In 1894, Frances Elizabeth Clarke—writing under the pseudonym Sarah Grand—coined the term “New Woman.” Here was the birth of a feminist ideal, one that would point the way to women’s lib and #MeToo. The traveling exhibition “The New Woman Behind the Camera,” landing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, on July 2, recasts photography’s past from the perspective of these New Women, focusing especially on modern photography from the 1920s to the 1950s.
It was a time of radical change, spanning two World Wars and the golden creative period sandwiched in between, and it saw women moving behind the camera, bringing their own perspectives to portraiture, fashion, advertising, photojournalism, and even early street photography. The show features images by names you’ll recognize—Dorothea Lange, Berenice Abbott—and others you might not: the Mexican photographer Lola Álvarez Bravo, for instance, and Tsuneko Sasamoto, one of Japan’s first professional women photojournalists (she is now 106 years old). The photos, cutting across decades and time zones, are as varied as you’d expect them to be, but unified by a freshly minted modernity. —Julia Vitale