Women’s Photography as a Tool of Resistance, Julia Curl, δημοσίευση Hyperallergic [6/10/2022]Marilena Pateraki
What is a feminist picture? A growing chorus of museums, galleries, and publications have been asking this question for the last couple years and with Our Selves: Photographs by Women Artists from Helen Kornblum, curator Roxana Marcoci at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is the latest to answer the call. The resulting one-room exhibition — consisting of works donated by the photography collector and women’s health activist Helen Kornblum — spans 100 years with remarkable cohesion. “Feminist photography” is an incredibly broad characterization, and producing an exhibition on that theme is akin to creating an anthology of women writers that includes everything from abstract modernist fiction (as in Claude Cahun’s photo collages) to war correspondence (Susan Meiselas’s work in Nicaragua). And yet, for the most part it all hangs together: the mask-wearing Sandinista woman Meiselas photographed in the 1978 insurrection has more in common with Cahun’s fragmented self-performance than it might seem on the surface.
Importantly, the exhibition is not a “greatest hits” of female photography: you will find no Anna Atkins, Cindy Sherman, or Diane Arbus here. Rather, it fills in significant gaps, acknowledging feminism’s history of exclusion based on race, sexuality, and class. Marcoci advocates for an intersectional approach in the exhibition catalogue, pointing out that “Women artists, including photographers, were operating within these intersectional systems long before they were explicated by theorists.” The book elaborates on certain themes introduced in the exhibition (for example, “Masks and Mirrors,” “Documentary Portraits,” “Indigeneity and Colonial Encounters”), but the show’s overarching thesis seems to be “photography as a tool of resistance.” This resistance plays out on three primary battlefields in the exhibition: within the self, within one’s home and community, and within society.
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