Can you tell when you look at a photograph whether it was taken by a man or a woman? What does it mean to be a woman? Is it emotional, personal, political, sexual? Are women mothers? Are we caregivers? Damsels? Is that how we see ourselves or our peers?
In the Woman as Photographer: Documenting Life as a Woman exhibit at the MPLS Photo Center, I saw mothers, lovers, sisters. There were women who had survived much who stared into the camera with smiles or what felt to me like determined eyes. The photos spanned continents, but I found myself focusing on the women whose stories I knew or had read about. The shot of a powerful looking African-American woman in front of an inner-city Chicago house. The photograph’s title said “principal.” I’ve read this story in articles and books. My heart ached for the painfully thin woman who sat on a thick cookbook. I have read so many stories of body image and eating disorders. I read teen novels, for crying out loud. So many teen novels are about girls growing into themselves, about exploring their boundaries, about creating space for themselves and their insecurities. I thought about these stories as I walked slowly through the gallery.
Many of these photographs were painful to see. Many were full of love. Others were thoughtful. To be honest, I am most struck by the diversity of the lives depicted in the photos. I am continually struck by the diversity of the women I have known or have read about. We are vast, and we are worth exploring. (I feel like I might have written about this before, but about books.)
The exhibit is open daily from noon to six until April 17th at the MPLS Photo Center. I highly recommend it.
Read more about the exhibit: