Heyman was born in Danbury, Connecticut, to real estate developer Lazarus Heyman and Annette Heyman. Abigail was the second of two children. Abigail was the younger sister to her brother, Samuel J. Heyman who was born March 1, 1939. Heyman married for the first time at the age of 23, after graduating from college. She then married her second husband in 1978, with whom she had a son named Lazar Bloch. Heyman died on May 28 at the age of 70 due to heart failure. She is survived by her mother, Annette Heyman, of Palm Beach, Florida, and her son, Lazar Bloch, of Brooklyn, New York.
Education and published works
She attended Sarah Lawrence College with intentions of becoming a writer, and graduated in 1964. She began the study of photography once she was out of college and attended some photography workshops. Heyman continued to gain knowledge about photography through freelance shooting. Her first photography exhibit was in New York 1972 and in 1974 she published the book that won her acclaim, Growing Up Female: A Personal Photo-Journal. For the book, she photographed women in their everyday, limited roles. There are young girls playing with dolls, housewives caring for screaming infants, strippers, and young women waiting to be asked to dance. She called the work “one feminist’s point of view” of the narrow range of choices women had in life. In the most controversial and striking images, she photographed herself having an abortion. The book sold over 35,000 copies, which is rare for photograph collections. She soon after published another book, this time focusing on working women: Butcher, Baker, Cabinetmaker (1978). Later on, in 1987, Heyman published another book titled, Dreams and Schemes: Love and Marriage in Modern Times. This book contained black and white photographs with whole extended families of the bride and groom’s children from former marriages.
The wedding project
Along with her other responsibilities related to her company, Heyman took the time to focus on wedding photography as a personal project. This project developed from her work documenting family life and her reflections in deciding to marry a second time. In attending over 200 weddings by the age of 44, Heyman discovered that every wedding has its own story. She sought to find this story, along with the reasoning as to why people get married. Heyman fully immersed herself into her photography sessions at weddings by not only acting like a guest with a camera, but by engaging with the couples through questions. She also photographed weddings because there was something in her own weddings that remained unresolved. Going to other people's weddings with a camera has put her in touch with her personal drama, too.
Heyman was the first woman to be invited, by Charles Harbutt, into the famous photographer’s collective Magnum Photos, which had been founded in 1947. Ms. Heyman was also a photojournalist, her work appearing in Time, Life, Ms., Harpers and The New York Times Magazine. In the mid-1980s she was director of the documentary and photojournalism department at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan. In 1981, Heyman, along with Harbutt, Mark Godfrey, Mary Ellen Mark, and Joan Liftin, co-founded Archive Pictures Inc., an international documentary photographers' cooperative agency in New York City. During her busy career in the 1980s, Heyman filed a lawsuit on her brother, Samuel, in 1982. She filed for breach of trust as a fiduciary in certain family trusts. However, her brother denied these charges and the claim was dismissed. In the 1990s, Heyman joined the International Center of Photography in Manhattan as director of the documentary and photojournalism department. Though her work is most identified with the Feminist Movement, the specificity and deeply psychological nature of what she captured transcended the movement itself. As Ms. Liftin told the New York Times this June, “As a feminist, she was not so much about marching. She took pictures that showed what the marching was about.”
- Growing Up Female: A Personal Photo-Journal (1974)
- Butcher, Baker, Cabinetmaker (1978)
- Dreams & Schemes: Love and Marriage in Modern Times (1987)
- Editor, with Ethan Hoffman and Alice Rose George, Flesh & Blood: Photographers' Images of Their Own Families (1992)
- Paul Vitello, "Abigail Heyman, Feminist Photojournalist, Dies at 70" (obituary), New York Times, June 9, 2013.
- Foerstner, Abigail (26 June 1987). "PHOTOGRAPHER CAPTURES MORE THAN THE POMP AT WEDDINGS: [SPORTS FINAL, C Edition]". ProQuest. Chicago Tribune.
- Heyman, Abigail (21 June 1987). "DREAMS AND SCHEMES A SPECTATOR'S VIEW OF THOSE WHO SAY 'I DO': [FINAL EDITION, C]". ProQuest. Chicago Tribune.
- Vitello, Paul (2013-06-08). "Abigail Heyman, Feminist Photojournalist, Dies at 70". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-21.
- Hicks, Jonathan P. (18 Dec 1985). "HEYMAN OF GAF: TOUGH TENACIOUS". ProQuest. New York Times.