Barbara Hammer Biography


Barbara Hammer was born on May 15, 1939 in Hollywood, California. She is a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in Psychology. Hammer also holds two Master of Arts degrees from San Francisco State University: one English Literature and one in Film. She also took postgraduate classes in the field of digital media.

Hammer started creating experimental films in her early thirties. She was married and teaching at a community college in Santa Rosa. Also in her early thirties she came out as a lesbian after talking with another student in a Women's Lib group.

Barbara Hammer is known for creating groundbreaking experimental films dealing with women's issues on gender roles, lesbian relationships and coping with ageing and family. Hammer is responsible for some of the first lesbian-made films in history, including such landmarks experimental shots as Dyketactics (1974) and Women I Love (1976) (Olsion, p. 103).

In the past thirty years, Hammer has come a long way in making films. In the 70s she worked with 16-millimeter films. During the 80s she worked with experimental video art. In the 90s she incorporated the World Wide Web in her autobiography. Now in the year 2000, she has made her first digital video feature documentary Devotion. This documentary deals with the historical investigation of a Japanese documentary filmmaking collective.

Hammer's films were not understood but she has progressed in her filmmaking winning awards and grants. She is the recipient of the Frameline 2000 award and the Creative Capital Grant.

Hammer is also credited with the creation of a website called "Lesbians." This website deals with numerous issues related to Lesbianism.

--Helene Dacey, 2000


There are hundreds of different independent filmmakers in the world but there is no other like Barbara Hammer. She is known as being the most creative lesbian filmmaker in the world and is considered a pioneer of lesbian-feminist experimental cinema.

Barbara Hammer was born on May 15, 1939 in Hollywood California. Hammer has the same dysfunctional family story to tell as many of us. She describes her father as a man who has greasy mechanics hair that turns the pillow black and calls for a gun to kill himself when his migraine headaches become too intense. As for her mother, Hammer provides proof in a striking reminiscence of rejecting her dying motherıs plea that she climb in bed with her: ³Thatıs incest! -I canıt!² she describes her mother as being seductive. (Morris, 1996)

Hammer earned a masterıs in film at San Francisco University and took courses in multimedia digital studies at he American Film Institute. She is also a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles with a degree in psychology. (Dacey, 2000) Hammer started out in the late sixties receiving attention only for telling stories about women that werenıt being told. She told stories about menstruation, desire, sex and lesbianism. Now, Hammer is a very respected film artist that is sought after to screen her work and lecture and write on related topics. She has taught at many institutions including The School of Art Institute and California College of Arts Institute. It was in her thirties that Hammer began creating experimental films and has since made over eighty films and videos for which she received the prestigious Frameline Award for making a significant contribution to lesbian and gay cinema. Some of her films are The Female Closet, Pools, Optical Nerve, A Gay Day, and Dream Age. This is not even close to naming all her films.

Hammer was a 2001-2002 Radcliffe Institute fellow. Here Hammer worked on her latest project, a 16mm feature documentary film called Resisting Paradise. Hammerıs film challenges viewers to confront the question: How can art exist during a time of political crisis? In 2004, Hammer will be exhibiting and screening Resisting Paradise and also Our Grief is Not a Cry for War with the Evolutionary Girls Club. In a recent interview done by Susan Ryan-Vollmar, Hammer was asked if she ever saw herself making a more traditional film? Hammer replied that she has written a dramatic feature and it is traditional in terms of form. She calls it Nothing Could be Worse Than Two Dykes in Menopause. She says the script is ready and she has even hired one of the actors. (Vollmar, 1997)

--Jaime Rodrigue, 2003

Barbara Hammer