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Unretouched Women: exhibition at Arles – Les rencontres de la photographie

Couverture du livre d’Eve Arnold, The Unretouched Woman, New York, Knopf, 1976 © Eve Arnold /Magnum Photos

Starting from the 1st of July until the 22nd of September 2019, the photographic festival Arles- Les

rencontres de la photographie in Provence, will display an exhibition entirely dedicated to

three female photographers. Unretouched Women shows an interesting excursus of the works

of authors and photographers Eve Arnold, Abigail Heyman and Susan Meiselas, who back in the

70s have been at the center of the feminism wave that shook the United States.

Susan Meiselas, Debbie and Renee, Rockland, Maine, USA, 1972. Courtesy of Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

Indeed, it was in the very heart of the 1970s that these artists published three works that

contributed to give a shape and a face to the feminist ideas of the time. The books show the lives of

women at work and in their intimacy, through stories, testimonies and powerful images. Their

contribution guaranteed an alternative point of view to that typically male, a more intimate and

sympathetic look by women for women.

Abigail Heyman, Supermarché, 1971 © Abigail Heyman

“Growing Up Female” by Abigail Heyman was published in 1974 and is a feminist personal

diary in which through a series of images the author questions the conditions of women confined in

stereotyped roles.

Eve Arnold, L’actrice Joan Crawford, Los Angeles, 1959 © Eve Arnold/Magnum Photos

A similar intervention was that of Eve Arnold, who in 1976 publishes “The Unretouched

Woman”, in which appear some women involved in everyday situations or in private

atmospheres. The author neither retouched nor perfected the images, on the contrary, she left the

context and the protagonists immaculate, providing keys of reading before then unexplored.

Femmes à l'oeuvre, Femmes à l'épreuve - Courtesy Actes Sud

The third book on display is “Carnival strippers”, published the same year as Arnold’s, edited

by Susan Meiselas. The photographer has enclosed in it the three years of study of the activities of

striptease in the country fairs of North-East America. The work contains interesting photos and

testimonies of women describing their job and talking about their dreams and ambitions.

Couverture du livre de Susan Meiselas, Carnival Strippers, New York, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux 1976 © Susan Meiselas /Magnum Photos

The photographs in the exhibition mark a path at times raw and realistic, exploring on one hand

the female body, the raw reality experienced by some of them, their jobs, the domestic environment

and highlighting on the other their strength and freedom of self-determination.

words Ludovica Mucci


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