Joan E. Biren began taking photographs at a time when it was almost impossible to find authentic images of lesbians, and aspired to help them in the movement.

JEB (Joan E. Biren) has been describing herself as a radical lesbian feminist for years. A founding member of a collective of like-minded members called The Furies, she turned her passion for research and her “absolute inability to find lesbian images” into a search for greater lesbian visibility. The desire to see not only herself but other lesbians, and to find historical connections to gay women, led her to produce photo books, direct documentaries, and tour the country with a now-legendary slide show between 1979 and 1985 called “Lesbian Images in Photography: 1850-the present,” also known as the “Dyke Show.” JEB’s first book, Eye to Eye: Portraits of Lesbians, self-published in 1979, is now being re-released by Anthology Editions. Imagine how hard it was to publish a book of photographs of lesbians who were openly out of the closet more than four decades ago!

JEB takes photos of lesbians in their homes, with their partners and raising their babies. JEB is always there for with her camera while they protest, sleep, sing and party. The photobook, originally called “Lesbian Images in Photography: 1850-the present,” but known as “the Dyke Show,” brings an alternative perspective to the history of photography.

Accessibility has always been very important to JEB. JEB, who said she never took his photos for gallery walls, said: “Too reminiscent of the closet.  And you can’t build a movement from inside a closet.” 

Lesbian and feminist galleries didn’t have the money to pay for her photos, but JEB wanted them in women’s hands, in their homes and in their bookstores. So she gave them to be used in newspapers and calendars, posters and postcards. “Visibility has always been more important to me than economic stability,” says JEB, although this vision harms her economically.