Women Of Vision / National Geographic Photographers on Assignment
Forest Lawn Museum
Through April 7, 2019
By Lorraine Heitzman
This compelling show organized by the National Geographic Society features the work of eleven award-winning photojournalists. The magazine, renown for its stunning photography has brought rich legacies of other cultures into the homes of city dwellers and suburbanites alike for decades. Now, with Women of Vision, they have made an effort to showcase women photographers to reveal a part of their own culture. In doing so, they not only acknowledge the talent of the women they employ, but also the stories that were made possible because of their gender. Many of these women were able to gain access to situations and places where men would not have been allowed, especially in the hidden lives of women in Saudi Arabia and child marriages in Yemen. Other stories have uniquely feminine perspectives, such as human rights issues and how they affect women and children in areas of conflict. All of the photographers, from those who cover nature to those who cover conflicts around the globe, serve to remind us that women are achieving success and receiving prestigious assignments in areas that have long been the province of men. The photographs, in turn poignant, awe-inspiring, devastating and curious, are a testament to these women’s artistic accomplishments and the ongoing work and mandate of the National Geographic Society.
Included in this traveling exhibition are Lynsey Addario, Kitra Cahana, Jodi Cobb, Diane Cook, Carolyn Drake, Lynn Johnson, Beverly Joubert, Erika Larsen, Stephanie Sinclair, Maggie Steber and Amy Toensing. An impressive group, some began working for NatGeo at the age of twenty-two while others are still working through their sixties. They bring a wide range of experiences to the magazine and their awards have included Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur Fellowships, World Press Photo prizes, Guggenheim Fellowships, Fulbright Fellowships, and numerous other honors.
It is impossible to separate the personal hardships endured by these photographers while taking in a show like Women of Vision. One appreciates the particular talent necessary to become a war correspondent or to live for months or years in difficult, uncomfortable circumstances amidst a foreign culture. The same tenacity is required to pursue any inquiry for years on end. So, while the seductive qualities of the large format color prints initially impress the viewer, it is the stories that stay with you, both the stories told through the images and the untold, implied stories that explain how the images were captured.
One of the many fascinating stories is Erika Larsen’s documentation of the Sami indigenous people in Scandinavia. The Sami are reindeer herders and have adapted to the harsh demands of the climate over an area that stretches from Northern Sweden to parts of Norway, Finland and Russia. To this day they maintain a lifestyle steeped in traditions that is reflected in their diets, tools, colorful embroidered dress and dependence upon the reindeer. Larsen lived with a Sami family for more than a year before she began to take photographs, and ultimately lived there for three more years, achieving an incredible body of work made possible through her intimate connections.
Stephanie Sinclair investigated child marriages in Yemen, where girls as young as five years old are often forced into marriages. In rare occasions they are able to regain their freedom and Sinclair witnessed child brides in both circumstances. Closer to home she has looked at polygamy amongst the followers of the Fundamentalist Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. But it is the photograph of an all-female counter-terrorism unit in Yemen that is so extraordinary and incongruous. Almost surreal and beyond our experience, it suggests a futuristic, female warrior from a James Bond movie.
There are many excellent photographs in this show that raise awareness about the diverse world we live in. Some depict exotic locales and others, though closer to home, document unfamiliar lives. Each photographer makes us receptive to another culture or human condition through their particular lens, and we can thank the National Geographic Society and the Forest Lawn Museum for bringing Women of Vision to Los Angeles and making our world a little smaller.
Women of Vision
Forest Lawn Museum
Opening reception January 17th RSVP by January 11th: email@example.com or 323-340-4545
Carolyn Drake, In Hotan, a Uygur town with a rising Han Chinese population, Uygurs socialize at their own nightclubs. Women of Vision, Forest Lawn. Photo courtesy National Geographic Society.
Kitra Cahana, After working himself into a trance, a man leaps through a flaming pyre. Women of Vision, Forest Lawn. Photo courtesy National Geographic Society.
Lynn Johnson, Avian Flu no 07. Women of Vision, Forest Lawn. Photo courtesy National Geographic Society.