30 June 2008

Women in Photography (NYC)

"There are more women working in the contemporary photo world then ever before. Their methods, choice of subject matter, visual language, and processes run the gamut of artistic possibility. What unites them is their passion and the effort they devote to creating extraordinary bodies of work. Women in Photography is a showcase for this work. It is also a resource for photographers, editors, curators, gallery owners, and viewers alike to discover and enjoy the work of female artists. By mixing the work of emerging photographers with artists that have achieved high levels of success within fine art and commercial worlds, the project is designed to open a visual dialogue and create a venue to share work, support, and ideas."
I posted not too long ago about the incipient online showcase Women in Photography being coordinated by Amy Elkins and Cara Phillips. The passage above is their mission statement. While the site started with the unbearable narcissism of Elinor Carucci about which I have commented before [1] [2], they now (through tomorrow!) are featuring incredibly intimate, miniature landscapes by Sally Gall. So the trajectory seems positive to me and, in any case, this is an inspired undertaking. Submission guidelines and contact information appear on the WiP web page, linked above.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you characterize this gender-exclusive photo exhibit as an "inspired undertaking." I know you know that this is bullshit of the highest order.

30 June, 2008 21:17  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Anon: What's got your knickers in a knot? You seem to imply that the "no boys allowed" format is troubling. I don't see why. Why not enlighten everyone?

30 June, 2008 21:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find the concept of a gender exclusive exhibit to be intellectually bankrupt. It is not the idea of excluding men that gets my panties in a bunch, though, rather, that the people who put this show together actually think sharing a common set of genitals is sufficient in putting together, what is supposed to be, a cohesive group of artists. The vacancy of this idea, fortunately, reveals itself in their description of the show:

"There are more women working in the contemporary photo world then ever before. Their methods, choice of subject matter, visual language, and processes run the gamut of artistic possibility. What unites them is their passion and the effort they devote to creating extraordinary bodies of work."

In essence, they are saying that the show has nothing to do with a group of photographers who share thematic, aesthetic, or conceptual concerns; nor do they even begin to justify the purpose of the exhibit's gender limitation. Instead, they fall back on some silly, abstract, ineffable notion of "passion and effort." As if these are somehow traits not shared by most artists, male or female, or in between, across the board.

Again, this is a cheap, bankrupt idea with no clear motive, or purpose. It adds nothing of value to culture.

30 June, 2008 22:47  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Anon,

First, gender is not about genitals but about the social practices and expectations and so forth that spring up around people of different sexes. Many (but not all) of those practices are exclusionary and dismissive.

So here you have two young women who want to provide an exhibition space for women who do have something in common - namely the experience of gender defined expectations and practices in the world generally and the photo-world specifically. (See how many women are or have been members at, say Magnum or VI or any other exclusive photo club.) And this probably does color what they photograph and how in subtle ways. (That would require some defense that I could only give on the basis of more extended 'study' of how the photographers they select actually work.)

I agree with you that the rationale laid out in the mission statement is a bit woolly. I suspect, though, that Amy and Cara wanted to be inclusive and to not suggest any 'party line' for contributors. In my view the fundamental undertaking is, indeed, inspired. The space they provide is open to [i] all sorts of work [ii] by women. I look forward to seeing what they show - even though, as I made clear, I think their initial choice was less than impressive. Others will disagree. And [iii] WiP aims to foster just the sort of discussion that might spring up as a result of such disagreement.

PS: You deny that the gender exclusive focus is not what rankles. I actually don't believe you since you mention it in each of you comments. That, though, is just my suspicion.

01 July, 2008 08:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What rankles me is not the concept, per say, but its vaccuousness. Maybe, if their statement of purpose laid a convincing argument for why their gender exclusive show contributes to greater culture, I'd welcome it. However, as far as I see, it's an empty shell.

You argue that this show is some how an affront to sexist discrimination within the photo industry. I don't buy it. They clearly state in their description that the show mixes "the work of emerging photographers with artists that have achieved high levels of success." It seems to me ludicrous to claim that there is industry discrimination against female artists, only to combat it with a show that includes female "artists that have achieved high levels of success."

Like I said, this show is pointless, aimless, and without merit.

01 July, 2008 15:56  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Anon,

You conclude: "this show is pointless, aimless, and without merit." But actually, it is not without point or aim. I t is just that you don't like the point - which is to promote woman photographers and their work. And I think showing Susan Gall's work has a mot of merit. I had never heard of her. Had you? I thin the work is quite good.

Prior to that you demanded "a convincing argument for why their gender exclusive show contributes to greater culture." I don't think their statement lays out such an argument. But I suggested one. And I also suggested why the coordinators might have opted for generality. They were not producing a manifesto. They are solicting submissions.

Moreover, the fact we can point to accomplished women in some field hardly is definitive evidence that the filed is not structured in gendered ways - or that the criteria for assessing "good" work are not so structured. Perhaps accomplished woman photographers have succeeded despite obstacles their male counterparts do not confront? (I think even casual observation suggests that photo-world and its institutions is dominated by men. Is that because men are systematically more talented or harder working?) Insofar as this enterprise helps to offset such obstacles it is a great idea. I don't think you need any more argument that that. Certainly neither I nor the WiP coordinators owe you one.

01 July, 2008 17:02  

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