretation. It has been great fun.
For the last 25 years, I have photographed lesbian moms who are friends, friends-of-friends, or women I've met through lesbian mother support groups. Most, though not all of the lesbian mothers I've photographed, live in Oakland and Berkeley (California), where I live. For the last 10 years, I have been collecting interviews to accompany these images for a book, tentatively titled, Lesbian Mothering: An Everyday Affair.
I recently remembered that, as a child, I had wanted to be a doctor. Knowing of only one woman doctor, I never thought I could be one and never told anyone of my aspirations. It now gives me deep satisfaction and motivating energy to think of my photographs as going out into the world as healers.