Female Photographers at the 2019 AIPAD Photography Show, Part 1 of 2

Two years ago, when I made my annual report on Paris Photo, instead of choosing one photograph from every booth at the fair (as has often been my approach), I decided to measure the inclusion of female photographers by only selecting images made by women. It was an instructive experience on many fronts, in that it forced me to see what was being shown and what was conspicuously absent, and who was actively promoting photographs by women and who wasn’t (the original report can be found here). The following year, Paris Photo recognized this as an issue and itself organized its own tour through the fair highlighting female photographers called Elles x Paris Photo. So as I made my way to Pier 94 for this year’s AIPAD Photography Show, I decided it might make sense to take stock of what (if anything) has changed in the past two years in terms of female inclusion at a major photography fair, this time in the US.

Honestly, what I found was disappointing – as a community, it seems we haven’t made much forward progress on this issue. Even with all the contemporary energy and momentum surrounding female photographers, there are still far too many booths showing work made only by men. Some are, of course, solo presentations, which is fine, and could be expected if the gender balance among such booths was roughly equal, which it isn’t. More egregious are the group show booths that feature work from half a dozen or even a dozen artists, both contemporary and vintage in many cases, all of which is made by men. That I could find any group booths like this in 2019 is troubling (and in my view, indefensible), and that I found more than a handful like this at this year’s AIPAD made me shake my head at the tone deafness of these galleries.

In general, I had to dig harder to find the noteworthy work by women at AIPAD than seems appropriate. I had several semi-awkward exchanges with gallery owners who when told I was featuring works by women again this year, scanned around their booths and sheepishly pointed me to two or three works out of their whole array, acting like they had been caught. On the positive side, many galleries were quick to get excited about all the women they were showing, giving their booths a welcome sense of freshness and energy – these folks get it. But if you met me in the halls on the first day of the fair, I was absolutely discouraged by the aggregation of my findings, even though there are indeed plenty of extraordinary works by women to be discussed below. And while I am truly sorry not to be able to feature the many exciting works by men I saw at this year’s fair, we need to keep talking about the realities of this imbalance in the photography world if we are going to make the entire system change course.

My results tally up at roughly 60 works, seen in two slideshows of about 30 images each. In some cases, there are two or even three selections from an individual booth, in a sense to make up for the omissions in the others and to reward those who are taking a broader view of their fair offerings. As always, each image includes a linked gallery name, an artist name, a short discussion of the work itself, and the price, for easy follow-up.

And while we have featured the work of almost all of these women before at Collector Daily, in one form or another, the following women are joining our Artist Index for the first time (spread across the two parts of this report):

  • Heather Agyepong
  • Delphine Diallo
  • Adele Gloria
  • Ruth Hallensleben
  • Miho Kajioka
  • Ida Lansky
  • Judy Glickman Lauder
  • Gita Lenz
  • Mimi Plumb
  • Nancy Rexroth
  • Alys Tomlinson

That we found nearly a dozen new voices to get to know (both vintage and contemporary) is exactly the point of this exercise; its powerful corollary lesson is that it’s awfully hard for collectors (and curators, and press, and other working photographers) to discover female photographers if their work isn’t on the walls.

Bruce Silverstein Gallery (here): Twenty years before Barnett Newman would make his expressive vertical zips of paint, Imogen Cunningham made one with the leaf of a flax plant. It’s an elemental Modernist study, turning nature into formal abstraction. Priced at $115000.

Bruce Silverstein Gallery (here): The steep, straight down angle of this 1931 Ilse Bing Paris study flattens the composition into geometric patterns. The angled stairs, the brickwork, and the overhead beam all become unexpected linear forms, the off kilter view giving the picture its energy. Priced at $25000.

Edwynn Houk Gallery (here): Starting with the glamorous face of a fashion model, Valérie Belin combines expressive painted makeup and digital layering to create an eerie portrait upended by inexplicable textures. The backdrop is particularly confusing, moving forward and back in ways that confound our usual notions of space. Priced at $38000.

Edwynn Houk Gallery (here): Times Square is the epitome of visual cacophony, but Vera Lutter’s study of the billboards there echoes with muted silence. It’s among the whitest of her images, the reversed tonalities softening the insistent advertising. Priced at $22000.

Robert Koch Gallery (here): A young girl combing her hair might not sound like the most revelatory photographic subject, but Mimi Plumb has made the most of this everyday setup. Between the delicate flow of the shiny hair, the doubled shadow in the background, and the quality of the print itself, she’s made the mundane feel quietly enthralling. Priced at $3200.

Stephen Daiter Gallery (here): Spectral nighttime color stripes the land in this Susan Meiselas image taken at the US/Mexico border in Tijuana. The slats of the steel barrier have been tagged with graffiti, the AMOR (love) entreaty an incongruous partner with the nearby razorwire. Priced at $8000.

Throckmorton Fine Art (here): The contrast of tones gives this lovely Tina Modotti image of stacked wood its tactile grace. The forms have their own geometric rhythm, like dance steps. Apparently unique and priced at $50000.

Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs (here): The blur in this symbolic Julia Margaret Cameron portrait of Circe creates a delicate sense of mystical ethereality. Grapes and leaves surround the young woman’s head, her engrossingly blank stare offering us no easy escape. Priced at $120000.

Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs (here): Following up on the superlative Anna Atkins exhibit at the NYPL (reviewed here), an extremely rare single volume (70 images) from her first set of cyanotypes of British algae was tucked in a case in this booth. Not many of these exist outside museum collections at this point, so a treasure for the right collector. Price on request.

Howard Greenberg Gallery (here): My first instinct was that this layered image by Judy Glickman Lauder was made via multiple exposures. But it actually uses reflection and transparency to create its magic, the interior and exterior of this Maine house combined into one darkly spooky impression. Priced at $2500.

Catherine Edelman Gallery (here): This portrait of Gloria (age 70) by Jess T. Dugan exudes comfortable self-acceptance and authenticity. It comes from a sensitive series of images of older transgender adults, exploring both the lives they have lived and the realities (and opportunities) that have come with aging. Priced at $4850.

Yancey Richardson Gallery (here): This brand new work from Mickalene Thomas finds her mixing visual associations with sophisticated glee. As usual, her portrait combines dozens of boldly patterned fabrics, floor coverings, and colorful fake flowers. But it’s the details of the Sister Sledge album cover, the ceramic begging dog, and one of her own black and white photographs on the wall that help complete the setting for this self assured woman. Priced at $32000.

Sous Les Etoiles Gallery (here): Constructed inside an old office building, this pastel-hued abstraction by Marleen Sleeuwits is filled with bright fluorescent light. The wiring of the fixtures provides boundaries for the planes of color, the composition washed toward whiteness by the searing lines. Priced at $12000.

Flowers Gallery (here): Julie Cockburn has been one of the pioneers in using hand-embroidery to cleverly interrupt found photographs. Here she employs the slowness of stitching to represent fast gestural marks (perhaps even digital ones), the effect something like swirling confetti. Priced at $5000.

Galerie Baudoin Lebon (here): The best of Lisette Model’s reflected street scenes from the late 1930s and early 1940s leave us in a netherworld of intermingled imagery. This work deftly combines city buildings with an elongated female hand, the painted fingernails reaching for the sky. Priced at $20000.

Scott Nichols Gallery (here): This 1921 work by Anne Brigman pulls us back to the spiritual side of late Pictorialism. A lone female figure stands on a rocky outcrop, surrounded by the awesome grandeur of nature. The work (and others like it using a similar single figure) takes Friedrich’s romanticism and reconsiders it from a feminine perspective. Priced at $9800.

Ibasho Gallery (here): This diptych by Miho Kajioka includes a tiny moment of unexpected joy. While the unbalanced compositions are dominated by sky, down in the left corner, near the textural wind blown trees, a young girl plays on a swing, her dark form like a bouncing black dot. Priced at $2700.

Fahey/Klein Gallery (here): Photography and graphic design aren’t often combined with as much contagious energy as in this 1989 portrait by Janette Beckman. Slick Rick swaggers in the center, surrounded by a double layer of hip hop typography, giving the image a sense of frenetic cool. Priced at $9000.

Robert Klein Gallery (here): Over several years, Rania Matar made portraits of girls in their rooms (from Beirut to Brookline), but this was the first time I had seen the entire set of 50 photographs hung together as one installation. It’s certainly one of the highlights of this year’s fair. The images are filled with complexities of identity, security, aspiration, and the transition to adulthood. Priced at $50000.

Robert Klein Gallery (here): This image was made when Francesca Woodman was still a teenager (perhaps 17 or even younger), before she went off to RISD. Its interest in body, nudity, and self exploration foreshadow what would come later. Priced at $65000.

Deborah Bell Photographs (here): The unbalanced mounting of this small image by Rose Mandel recasts its power. Hands and fingers obscure a man’s face, but when locked into the corner by the whiteness of the surrounding page, the image seemingly becomes more puzzling, almost like seeing through a peephole. Priced at $12000.

Galerie Gille Peyroulet & Cie (here): The symmetry of this Dora Maar floral is what gives it its hint of surreal oddity. The blossoms and leaves flare off on both sides, almost like a mirrored view. Priced at €22000.

Galerie Gille Peyroulet & Cie (here): The stylized avant-garde feel of this 1934 Florence Henri nude seems to presage sleek performative fashion imagery that would come decades later. Between the doubled shadows and the echo of the unlikely black belt and the vertical line in the background, the composition is simultaneously empowered and surreal. Priced at €20000.

HackelBury Fine Art (here): Alys Tomlinson’s recent images of religious pilgrims resonate with attentive power. Set against the dappled light of the forest, this young woman, reduced to just her face by her black habit, radiates solemn serenity. Priced at $5200.

Alan Klotz Gallery (here): Barbara Morgan mixes expressive drama and formal simplicity in this image of Martha Graham. The stripes and patterns of her costume smartly wrestle with the angles of her moving body, the contrasts of dark and light in the drapery adding to the spectacle. Priced at $1500.

James Hyman Gallery (here): Inspired by a 19th century carte de visite of the West African girl Sarah adopted by Queen Victoria, Heather Agyepong has reimagined herself in the form of the young black woman. Her bold pose and modern combat boots create visual dissonance with the frilly dress, opening up a space to consider the nuances of what it means to be a strong black woman. Priced at $2200.

Gitterman Gallery (here): Starting with stick pins with white, grey, and black tips, Christiane Feser has constructed a pleasingly confounding image/object conundrum. Combining a photograph of the pins with actual pins themselves (that cast their own shadows), she creates intricate starbursts of exploding lines. Priced at $15500.

Gitterman Gallery (here): This 1929 image of graceful hands and a clear bubble ball by Laure Albin-Guillot exudes a stylish classicism. The tip of the extended finger seems to carry the delicate weight of the transparent orb. Priced at $10000.

Jackson Fine Art (here): This large cyanotype work by Meghann Riepenhoff was made by draping photographic paper over a tree branch during a rainstorm. The resulting work is decorated with falling rivulets that stream down from the central line, almost like electrical bolts from a Tesla coil or the veining of jungle leaves. Priced at $17500.

Richard Moore Photographs (here): The weary despair in this Dorothea Lange image weighs heavily, but the controlled composition and bright textural details give the image a sense of refined elegance. Priced at $25000.

Part 2 of this report can be found here.

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Read more about: Alys Tomlinson, Anna Atkins, Anne Brigman, Barbara Morgan, Christiane Feser, Dora Maar, Florence Henri, Francesca Woodman, Heather Agyepong, Ilse Bing, Imogen Cunningham, Janette Beckman, Jess T. Dugan, Judy Glickman Lauder, Julia Margaret Cameron, Julie Cockburn, Laure Albin-Guillot, Lisette Model, Marleen Sleeuwits, Meghann Riepenhoff, Mickalene Thomas, Miho Kajioka, Mimi Plumb, Rania Matar, Rose Mandel, Susan Meiselas, Tina Modotti, Valérie Belin, Vera Lutter, Alan Klotz Gallery, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Deborah Bell Photographs, Edwynn Houk Gallery, Fahey/Klein Gallery, Flowers Gallery, Galerie Baudoin Lebon, Galerie Gilles Peyroulet & Cie, Gitterman Gallery, HackelBury Fine Art, Hans P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs, Howard Greenberg Gallery, IBASHO, Jackson Fine Art, James Hyman Gallery, Richard Moore Photographs, Robert Klein Gallery, Robert Koch Gallery, Scott Nichols Gallery, Sous Les Etoiles Gallery, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Throckmorton Fine Art, Yancey Richardson Gallery, AIPAD Photography Show

One comment

  1. Helen K. Garber /

    Guess it’s time I get my work shown at AIPAD to lengthen your list. I know so many great artists that happen to be female. It’s really sad that gender is still such a big deal

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