Lena’s First Day, Essex Junction, Vermont
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Susan Meiselas’s first major photographic essay, Carnival Strippers, focuses on the lives of women performing striptease in county fairs in New England, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. From 1972 to 1975, Meiselas spent summers photographing and interviewing her subjects while teaching photography in New York public schools during the remainder of the year. She followed the “girl shows” from town to town, documenting the women’s performances as well as their private lives. Entrance to the strip shows was restricted to men, so she often had to disguise herself to photograph inside. Her project was noteworthy for its combination of audio interviews and photographs that allowed for a more immersive portrayal of these women’s lives and brought a rarely seen world to public attention.