The Metropolitan Museum of Art has opened an exciting new exhibition, The New Woman Behind the Camera, to highlight the emerging identity of women from the 1920s to the 1950s. This era marked a period of change that challenged conventional gender roles and saw an increase in the public presence of women in society. This exhibition endeavors to capture this change and the spirit of the time through an extensive catalog of media made up of 185 photographs, photo books, and illustrated magazines by 120 photographers from over 20 countries. Featuring women on either side of the camera, the exhibit proves that the idea of the “new woman” was a global phenomenon, from the nouvelle femme and neue Frau to the modan gāru and xin nüxing.
The idea of the “new woman” came about in the post-WWI era, when women became more visible than ever before, being featured in film, advertising, and catalogs. Fashion itself began to take hold of consumer spending, and as women became the targets of advertising, their purchasing power grew, demanding more representation and in turn placing them further into a communally held visual consciousness. For the first time on a larger scale, women were being looked towards to dictate what women wanted, and photography became the grounds for self-determination with a significant amount of agency.
The exhibition endeavors to collect and enrich the understanding of the work of a number of pioneering women photographers, including Isla Bing, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Florestine Perrault Collins, Niu Weiyu, Tsuneko Sasamoto, Gerda Taro, and Homai Vyarawalla, among many others. In doing so, it covers a variety of genres and forms, from avant-garde experimentation and commercial studio practice to social documentary, photojournalism, ethnography, and sports, dance, and fashion photography. Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met has commented on the exhibition, saying “The women featured are responsible for shifting the direction of modern photography, and it is exhilarating to witness the accomplishments of these extraordinary practitioners.”
The exhibition opened on July 2nd and runs until October 3rd, 2021. You can plan your visit to the Met here.