Underexposed: Women Photographers from the Collection

Left to right: Ilse Bing (American, born Germany, 1899–1998), Self-Portrait in Mirrors, Paris, 1931, printed ca. 1941, gelatin silver print, 7 5/8 × 8 3/4 inches, purchase with funds from Georgia-Pacific Corporation, 1987.143. © Estate of Ilse Bing. Hellen van Meene (Dutch, born 1972), Untitled, 1999, dye coupler print, 15 3/8 × 15 3/8 inches, purchase with funds from the Director’s Circle, 2002.255. Joni Sternbach (American, born 1953), 16.02.20 #8 Elise + Stacy, Santa Cruz, CA, from the Surfland series, 2016, tintype, 11 × 14 inches, gift of the artist, 2020.175. © Joni Sternbach.

For nearly all of photography’s 182-year history, women have shaped the development of the art form and experimented with every aspect of the medium. This exhibition, drawn primarily from the High’s collection, tracked this history from the early 1800s to the present. This was not a complete history of photography or of women’s contributions to it. Instead, we drew on our collection to present distinct arenas in which women contributed and often led the way: as a new breed of professionals who established leading reputations across the fields of creative photography, photojournalism, advertising, and documentary work in the first half of the 1900s; as avid experimenters with photographic processes in the 1970s onward; as keen observers of the cultural, political, and interior lives of other girls and women; and as conceptual artists exploring and often challenging social constructions of gender, race, sexuality, and identity.

Underexposed paid homage to the labor and creativity of women who have pioneered, produced, championed, and transformed the art of photography. Yet this title also reminds us that women in the art world continue to struggle for visibility and equality.

Video Library

View Video Library