From the 1920s to the 1950s, women photographers changed history, by capturing it. Here, Linda Falcone speaks with Andrea Nelson, curator of the exhibition at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
On November 16, 2021, ‘Restoration Conversations’ featured exhibition curator Andrea Nelson, with ‘sights’ and insight from ‘The New Woman Behind the Camera’, on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC until January 30, 2022, following its 3-month stint at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibition showcases the talent of more than 120 photographers from 20 countries – including Italy, India, Japan, USA, France and Mexico – and exemplifies a period of newfound professional independence for women in a shifting century. As social and political change triggered the rise and fall of regimes around the world, the ‘new woman’ experienced growing freedom, and carved her place in the field of photojournalism. Labor protests and peace marches, air pilots and freed prisoners of war, these photographs are signs of their times. Portraiture, still-life and self-representation also gained a new edge, as professionals like Tina Modotti, Wanda Wulz, Tsuneko Sasamoto, Homai Vyarawalla and Alma Lavenson explored a principle espoused by US photographer Dorothea Lange: ‘To be good, photographs have to be full of the world.’