This spring, the High Museum of Art will present “Underexposed: Women Photographers from the Collection” (April 17–Aug. 1), an exhibition featuring more than 100 photographs from the Museum’s collection, including many that have never before been exhibited. The artworks demonstrate the notable contributions of women throughout the history of photography, spanning from innovators of the medium to contemporary practitioners who investigate the intersections of photography, representation and identity.
Originally conceived in conjunction with the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, “Underexposed” pays homage to the work of women who have pioneered and championed the art of photography, from its earliest days through today. The exhibition is arranged roughly chronologically and showcases distinct arenas in which women photographers flourished and often led the way: as professionals working across multiple genres; as avid experimenters pushing photography into new directions; as teachers and patrons who supported the growth of the medium; and as creative, critically engaged artists exploring such issues as gender, identity and politics.
“With this exhibition’s focus on women photographers, ‘Underexposed’ highlights a trajectory of participation and influence extending from the earliest days of photography to a leading role in defining the medium today,” said Rand Suffolk, the High’s Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director.
Sarah Kennel, the High’s Donald and Marilyn Keough Family curator of photography, added, “Focusing on the last 100 years, this exhibition highlights how women have embraced photography as a powerful form of professional and creative expression. In bringing together pioneers of the medium with artists who reflect critically on photography’s capacity to shape and challenge concepts of gender and identity, we have an extraordinary opportunity to expand the history of photography and bring greater recognition to the many women who have contributed to and led the field.”
The exhibition opens with a selection of work by artists who transformed the practice of photography from the 1920s through the 1950s. Coinciding with the global rise of the feminist ideal of the “New Woman” in the late 1900s, practitioners including Ilse Bing, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham emerged as savvy leaders in the fields of documentary, fashion and fine art photography. The exhibition continues with a section focused on artists who have experimented with photographic technologies and alternative processes to redefine the expressive and material limits of the medium. Works made in the 1970s and 1980s by artists including Barbara Kasten, Olivia Parker and Sheila Pinkel join pieces by contemporary makers, such as Meghann Riepenhoff and Elizabeth Turk, who continue to expand the language of photography.
The second half of the exhibition explores how women photographers have used photography to reflect on and interrogate the personal, social and cultural dimensions of gender and identity. Works by Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, Susan Meiselas, Anne Noggle and Clarissa Sligh reveal different ways women have looked at and photographed other women. Similarly, works by Sheila Pree Bright, Sandy Skoglund and Susan Worsham deconstruct ideas around domesticity and feminine ideals. The exhibition closes with a selection of portraits and self-portraits by Judy Dater, Zaneli Muholi, Cindy Sherman, Mickalene Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems, among others, that explore the intersections of photography, representation and identity.
“Underexposed: Women Photographers from the Collection” will be presented on the lower level of the High’s Wieland Pavilion. This exhibition is curated by Sarah Kennel with Maria Kelly, curatorial assistant for photography.