National Gallery of Art, Washington

The New Woman Behind the Camera

with curator Andrea Nelson

New New ScreensaverCalliope.jpg

‘The New Woman Behind the Camera’

In the 1930s, after a photo shoot in New York’s ‘skid-row’ Bowery District, photographer Berenice Abbott was confronted with the comment, ‘Nice girls don’t go down on the Bowery’. Her answer? ‘Well, I’m not a nice girl. I’m a photographer. I go anywhere.’

 

The opportunity to ‘go anywhere’ with a camera in tow enabled early twentieth-century women to access new freedoms. ‘What makes the ‘new woman’?’ was the guiding question our ‘Restoration Conversation’ organised in response to the ‘New Woman Behind the Camera’ exhibition, currently on show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

 

The event, co-organised by Calliope Arts and The Florentine, saw exhibition curator Andrea Nelson in conversation with host Linda Falcone and revealed a time of intense change as a group of 120-plus women created photographs of calm and drama. From the 1920s to the 1950s, they carved their professional careers, whether on the front-line in wartime or inside the fashion-studio; from surrealist self-portraits to the depiction of collective events that changed history.

 

“The camera was a powerful tool for women to have opportunities that they didn’t have before: to earn their own livelihood and to express themselves personally,” says Nelson. “It also shows how women were depicting themselves and pushing the boundaries of certain genres in photography.”

Tsuneko Sasamoto, Tokyo
Tsuneko Sasamoto, Tokyo

Photographer unknown Tsuneko Sasamoto, Tokyo Professional Photographers Society Photo exhibited at the 'New Women Behind the Camera' exhibition From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021

press to zoom
Ilse Bing,  Self-Portrait with Leica
Ilse Bing, Self-Portrait with Leica

Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg Collection 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021

press to zoom
Mariette Pachhofer, later Mariette Lydis
Mariette Pachhofer, later Mariette Lydis

Madame d'Ora National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund and the R.K. Mellon Family Foundation From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021

press to zoom
Workers Parade
Workers Parade

Tina Modotti Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser collection From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021

press to zoom
Japanese-American owned grocery store, Oakland, California
Japanese-American owned grocery store, Oakland, California

Dorothea Lange, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021

press to zoom
São Januário Trolley
São Januário Trolley

Genevieve Naylor Early 1940s From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021 This photograph is part of the gallery's permanent collection (Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund)

press to zoom
Teacup Ballet
Teacup Ballet

Olive Cotton, 1935 The Sir Elton John Photography Collection From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021

press to zoom
Adam Trujillo and his Son Pat, Taos, Summer
Adam Trujillo and his Son Pat, Taos, Summer

Marjorie Content, 1933 From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021 This photograph is part of the gallery's permanent collection.

press to zoom
Mae Fuller Keller
Mae Fuller Keller

Florestine Perrault Collins, early 1920s Dr. Arthé A. Anthony collection From 'The New Woman Behind the Camera' National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 2021

press to zoom