The Female Eye: Women Photographers at The Art Show

Artsy Editorial
Feb 26, 2014 10:19PM

Some claim the first female photographer was Anna Atkins, an English botanist who made cyanotypes of plant specimens around 1841, while others swear it was Constance Talbot, wife of photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot, who photographed staged portraits of the British upper class—and both women deserve a nod as we look to their contemporary successors. In honor of the 26th annual Art Show, organized by the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA), we highlight a handful of female photographers whose work will hang at the fair—many of whom helped define 20th and 21st century photography.

Diane Arbus at Fraenkel Gallery

A blind couple in their bedroom in Queens, a family on their lawn in Westchester, an elderly couple on a park bench, two young girls in matching bathing suits at Coney Island: these subjects are among those that have found themselves opposite Diane Arbus, one of the world’s most distinctive and uncompromising photographers—and all will be on display in Fraenkel Gallery’s booth at The Art Show. Arbus began taking photographs with her husband, before making a name for herself photographing nudists, circus performers, dwarfs, and drag queens, ten of which were displayed at the 1971 Venice Biennale, in which Arbus was the first American photographer ever to exhibit.

Laurie Simmons at Salon 94

Named “one of the first contemporary American photographers to have created elaborately staged photographs,” by Aperture Foundation, Laurie Simmons took her first shots with a Brownie camera, gifted by her father, at the tender age of six. Since the 1980s, Simmons has famously given her photographs legs: using a repertoire of mannequins, Barbie-like dolls, and sometimes people, her iconic “Walking Objects” series has mixed inanimate objects with figures—think a tomato, a camera, a glove, and two walking houses (one large, one small) all of which will find themselves standing on a pair of legs at Salon 94’s Art Show presentation.

Vera Lutter at Weinstein Gallery

When Vera Lutter moved to New York City in 1991, overcome by the light and architecture surrounding her 27th-floor apartment, the German photographer turned her home into a pinhole camera, or camera obscura. “Through the windows, the outside world flooded the space inside and penetrated my body ... I decided to turn it into an art piece,” she once said. Though Lutter has taken her technique all over the world—like the time she brought a leather suitcase-turned-camera obscura to the Egyptian pyramids—New York City remains her greatest subject, witnessed in the Central Park trees, Manhattan skylines, and lights of Times Square that will be on view at Weinstein Gallery’s booth.

Zanele Muholi at Yancey Richardson Gallery

Since 2006, South African photographer and activist Zanele Muholi has documented the lives of black lesbians and transgendered men and women in her iconic, primarily black-and-white portrait series “Faces and Phases”. “‘Faces and Phases’ is an insider’s perspective that both commemorates and celebrates the lives of the black queers I have met in my journeys,” she has said. The portraits, which traverse cities from Cape Town to Toronto, and were included in the South African Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, have earned her many accolades; most recently, she was named a “Leading Global Thinker of 2013” along with Richard Mosse, John Kerry, and the Pope.

Sarah Anne Johnson at Julie Saul Gallery

In her latest series, “Wanderlust,” Canadian photographer Sarah Anne Johnson explores sexual intimacy during couples’ most private moments; these moments will be on view at Julie Saul Gallery’s booth atthe Art Show. Per Johnson’s tendency to manipulate and embellish her work, she has burned, scratched, glittered, painted, and covered in gold leaf intertwined and embracing figures. “I don’t only want to show a place, or the people in that place; I also want to show what being in that place meant to me—how it made me feel,” she once told Artsy. “To do that, I have to add to the surface.”

Sara VanDerBeek at Metro Pictures

First known for creating sculptures in her studio, photographing them, and destroying all evidence of their existence—except for the images—Sara VanDerBeek has since taken to preserving and displaying her assemblages, beginning with an exhibition after her Hammer Museum residency in 2011 and more recently, at Metro Pictures Gallery last spring, where photographs of classical and neo-classical sculptures in Paris, Rome, and Naples hung vis-à-vis with concrete sculptures. VanDerBeek’s newest photographs, in her signature cool, muted palette, will be unveiled at Metro Pictures’ Art Show booth.

Cindy Sherman at Skarstedt Gallery

The world has watched Cindy Sherman, now one of the most celebrated and influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, since her black-and-white series “Untitled Film Stills” made its debut in 1977. At the age of 23—predating the society women, teenage girls, Renaissance Madonnas, clowns, divorcees, and Playboy-inspired centerfolds that she’d later personify—Sherman produced a series of 69 photographs of herself enacting female clichés (think housewives and sex kittens) in imaginary films. In 1995, the Museum of Modern Art bought the series in its entirety for $1 million; and at the Art Show, Skarstedt Gallery will show Untitled Film Still #5.

Explore ADAA: The Art Show on Artsy.

Artsy Editorial